Saturday, December 28, 2013
Seven Chinese Siblings
The Seven Chinese Brothers by Margaret Mahy, Illus. by Jean & Mu-sien Tseng, 1990.
According to the Editor's Note, this Han tale features an emperor who really lived from 259-210 B.C. Ch'in Shih Huang was known to be cruel, but he brought about the unification of China and planned the construction of the Great Wall. In this story, seven remarkable brothers live during Huang's rule. Each has a very special talent, from incredible hearing to amazing strength to fantastic instantly growing legs. One day First Brother hears some men struggling to repair a hole in the Great Wall, so the brothers send mighty Third Brother to help. When the emperor learns about this fellow, he is threatened and orders that he be captured and executed. Luckily, each brother in turn trade places, using their unique qualities to evade death. But finally, the emperor crosses the youngest brother, whose ability is crying very large tears, big enough that only a few can drown a whole city, which proves to be very unfortunate for the ruthless ruler.
The Tsengs provide watercolor paintings of the strongly similar brothers and their world.
The Seven Chinese Sisters by Kathy Tucker, Illus. by Grace Lin, 2003.
Seven Chinese Sisters is described as an update on the old folktale, and so reader's can enjoy six gifted girls as they rescue their baby sister from a hungry dragon. Their talents range from riding a scooter as fast as the wind to counting to five hundred plus to making the most delicious noodle soup in the world. Lured by this tasty food, the dragon spots the youngest child and takes her instead. Fortunately, baby sister speaks her first word, "help!" and the sisters prove to be more than a match for him, even kindly promising to bring the starving creature soup on the next day. Readers will be delighted when they discover Seventh Sister's hidden talent when she "grows tall."
Grace Lin has created fun and sweetly detailed illustrations for the story. The sisters bear a strong family resemblance, but each one's personality comes through. They all have their own hairstyles. They share an affinity for the color blue, but each girl's clothing sports a different pattern. When moving about the house and the lawn, every girl is absorbed by her own interest, from karate to communing with a stray dog. Even the dedication page has a nice detail: the sisters' identical black shoes, lined up from the largest to smallest pair ease along the page.