Little Chou leads a poor but honest life with his widowed mother. When he comes across a basket of silver, he tries to return it, but the owner refuses, knowing that the silver is tainted by the curse of an evil ku snake. Determined not to inflict the snake on others, Little Chou bravely swallows it. But more snakes spring from him, lighting up the sky like meteors--followed by more eating and still more snakes. Finally the reptiles visit their judgment on their greedy previous owner, while Little Chou and his mother reap the fruits of his unselfishness and courage. Yep's original folktale neatly balances magic and mystery with sprightly humor: as Little Chou dutifully gathers the multiplying snakes for consumption one evening, his mother hands him a rice bowl and chopsticks, commenting tartly, ``Evil or not, you might as well eat them like a civilized person.'' The Tsengs follow suit: their expressive watercolors capture both the spooky iridescence of the slithery creatures and the comic aspects of the boy's matter-of-fact determination to eat as many of them as he must. For the reader, as for Little Chou, this proves rewarding fare indeed. Ages 5-9. (Feb.)
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4-Honest Little Chou sees a rich man leave a basket of silver in the forest, but when he tries to return it, the man denies ownership. Taking possession of the silver, the boy finds a small snake wound around his leg. After failed attempts to get rid of it, he and his mother learn that it is a ku snake, which, they are told, will bring treasure but also death. Little Chou reacts by eating the reptile. The snake, however, keeps duplicating itself until there are thousands. Yep resolves this situation in an ingenious way with the good ending happily and the bad getting their just deserts. Highly entertaining, morally relevant, told with gusto, wry wit, and a social conscience, this original story (CIP classification notwithstanding) is one of Yep's finest books. The Tsengs match his prose, page by page, with verve and insight in their ink and watercolor paintings that exhibit great beauty and cleverness. Especially notable are Little Chou's facial expressions, which faithfully and insouciantly mirror every nuance of the text. Not to be missed.- John Philbrook, San Francisco Public Library
Janice Del Negro
Little Chou discovers a poisonous ku snake in a basket of silver coins, and to make sure no one is injured by it, he swallows it. The wise woman assures him he will die a horrible death. Instead, each night as Chou's stomach begins to glow, the snake reappears, then multiplies itself during each nightly manifestation. Finally, the deadly snake winds up where it needs to be to fulfill its destiny--in the house of the greedy wealthy man who abandoned it in the first place. The story is rich in elements that will appeal to children. Its comedy is reflected not only in the text, but also in the accompanying watercolors--especially in the characters' facial expressions and in the happy-go-lucky movements. This is an interesting morality tale, suitable for reading aloud as well as storytelling to older children who think picture books are "too babyish."