________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number2 . . . . September 17, 1999

cover The Dragon New Year: A Chinese Legend.

David Bouchard. Illustrated by Zhong-Yang Huang.
Vancouver, BC: Raincoast Books, 1999.
28 pp., cloth, $19.95.
ISBN: 1-55192-200-2.

Subject Headings:
Chinese New Year-Folklore.

Grades 2 - 5 / Ages 7 - 10.
Review by Valerie Nielsen.

***.5 /4

image Clashing cymbals, shouts, whistles and flashing fireworks announce the beginning of the Chinese New Year each spring. How and why these noisy, colourful celebrations began is the subject of the latest collaboration by writer David Bouchard and artist Zhong-Yang Huang. The Dragon New Year: A Chinese Legend is the second book in their "Chinese Legend" series, a follow-up to the internationally acclaimed picture book, The Great Race: The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac, published in 1997. In this newest book, a grandmother comforts her small granddaughter, as the racket outside her window keeps her from sleep, by telling her the story of the origin of the New Year celebrations. Bouchard, a gifted storyteller, imagines that a ferocious sea-dragon named New Year terrorizes the people of a long-ago village by arriving each spring to satisfy his hunger. Year after year, the villagers must flee from this evil monster of the deep, until one spring the great Buddha, in the guise of a stranger, arrives at the home of a woman who has lost her son to the dragon. Following the stranger's instructions, the woman prepares food with as much noise as possible, while her strange guest stokes a blazing mountain of fire. As the huge bonfire burns it takes the shape of the young fisherman whom the dragon had devoured the previous spring. Caught in the roaring web of fire, the dragon New Year is frightened and confused by the dreadful noises issuing from the blazing mountain and plummets to the bottom of the sea, a demon of darkness temporarily defeated by the power of light and sound. Buddha brushes away the woman's thanks with modesty, exhorting her to "Share the gift as you will." So the grandmother does, content in the knowledge that this important story will be passed on from generation to generation.
      Zhong-Yang's bold and imaginative paintings are truly breathtaking and in some instances - for example, the one which depicts the dragon New Year erupting from the sea to devour the fisherman - quite terrifying. Bouchard's text is simple and lyrical and complemented at the end with two pages of facts on Chinese New Year, the Buddha and the dragon in Chinese folklore. The information in this afterword, used sparingly, would serve well to elicit discussion before the tale is read aloud.
      Children in grades two to four will delight in examining the pictures as this story is read to them. They will feel satisfied when the evil dragon is defeated and kindness and courage are rewarded. The Dragon New Year: A Chinese Legend should prove a welcome addition to the elementary school library's collection of picture books on holidays around the world.


Valerie Nielsen is teacher-librarian at Bairdmore School in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364