Eyes of the Dragon

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
``Long ago in faraway China there was a little village. It lay up against a tall mountain on which there lived wild beasts and, some said, wild men.'' Thus begins a tale inspired by a real 13th century dragon-painter named Ch'en Jung. Li's grandfather, the town magistrate, has persuaded the villagers to build a wall around their town; when it is finished, however, it looks rather plain. The village elders hire Ch'en Jung for 40 silver coins to paint a portrait of the Dragon King on the wall. The painter agrees to do the job on the condition that he be allowed to paint the dragon in his own manner. He proceeds by painting first the tail and works toward the head; at one point the dragon's head and tail almost meet. But when Ch'en Jung is finished, the magistrate won't pay him because the dragon doesn't have any eyes. The magistrate soon regrets his decision, but by then it is too late. Leaf's reference to the dragon's eyes is reminiscent of William Blake's ``Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright,'' a ghastly, unforgettable moment. Young's vibrant, iridescent pastels give readers broad sweeps of color and haunting landcapes. These pages carry out the full force of the text and are luminous in their intensity, especially when the serenity of the countryside is submerged in the consequences of the magistrate's mistake. A glorious work. Ages 58. (April)
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3 Long ago in China, a magistrate had a wall built around his village to protect it from evil spirits. He and the village elders hired an artist to paint a dragon on it. Ch'en Jung agreed to do so but on two conditions: that they pay him 40 pieces of silver and that they accept the picture as it was painted. When it was done, the dragon had no eyes, and the magistrate refused to pay the artist until he filled in the empty spaces beneath the shaggy eyebrows. The artist complied, and the painted dragon suddenly breathed smoke and rose up in the air, leaving the wall in pieces. Leaf's story finds inspiration in various places: a proverb, a legend, an ancient essay, and a 13th-Century handscroll painted by the actual Ch'en Jung. She has used her sources well. Powerfully told and touched with humor, the tale works on several levels. Young children will understand the themes of transformation and the importance of keeping one's word; older readers might ponder the role of the artist in society or the link between art and reality. The pictures are astonishing. Done in pastels, they are all double-page spreads vibrant with life and color. Their compositions vary enormously, and shifts in perspective force viewers to look, then look again. Young knows how to make the most of dramatic moments. His illustrations do more than help tell the tale; they extend it by conveying a sense of mystery and foreboding in keeping with the impact of the story. Ellen D. Warwick, Thompson Library, Arlington, Mass.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688061562
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/1/1988
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 4 - 7 Years

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