Two splendid stories today coming from Ancient China, one quite new, the other twenty-five years old this year.
Brush of the Gods, written by Lenore Look, illustrated by Meilo So published in 2013 by Schwartz & Wade Books
More than a thousand years ago, when Charlemagne was ruling Western Europe, the Mayans were building great temples and the Vikings were busy raiding — a child was born in China named Wu Daozi.
He lived during the splendors of the T’ang dynasty, and became known as the Sage of Painting, perhaps China’s greatest painter.
Lenore Look spins a rich, colorful story of Daozi’s childish beginnings with ink and brush, his wobbly attempts at calligraphy, his enchanting lines which burst into peonies and Buddhas, camels and dragons that were so splendid…they seemed to come to life!
Her prose dances and sparkles, enticing us like the perfumed fragrance of jasmine tea. Irresistable! Meilo So’s brilliant illustrations are saturated with striking color and flowing line. She sweeps us into this jade-and-silk world with such tremendous appeal. It’s a gorgeous pairing of word and image, accessible to ages 4 and up.
Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China, written and illustrated by Ed Young published in 1989 by Philomel Books
The Chinese version of Red Riding Hood, remarkably similar to the more familiar European story, “comes from an ancient oral tradition and is thought to be over a thousand years old.”
Ed Young won the Caldecott Medal for his work on this story of Shang, Tao, and Paotze, three children left at home while their mother journeys to grandmother’s house for her birthday.
The crafty wolf shows up, fairly drooling at the thought of three tasty children for breakfast, but these three are even wilier than the wolf. Hurrah!
Young’s illustrations in watercolor and pastels are jewel-toned, dreamy, and dark in all the right places to create a slightly-shivery, fairy tale world. His compositions at times use multiple panels, which is a form used in ancient Chinese art. It’s a great introduction to Ed Young, if you don’t already know this prolific, mega-talented illustrator.