The City of Dragonsby Laurence Yep, Mou-sien Tseng, Jean Tseng
A boy with a face so sad that nobody wants to look at him runs away with a caravan of giants to the city of dragons, where his sorrowful face is finally appreciated.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly``Once there was a boy with the saddest face in the world. Even when he was happy, everyone who saw him thought he must be sad, and they became sad, too.'' Embellishing the memory of an disfigured, outcast boy of his childhood with folklore from southern China, Yep deftly crafts an imaginative moral tale. Shunned because of his disturbing appearance although he is both polite and good, the boy runs away with a band of giants that hunts for pearls-the tears of dragons. The jaded dragons are impervious to the saddest of the giants' tales; but when they see the boy's sorrowful face, they weep bowlfuls and the boy, returning home with the gems, receives a hero's welcome. Just as the author does with his dialogue, the Tsengs (illustrators of Yep's The Boy Who Swallowed Snakes) spike their exotic, mystical watercolors with just enough humor to leaven a potentially heavy theme-the value and power of one's uniqueness. Fresh, unusual and impressive, this is a worthy addition to the ever-expanding Yep collection. Ages 5-9. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami"Once there was a boy with the saddest face in the world." Master storyteller Yep weaves this tale about a small boy whose face is so sad it makes everyone around him unhappy. So he runs away from home so as not to bring grief to his parents. From such a dismal beginning this little protagonist (whose face is never revealed in the Tseng's colorful illustrations) goes on to wondrous adventures in magical settings, encountering giants, elephants, dragons and more. He does it all with great dignity, and with the saddest of faces, but in the end, as we see, what you look like sometimes has nothing to do with who you are.
School Library Journal - School Library JournalK-Gr 3-``Once there was a boy with the saddest face in the world.'' To avoid upsetting people, he wears a large straw hat to cover it. The villagers still fear being affected by his misery, so he runs away from home. He joins a band of giants who decide that he is bravely enduring a terrible sadness and has ``...a giant's heart in a boy's body.'' They take him under the sea to the city of dragons, where his face proves useful in inducing the dragon maidens to cry pearls. Returning home rich with silk and gems, the boy is now judged by what he has done rather than by how he looks. The moral is weakened by the fact that his usefulness to the giants is due to his outward appearance, not his actions. The Tsengs are skillful watercolorists, and the illustrations carefully follow the text. Wisely, the boy's face is not clearly shown, leaving readers to imagine its sorrowful expression. However, the depiction of the giants in relation to the boy does not always covey their enormity. Often, they merely look like large adults. The dragon maidens, on the other hand, with their silk kimonos, hair in topknots, and faces that are a cross between human and lizard, are imaginatively strange. Both author and illustrators seem constrained by the story itself and, despite their talents, it never fully comes to life.-Karen James, Louisville Free Public Library, KY
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