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The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks

Overview

Wrtitten by Newbery Medalist Katherine Paterson with painting by Caldecott winning illustrators Leo and Diane Dillon

A beautiful mandarin duck is captured and caged by a greedy lord who wants to show off the bird's magnificent plumage. But the wild creature pines for his mate. When Yasuko, the kitchen maid, releases the bird against her lord's command, she and the one-eyed servant, Shozo, are sentenced to death. The grateful bird intends to ...

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Overview

Wrtitten by Newbery Medalist Katherine Paterson with painting by Caldecott winning illustrators Leo and Diane Dillon

A beautiful mandarin duck is captured and caged by a greedy lord who wants to show off the bird's magnificent plumage. But the wild creature pines for his mate. When Yasuko, the kitchen maid, releases the bird against her lord's command, she and the one-eyed servant, Shozo, are sentenced to death. The grateful bird intends to return their kindness, but can he outsmart the cruel lord?

Winner of the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award for Illustration, and a New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book of the Year.

A pair of mandarin ducks, separated by a cruel lord who wishes to possess the drake for his colorful beauty, reward a compassionate couple who risk their lives to reunite the ducks.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In another picture book retelling of a Japanese folktale, Paterson ( The Tongue-Cut Sparrow ) recounts the story of Shozo, a one-eyed Samurai unjustly forced to be a servant, and Yasuko, a kitchen maid. They befriend a mandarin duck who pines for his mate while kept in captivity by a fearsome lord. When Yasuko releases the duck, both servants are sentenced to death, but they are subsequently saved by two mysterious imperial messengers who care for them throughout the night and disappear, leaving in their place the two mandarin ducks. Yasuko and Shozo live happily from that time on because ``as they had learned years before, trouble can always be borne when it is shared.'' Paterson's story is rich with magic, compassion and love. The Dillons' elegantly detailed watercolor and pastel drawings, in the style of 18th-century Japanese woodcuts, are exquisite. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
This tale is a dual love story of tenderness and compassion. The message is clear that beauty cannot be captured and caged. The Dillon's paintings recreate the costume and setting of feudal Japan.
Children's Literature - Debra Briatico
In this engaging retelling of a Japanese folktale, a greedy lord covets a mandarin duck for his beautiful plumage, captures him, and cages him in a bamboo cage for all to admire. When the wild creature deteriorates because he misses his mate, the kitchen maid, Yasuko, releases the bird against the lord's command. The lord becomes outraged at this deception and sentences Yasuko and the one-eyed servant Shozo to death. Upon hearing of this tragedy, the grateful mandarin duck and his mate outsmart the evil lord and repay the compassionate couple for their kindness. As a result, the young couple and the pair of mandarin ducks end up living happy lives in the forest. The Dillon's magnificently detailed illustrations add beauty to this mesmerizing tale about the power of kindness and love.
School Library Journal
There is a quiet subtlety of tone in both text and illustration that perfectly captures the spirit of this Japanese folktale. Paterson's economical use of language conveys the pure essence of a story that needs no verbal embellishment. A mandarin drake is separated from his mate by a cruel lord who covets beautiful things, only for the honor they bring him as their possessor. When the drake's magnificently colored plumage fades, he is banished to a far corner of the kitchen where Yasuko, the kitchen maid, frees him. The lord blames Shozo, the one-eyed chief steward who had once been a powerful samurai, beats him, strips him of his rank, and forces him to haul waste and scrub toilets. When Yasuko and Shozo fall in love, the lord sentences them to death; they are saved, however, by two messengers announcing that the emperor has abolished capital punishment. The Dillons' watercolor and pastel paintings have the appearance of woodcuts with a luminous quality, conveying both the gentleness and the strength of the characters and of the bond of love between the two couples, human and duck. The illustrations are simultaneously powerful and ethereal with bold lines and fine details which, nonetheless, are more suggestive than definitive. This visual understatement is seen most clearly in the depiction of nature. Each tree, flower, or blade of grass hints of more behind. There is a grace in the flowing lines of the kimonos and beauty in the muted autumn/winter palette, giving a golden, blue-gray, or mauve glow to the various scenes. Although the obvious message of this tale is that of kindness rewarded, there is a more subtle message brought home in the final words, ``trouble can always be borne when it is shared.'' --Kay E. Vandergrift, Information and Library Studies, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140557398
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 11/28/1995
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 306,897
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD930L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.39 (w) x 10.90 (h) x 0.16 (d)

Meet the Author

Katherine Paterson

Katherine Paterson was born in China, where she spent part of her childhood. After her education in China and the American South, she spent four years in Japan, the setting for her first three novels. Ms. Paterson has received numerous awards for her writing, including National Book Awards for The Master Puppeteer and The Great Gilly Hopkins, as well as Newbery Medals for Jacob Have I Loved and Bridge to Terabithia. Ms. Paterson lives with her husband in Vermont. They have four grown children.

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