From School Library Journal
Grade 1-4. A teller of felicitous tall tales from America's heartland sets this fantasy in China. When a fire-breathing dragon threatens to destroy their rice fields, the villagers turn to their humble but famous artist, Mi Fei. They reckon that his years of painting great heroes might inspire him to defeat the villain. Terrified but determined, he confronts the beast and saves the village. The story has such a sweet conclusion?love conquers all?that it seems churlish to point out that Chinese dragons are creatures of mist and rain, and that humble peasants would never wear silk. The artist-hero's pigtail places him in the recent Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), a historical era when a dragon's presence would be as unexpected in China as in the countryside of Georgian England. Such quibbles may be beside the point, for the story is overshadowed by the book's lavish design. The text is printed on a flap that opens into a triple-page spread, a long rectangular shape reminiscent of Chinese scrolls. This makes the book awkward for reading aloud in groups, and vulnerable to tearing by energetic youngsters. The art, cut from painted tissue paper and laid over textured, ivory-colored handmade Japanese paper, is arresting but hard to read. In spite of the vibrant colors and elegant composition, the overall effect is more ostentatious than emotionally resonant. While the pictures evoke Chinese paper cuts, the protaganist is shown painting one of the lines?mixing two important but quite different techniques. The book's striking appearance will command attention, but for all its generalized celebration of love, it remains chilly and disappointing.?Margaret A. Chang, North Adams State College, MA
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
From Davol (Batwings and the Curtain of Night, p. 379, etc.), an ambitious folk tale set in China. Humble Mi Fei is an artist, painting scenes of gods and heroes, and content to live in the small village where he is always ready to stop work and listen to the tales of his neighbors. One day his peaceful life is shattered when the great dragon of Lung Mountain awakens from sleep, destroying crops and ruining villages, and Mi Fei is chosen to appease it. The dragon assigns Mi Fei three seemingly impossible tasks: to bring fire wrapped in paper (he fashions a paper lantern), to bring wind wrapped in paper (he folds a fan), and to bring the strongest thing in the world--wrapped in paper. Mi Fei struggles over this last one, but paints a scene of his village and delivers the message to the dragon that love is stronger than everything. Sabuda's illustrations are endlessly inventive; the forms of clothing, dragon, plants, and trees are portrayed in painted tissue-paper collages affixed to Japanese papers; the faces of the figures are expertly painted, using economical brush strokes that express the personalities of the people Mi Fei so loves. The right-hand page of every scene is a gatefold, making each picture a triple-page horizontal spread- -sometimes Mi Fei is within the scene, sometimes he is creating it. It all comes together in a vibrant and surprising work. (Picture book. 5-8) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.