"A library book, I imagine, is a happy book." Cornelia Funke

"Everything puts me in mind of a story." Ben Franklin

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Monkey King by Ed Young

Monkey King by Ed Young, 2001.

Ed Young has provided readers with a lively introduction to the Chinese Monkey King. In his Author's Note, we learn that Monkey's story is told in the epic Journey to the West, set during the T'ang dynasty (A.D. 618-907). It describes the travels of monk Tang Tsen and his companions Monkey, Pig and Water Demon as they seek to bring Buddhist scriptures from India to China.

Young's story includes Monk Tang, the Jade Emperor, Guan Ying, the Goddess Mercy, and the Buddha himself. It begins with the "birth" of  Monkey from a rock on Flower Fruit Mountain and his fast rise to monkey royalty. An ambitious trickster, he studies with a master to learn magical tricks such as changing shape, turning cloud somersaults and dividing himself into 100 little monkey soldiers. He can defeat bandits, steal weapons and the immortal peaches of heaven and evade punishment, but he is unable to best Buddha. Hundreds of years later, he regains his freedom when he agrees to become holy monk Tang's disciple, but Monkey is not done with trouble!

Young's collage illustrations of handmade and bought paper impart pleasing color and texture. The dynamic art shows the mischievous Monkey vaulting and somersaulting through his adventures and also interestingly depicts his allies and foes. The Red Beard Bandit has appropriately fiery facial hair, along with blue skin, pink tufts of hair and some serious fangs. The Dragon King is first shown as a menacing shadow. Guan Ying is serene, clad in white and a veil of light.

This book is a great choice to expand your knowledge of tricksters and legend and may send you in search of the full epic, Journey to the West.

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