Grade 1-4-An old widow, famous for weaving lifelike pictures into silk brocade, lives beneath a mountain in China. She supports herself and her son, Chen, by selling her crafts-until the day she becomes obsessed with re-creating an ideal landscape depicted in a painting she finds in the marketplace. She spends three years at her loom, while her son chops wood to earn money. At the moment the brocade is finished, a wind carries it away. Chen promises his heartbroken mother that he will recover it, and immediately sets off on a quest that demands great sacrifice and courage. In the end, he returns with the brocade and a beautiful bride. The story appears in He Liyi's The Spring of Butterflies (Lothrop, 1986; o.p.) and M. A. Jagendorf and Virginia Weng's The Magic Boat (Vanguard, 1980; o.p.). Marilee Heyer cast the tale as a phantasmagoria in her picture book The Weaving of a Dream (Puffin, 1989). Grace Tseng used it as the foundation for an original picture-book fantasy, White Tiger, Blue Serpent (Lothrop, 1999), illustrated by Jean and Mou-sien Tseng. Shepard acknowledges his source as Folk Tales from China (Foreign Languages, 1958; o.p.). He has tightened the plot, eliminating two greedy elder brothers who set out to recover the brocade and fail. The art, soft-toned watercolors anchored by line drawings of important details, is pleasant enough, but breaks no new ground and lacks the verve, style, and specificity of the versions mentioned.Margaret A. Chang, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"A picture-perfect storybook fairytale of adventure, dangers, and surprises, showcased by the magnificent watercolor artistry of Xiaojun Li." -- Children's Bookwatch, April 2001
"Lyrical, romantic. . . . Exquisite watercolors beautifully complement the story." -- Katy Rydell, Stories, Spring 2001
"Aaron Shepard has done it again! That is, he has taken a classic tale and given it new life in a picture book that will please old and young alike. . . . There is much to like about this book: the story is a fine one; the language feels naturally conversational; the watercolor illustrations are a suitable complement to the tale. A surefire winner." -- The Story Bag, Dec. 2001-Jan. 2002
One day, Chen came in to find the loom empty and the widow sobbing. "What's wrong, Mother?" he asked in alarm.
She looked at him tearfully. "I finished it."
The brocade was laid out on the floor. And there it all was -- the palace reaching to the sky, the beautiful gardens, the lovely fairy ladies.
"It looks so real," said Chen in amazement. "I feel like I could step into it!"
Just then, a sudden wind whipped through the cottage. It lifted the brocade, blew it out the window, and carried it through the air. The widow and her son rushed outside, only to watch the brocade disappear into the east.
"It's gone!" cried the widow, and she fainted away.
Chen carried her to her bed and sat beside her for many hours. At last her eyes opened.
"Chen," she said weakly, "you must find the brocade and bring it back."
"Don't worry, Mother. I'll go at once."
Chen gathered a few things and started to the east. He walked for hours, then days, then weeks. But there was no sign of the brocade.
One day, Chen came upon a lonely hut. Sitting by the door was an old, leather-skinned woman smoking a pipe. A horse was grazing nearby.
"Hello, deary," said the woman. "What brings you so far from home?"
"I'm looking for my mother's brocade. The wind carried it to the east."
"Ah, yes," said the woman. "The brocade of Sun Palace! Well, that wind was sent by the fairy ladies of the palace itself. They're using the brocade as a pattern for their weaving."
"But my mother will die without it!"
"Well, then, you had best get it back! But you won't get to Sun Palace by foot, so you'd better ride my horse. It will show you the way."
"Thank you!" said Chen.
"Oh, don't thank me yet, deary. Between here and there, you must pass through the flames of Fiery Mountain. If you make a single sound of complaint, you'll be burnt to ashes. After that, you must cross the Icy Sea. The smallest word of discontent, and you'll be frozen solid. Do you still want to go?"
"I must get back my mother's brocade."
"Good boy. Take the horse and go."