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The Lost Horse: A Chinese Folktale


Acclaimed author-illustrator Ed Young breathes new life into the ancient Chinese folktale of a horse that brings extraordinary reversals of fortune to its trusting owner.

A timeless fable, The Lost Horse teaches of the ever-changing fortunes of life.

A retelling of the tale about a Chinese man who owned a marvelous horse and who believed that things were not ...

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Acclaimed author-illustrator Ed Young breathes new life into the ancient Chinese folktale of a horse that brings extraordinary reversals of fortune to its trusting owner.

A timeless fable, The Lost Horse teaches of the ever-changing fortunes of life.

A retelling of the tale about a Chinese man who owned a marvelous horse and who believed that things were not always as bad, or as good, as they might seem.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
[star]"May be among the Caldecott Medalist's finest works."
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

[star]"A wonderful elaboration on an ancient Chinese proverb."
School Library Journal (starred review)

"Wonderfully theatrical . . . Will lead children . . . to discover the unexpected turnabouts in the sad and happy events of their own lives."—Booklist

Publishers Weekly
In this retelling of a Chinese folktale, a wise man loses his horse and he utters what becomes a refrain, "You know, it may not be such a bad thing." The horse returns with a mare; the mare throws his son, etc. until the wise man is proven right. In a starred review, PW called both text and art "elegantly spare." Ages 6-9. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Both text and art are elegantly spare in Young's (Lon Po Po) newest retelling of a Chinese folktale, which may be among the Caldecott Medalist's finest works. Sai, introduced as a wise man, loses his horse; when people arrive to comfort him, he tells them, "You know, it may not be such a bad thing." It proves, in fact, to be fortunate: the horse returns with a mare. Sai rejects his friends' congratulations ("Perhaps it is not such a good thing"), and he is right again (the mare throws Sai's son). This pattern continues, and by the end, Sai's son, like his father, "trust[s] in the ever changing fortunes of life." It's a relatively metaphysical lesson for a picture book, but Young's restrained and even suspenseful telling brings the message home warmly and appealingly. The illustrationssubtle collages with pastels and watercolor eschew Young's often characteristic abstractions in favor of a delicate, slightly flattened style, reminiscent of traditional Chinese painting. Tranquil scenes of Sai's exchanges with his neighbors alternate with dramatic spreads (e.g., the dappled horse rearing, a lightning bolt in the sky behind it). As a bonus, three laminated, jointed paper figures of Sai, his son and the horse are tucked into a plastic sleeve on the back jacket. An author's note exhorts readers to use these figures to "extend the story beyond the limits of these pages." No doubt they will. Ages 5-8. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
With spare text and subtle images in a blend of collage, pastel and watercolor, Young has retold a traditional Chinese story. The opening page holds the calligraphy rendering of the tale, which the text elaborates in a fuller telling. The illustrations in this work definitely drive the story, which has been twenty years in the making. The tale is amusing and enlightening. It underlines with deft humor this truth in life-that things are not always as they appear. The book comes with a set of puppet characters that young readers can use to recreate the story. It would have worked just as well without this added toy component, which only forces the publisher to mar the cover of the work with the obligatory warning about choking hazards from small parts.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3A wonderful elaboration on an ancient Chinese proverb and story dating from the Han Dynasty. The proverb, which can be translated, "A loss may turn out to be a gain," as well as the original story though it appears here without the moral, are printed in Chinese characters at the beginning of the book. When a man's horse runs away, he refuses to see the event as a tragedy, just as he refuses to celebrate its return with a mare. Similarly, when his son is thrown from the mare's back and breaks his leg, the father does not consider this mishap as necessarily bad. His trust in the fortunes of life is rewarded when the son's injury prevents him from going to war, and thus saves him from possible death. Pastel and watercolor collages appear on two-page spreads and depict characters wearing attire authentic to their time and place. The tents and the predominantly brown scenery provide realistic glimpses into the stark landscape of the northern frontier. Striking close-up views show the son tumbling from his horse and families mourning their dead after battle. This story is an excellent springboard for a discussion of the changing nature of life. An added bonus is the three articulated puppets that will encourage storytellers to extend the story.Marianne Saccardi, Norwalk Community-Technical College, CT
Kirkus Reviews
In this retelling of a Chinese folktale from Young (Mouse Match, 1997, etc.), the wise man, Sai, conveys to others how what appears bad is often good, and what first seems good fortune can be bad. When his horse runs away, Sai tells the people who come to comfort him that it may not be a bad thing, and is proven right when his horse returns with a beautiful white mare. People come by to celebrate Sai's good fortune, but he is reluctant to rejoice. His forebodings are proven apt when his son is injured in a fall from the mare. As in Zen tales, the strength of this story is in its subtlety. Young's sensitive illustrations portray both panoramic sweeps of life in ancient China, and the individual characters in the story. Three multi-jointed, delicately wrought puppetsþor dollsþare included; although it may be difficult for children to envision reenacting this cerebral tale on the puppet stage, Young's words of encouragement may be enough to get them engaged. (Picture book/folklore. 5-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780152050238
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 5/1/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 418,671
  • Age range: 6 - 9 Years
  • Lexile: AD600L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.80 (w) x 9.80 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

ED YOUNG is the renowned author-illustrator of more than fifty books for children, including the Caldecott Medal-winning Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China and the Caldecott Honor book Seven Blind Mice. He lives in New York.

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