From School Library Journal
Grade 1-4?The secrets of Chinese papermaking are disclosed to the Arabs in this intriguing piece of historical fiction. Chinese annals give A.D. 105 as the date the world's first true paper was presented to the Emperor. Knowledge of the process traveled slowly westward, reaching Europe on the eve of the Renaissance. According to the author's note, victorious Arab troops captured several papermakers after winning a battle in 751 with the Chinese in Turkestan. This well-written, rhythmic story casts those anonymous papermakers as Old Wu and his young grandson, accidental witnesses to the engagement. To avoid being sold into slavery with the other prisoners of war, Young Wu boasts to the Sultan of Samarkand that his grandfather can make clouds. In seven days, Grandfather manufactures paper as the Chinese did, with hemp and lye. Adding poetry and drama to the process, Young Wu describes each step as if the end product will actually be a cloud. The Sultan, who knows a sheet of paper when he sees one, prizes the elderly man's knowledge and rewards him for teaching his skills. Watercolor paintings bring a remote time and place to life, capturing atmosphere, dramatic cloud formations, light of moon and sun, and the characters' emotions. While the story is well told and interesting enough to stand on its own, it would certainly enrich children's own efforts at making paper by hand, as well as studies of Asian history.?Margaret A. Chang, North Adams State College, MA
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Ages 6^-9. Far from home, a hungry Chinese grandfather and his grandson are captured by Arab warriors. Brought before the sultan, young Wu brags that his grandfather can make clouds. Given seven days to perform "magic," the two begin by beating their wet hemp shoes with a cane ("This is thunder for our clouds") and end with a sheet of white paper that, like a cloud, blows gently in the breeze. Although the analogies sometimes are forced, that's the point: the two are ridiculed by those around them, yet they manage to bring an art form to a new land and win their freedom. The smoothly written text and the soft, atmospheric watercolors in shades of blue, orange, and white encourage children to use their imaginations. Curriculum tie-ins with social studies and the fine arts are obvious, but teachers might also use this for a science unit on papermaking. An enlightening author's note explains the historic origins of the tale. Julie Corsaro