Reviews for Beggar's Magic : A Chinese Tale


Booklist Monthly Selections - #2 October 1997
Ages 6^-8. A wandering sage comes to a small village in China. Welcomed and fed by all the people except stingy Farmer Wu, the priest freely shares his wisdom and wonders with the children. When the old man asks Farmer Wu for one of his delicious pears, the farmer insults him. Soon the villagers watch in amazement as the sage accepts the pear from a young boy, who has purchased it with money he was saving for a kite. The old man eats it, plants its seed, and watches it grow immediately into a tree that bears enough fruit to feed everyone in the village. In the end, the villagers revere the priest and ridicule the farmer. Retold with simplicity and eloquence, this Chinese folktale is enhanced by the picture-book format, which features a bordered full-page illustration facing each page of type. The delicate ink drawings have a timeless quality, and Johnson uses watercolor washes and colored-pencil highlights with restraint. A good story for reading aloud. ((Reviewed October 15, 1997)) Copyright2000 Booklist Reviews

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 1998
A wandering priest persuades a village boy to free a caged sparrow, restores the water to a widow's well, and teaches greedy Farmer Wu a lesson in sharing. And to little Fu Nan, who has given his birthday money to buy a pear for the priest, he gives a glorious kite. This gentle and delicate tale is distinguished by exquisite, lightly colored pen-and-ink illustrations. A source note is appended. Copyright 1998 Horn Book Guide Reviews

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 1997 #6
Two presentations of Andersen's work, both beautifully illustrated, present quite different views of the great writer's tales. The Emperor's New Clothes, translated by Naomi Lewis and illustrated by Angela Barrett, introduces the Emperor and his problems in a sophisticated setting that looks much like pre-World War I Monaco. Lewis's foreword discusses Andersen's belated addition of the famous ending of the tale and her belief that Andersen would have approved of the altered setting. Her translation is smooth and contemporary and easily transmits the wry humor that distinguishes the story. The illustrations, incorporated into a design of exceptional cleverness and wit, are spectacular; they show a foppish and fashionable king arrayed in a variety of costumes, motoring, skiing, boating, opera-going, surrounded by a pack of dogs, all equally foppish-poodles, Afghan hounds, Scotties, dachshunds, with jeweled collars and splendid bows. The palace and the small kingdom are carefully set in their period; the crowds lining the streets to see the procession are exquisitely dressed; and every small detail alludes to fashion: buttons, coins, stamps, money, medals-even the endpapers. In Alderson's light-hearted but appreciative introduction to The Swan's Stories, he compares-to nobody's surprise-Andersen to his own character of the Ugly Duckling. But he also points out that many of the tales are not magic, but verge on folktales and use inanimate objects as surrogates for humans. Among the twelve, mostly unfamiliar, stories presented here, some seem to be precursors of and bear a strong resemblance to more familiar ones: much like "The Steadfast Tin Soldier," "The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep" tells of the love between two toys that is almost destroyed by an interfering nodding Chinaman toy. Many of the rest, about a darning needle, matches, or a collar, are distinguished by a certain adult tone, a melancholy, disillusioned resignation, that adds considerably to the tales but will probably be over the heads of many children. The excellent translations, which include the well-known "Steadfast Tin Soldier" and "The Fir Tree," flow smoothly with a casual and comfortable feel. The illus-trations are superb, a cross between Rackham and Shepard with a touch of Carl Larsson. The Swan (featured on the cover), a sort of male version of Mother Goose, carrying an umbrella with a swan's head handle, is both dignified and ridiculous. This is a beautiful book, but made perhaps less univer-sally appealing by the inclusion of so many second-tier stories. a.a.f. Copyright 1999 Horn Book Magazine Reviews

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School Library Journal Reviews 1997 December
Gr 1-5 Fu Nan and his friends befriend an old man who comes to their village, thinking him to be a priest of some sort. Soon they notice that he can work miracles. His most wondrous feat is to punish a rich and covetous farmer by planting a fast-growing pear tree whose fruit he shares with all the villagers. Only later does the greedy man discover that the pears were magically transported from his own cart, the cart itself supplying the wood for the tree. The stranger, of course, disappears around a bend in the road. This delightful cautionary tale on avarice and selfishness is drawn from a 17th-century collection of wonder tales by Pu Songling from which the Changs have drawn their The Cricket Warrior (Atheneum, 1994). Here, while preserving the main narrative and points of the tale, they add to its child appeal by creating the character of Fu Nan and having him and his friends become absorbed in the beggar's life. The prose is simple and elegant with just the right elaboration and matter-of-fact tone to put the tale across convincingly. Johnson's watercolor-and-ink illustrations, in warm brown and orange pastels, lovingly evoke the dustiness of much of rural Imperial China, albeit a bit idealized. (The beggar actually resembles surviving portraits of Wu Jingzi, fellow writer and near contemporary of Pu Songling.) Illustrations and text blend beautifully to make a perfect gem of a book that will linger in the mind long after a first reading. John Philbrook, formerly at San Francisco Public Library Copyright 1998 School Library Journal Reviews

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