The Breath of the Dragon

The Breath of the Dragon

by Gail Giles, June Otani
     
 
Malila doesn't know what to expect when her mother leaves her at her grandmother's house in a small village in Thailand. Grandmother tells young Malila that her mother has gone to America to make a new life. As the years go by, Malila hears Grandmother's stories and learns the traditions of their country. Malila learns too what it means to be an outsider due to a

Overview

Malila doesn't know what to expect when her mother leaves her at her grandmother's house in a small village in Thailand. Grandmother tells young Malila that her mother has gone to America to make a new life. As the years go by, Malila hears Grandmother's stories and learns the traditions of their country. Malila learns too what it means to be an outsider due to a family secret that turns the villagers against her. When Malila is taunted by her classmates, Grandmother tells her "the dragon has breathed upon you today. The dragon's breath brings great pain and sorrow, but it can turn coal into diamond." It's not until Malila discovers her own special talent that she can finally gain sanouk, the joy of living.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Judy Silverman
When Malila's mother goes to America to make a better life for herself, Malila is left with her reclusive grandmother. As she grows older, she finds that because her father was a gangster, shot in the street like a dog, she and her grandmother are shunned. But Malila goes to school and finds that she has one great talent. She can draw "from the heart," as her teacher says. When she is fourteen, she finally will go to America, but she will always carry a part of Thailand with her. Lovely, poetic language and a real knowledge of Thai village life make this book a joy.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6In a small Thai village, Malila's father, a thief, is killed, and both children and adults shun and scorn her for her father's shame. When her mother leaves for America and the chance of a better life, the five-year-old girl is left with her grandmother, a dressmaker and storyteller who encourages her to accept what she cannot change. As the elderly woman sews, she tells the growing child about festivals, folktales, and customs that Malila then represents in wonderful drawings. Otani's detailed, full-page, black-and-white illustrations, done in pen, ink, and wash, warmly depict the two main characters and illustrate aspects of their riverside village culture. The relationship between granddaughter and grandmother and the theme of endurance in the face of hardship play out for a decade. Finally, a teacher recognizes and encourages Malila's artistic talent. When Grandmother dies, Malila, now 14, is about to move to America to be with her mother. This gentle story portrays the prior experiences and emotions of many immigrantshardship, vivid memories, and hope. It also reveals much about contemporary Thai culture. This invitingly short book will attract reluctant older readers as well as students assigned to learn something about an Eastern culture.Susan Hepler, Alexandria City Public Schools, VA
Kirkus Reviews
A young village girl in Thailand is introduced to early sorrows when her father is branded a thief and shot by police. In shame, her mother flees to America, leaving the unknowing Malila in the care of her wise grandmother. Malila joins her grandmother in threading a garland of orchids and jasmine for the san phra phum, the spirit house. This marks the beginning of Grandmother's reverential guidance in the many traditions of their country. When her father is pronounced suay, or unlucky, Malila is an outcast, and finds her own way through her love of drawing and her grandmother's life lessons, from listening to the voice of the river to attending a kite contest. When her grandmother dies and Malila has to leave for America, she carries with her the inner strength to gain sanouk, the joy of living. Strong, sympathetic characters and the evocative Thai setting are an integral part of this well-told story with the universal theme of overcoming adversity; it's a quick read, but a rich one, and a humble obeisance to the uncertainties of growing up.

From the Publisher
"Strong, sympathetic characters and the evocative Thai setting are an integral part of this well-told story with the universal theme of overcoming adversity; it's a quick read, but a rich one, and a humble obeisance to the uncertainties of growing up." Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780440414964
Publisher:
Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
11/10/1998
Pages:
104
Product dimensions:
5.28(w) x 7.67(h) x 0.32(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

June Otani has illustrated many books for children. She lives in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.

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