The Crystal Heart: A Vietnamese Legend

The Crystal Heart: A Vietnamese Legend

by Aaron Shepard, Joseph Daniel Fiedler
     
 
Mi Nuong, the daughter of a great mandarin, hears an enchanting song from a singer who may be the man she is destined to marry. It is only that man and his lovely song that can cure Mi Nuong when she becomes ill. Written in elegant prose and visually told with stunning illustrations, this story from Vietnam reveals the power of expectations--and of words.

Overview

Mi Nuong, the daughter of a great mandarin, hears an enchanting song from a singer who may be the man she is destined to marry. It is only that man and his lovely song that can cure Mi Nuong when she becomes ill. Written in elegant prose and visually told with stunning illustrations, this story from Vietnam reveals the power of expectations--and of words.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this haunting tale of unrequited love, a mandarin's beautiful daughter hears the "deep and sweet" voice of an unseen fisherman as he sings, and imagines him to be a mandarin's son in disguise. The girl pines away for him until the bewildered singer--dressed in rags and stinking of fish--is brought before her. When she sees him, she laughs at her own folly; the fisherman, however, has instantly fallen in love with her, and her laughter causes him to die of heartbreak. His heart becomes a crystal, which winds up a teacup for the mandarin's daughter; she sees in her tea the fisherman's sad eyes and repents of her thoughtlessness. Shepard (The Sea King's Daughter) paces his polished storytelling to accommodate atmospheric details (e.g., the girl sits on a bench by a moon-shaped window), although the ending feels hurried by comparison. Debut artist Fiedler reinforces the weight of the prose with densely hued paintings of almost theatrical tableaux: the girl lies listlessly on her bed, enveloped in a mosquito net that almost looks like a light flowing over her; the crystal heart glows as it is placed in the fisherman's empty boat. Despite the Vietnamese setting, this sophisticated story has much in common with Hans Christian Andersen's sorrowful romances, and its words and images will likely linger with readers.
Children's Literature - Christopher Moning
Ni Nuong, daughter of a wealthy mandarin, is kept secluded in her high tower. When one day she overhears a mysterious man singing a beautiful love song, she feels overwhelmed and in love. The singer is a lowly fisherman, Truong Chi-certainly no suitable match for a beautiful heiress. When Ni Nuoung learns the identity of the singer, she scorns the fisherman. But then Truong Chi-enraptured by Ni Nuong's beauty-becomes lovesick himself. He dies and his heart turns to crystal. When the crystal heart winds up in the hands of Ni Nuoung, she is filled with remorse. Her tears bring forgiveness. Beautiful color illustrations illuminate this enchanting Vietnamese legend. Interested readers can listen to "The Song of the Fisherman" at the author's web site: www.aaronshep.com.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 1-4-In this attractive retelling of a folktale from Vietnam, a young maiden of the privileged mandarin class comes to understand the results of her heartless behavior toward a poor fisherman. From her tower room overlooking the Red River, Mi Nuong hears a beautifully sung melody float up from a fishing boat. She fantasizes that the singer is young and handsome and perhaps the mandarin destined to marry her. When an old man in ragged clothes is finally brought before her, she laughs and closes the door on him-but not before he is smitten with love. He returns home to die, his wounded heart turning to crystal from the pain of her laughter. Friends set the crystal heart adrift in his boat, where Mi Nuong's father finds it and has it made into a teacup. Drinking from it, the young woman sees the fisherman's face and again hears his haunting melody. One of her tears falls into the cup, thereby releasing his soul. Fiedler's textured, impressionistic oil paintings are as spare and elegant as Shepard's retelling. Except for two double spreads, the illustrations are framed in white and placed opposite the text, which is handsomely set within ample white margins. The palette is generally subdued yet bursts forth with luminous reds and oranges, from something as small as the father's belt to the brilliant blood-orange sweep of the Red River. The art shows a significant Chinese influence. A fine selection for reading aloud or savoring alone.-Diane S. Marton, Arlington County Library, VA
Kirkus Reviews
High in her lonely tower, a mandarin's daughter, Mi Nuong, gazes through a crescent window. A song floats up to her: "My love is like a blossom in the breeze. My love is like a moonbeam on the waves." The girl is smitten. The song comes from a man gliding past the palace, rowing a fishing boat on the river. Her maid suggests it may be Mi Nuong's intended, a mandarin's son, in disguise. "Yes. Perhaps he is," Mi Nuong murmurs, now really star-struck. But when it is revealed to her that the singer is only a poor fisherman, she laughs in his face. The fisherman, who had fallen in love with Mi Nuong at first sight, shrinks back to his humble cottage and dies, his heart having "turned hard to stop the pain." It has also turned into a wondrous crystal that sits on the chest of his lifeless body, and the fisherman's fellow villagers float it down the river to mingle with the ocean. It ends up on Mi Nuong's beach, fashioned into a teacup, and when she goes to drink from it, she meets the fisherman's eyes and realizes her folly. Her tears, falling into the cup, set his soul free. It is a keen tale of false expectations and confused priorities that Shepard (Master Maid) retells, where the power of a naive comment tips over into mortal cruelty. For his first picture book, Fiedler produces exquisite artwork; the landscapes are magically transporting, while the lustrous colors radiate an antique, spiritual quality.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780689815515
Publisher:
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
09/01/1998
Edition description:
1 ED
Pages:
40
Product dimensions:
8.94(w) x 11.44(h) x 0.42(d)
Lexile:
400L (what's this?)
Age Range:
6 - 9 Years

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