The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks by Katherine Paterson, Illus. by Leo & Diane Dillon
Katherine Paterson, the award winning children's book author, has given us this beautiful retelling of a Japanese folktale. You are probably familiar with Paterson due to her classics Bridge To Terabithia, Jacob Have I Loved, The Great Gilly Hopkins and her many other chapter books. She authored several picture books and folktales. Did you also know that she studied and worked in Japan?
Like our story in the last post, The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks, has a cruel and in this case, greedy, lord oppressing those that he rules. One day, when out hunting, he sees a beautifully feathered Mandarin drake, and thoughtlessly has it captured so he can show it off in his manor. When the drake begins to pine for its woodland mate and loses its luster, the lord discards it, but still keeps it encaged. Shozo, the one-eyed chief steward, whose own appearance displeases his lord, fruitlessly speaks up for the drake's freedom, and the kindly kitchen maid Yasuko silently releases it. The furious lord punishes Shozo, but the former steward and samurai now is able to spend time with Yasuko and the two fall in love. This further enrages the lord, who passes a death sentence on the lovers, but a magical series of events frees them from his power and ends their suffering. Showing compassion to the lonely drake and his partner has led them to their happily ever after.
The lovely artwork of The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks was created by the extraordinary and versatile artists Leo and Diane Dillon. This husband and wife team are among my favorite illustrators. Unfortunately, Leo Dillon passed away in May 2012, but they created beautiful artwork that you can view at The Art of Leo and Diane Dillon , and elsewhere. According to the dust jacket, the art for this book was done as watercolor and pastel paintings in the style of 18th century Japanese woodcuts. This is called ukiyo-e, which translates as "pictures of the floating world." More information and pictures of ukiyo-e work is available at the Library of Congress,
Katherine Paterson (photo by Samantha Loomis Paterson)