Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this humorous folktale, a cocky peasant, Mngke, sets out to win the hand of the Khan's daughter, and is given the requisite series of trials to prove his worth. He prevails, but not because he is particularly clever or brave. The Khan's daughter, Borta, is not looking for a hero anyway: she is perfectly happy with a guy who caves in at the first sign of danger. Yep's colloquial retelling-at one point a doubting Mngke takes a snack break on his way to slay some demons "since food always cheered him up"-suits the unassuming tale. The brisk pace risks being cursory, but the prose is assured; in the peasant's first glimpse, the city of domed tents resembles "so many buttons sewn onto a giant sheet of brown felt." While the casual tone updates an old tale, the animated watercolors of the Tsengs, who have collaborated with Yep before (The Ghost Fox; The Boy Who Swallowed Snakes), establish the Mongolian setting. Their work hinting strongly at the influence of Chinese narrative painting, they adroitly portray the sumptuous dress of the Khan's court and the contrastingly plain landscapes. This story embraces human foibles with both the ageless charm of a traditional tale and the informal breeziness of a modern sensibility. Ages 5-8. (Mar.)
PW said that this story about a cocky peasant who sets out to win the hand of the Khan's daughter "embraces human foibles with both the ageless charm of a traditional tale and the informal breeziness of a modern sensibility." Ages 4-7. (June) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
From the pen of Laurence Yep comes this retold Mongolian folktale of a prophecy, a poor shepherd's son, and the daughter of the great Khan. The Tsengs' illustrations, brilliantly colored and splashed with gold, are dazzling. Yep's text, for the most part, is well-paced, and the story makes its points on both courage and gender most effectively. Be aware that this is not the book to persuade your kid to eat sesame seeds.
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
Mongke, a shepherd boy, hears a prophecy that he will become rich and marry the Khan's daughter. How can a poor boy win the hand of the Khan's daughter? The Khan sets 3 tasks for Mongke to accomplish in order to claim his bride. Mongke vanquishes demons and armies and is so confident that he exclaims, "There is nothing I fear." He has yet to meet Bagatur, the Mighty and Clever. You'll be surprised to discover the identity of the great Bagatur. Mongke, too, is stunned and wonders if his boastfulness will result in the loss of his beautiful prize. This is a folktale, so be assured that all's well that ends well. The tale is enriched by detailed, action-packed paintings.
School Library Journal
Gr 1-3-In order to fulfill a prophecy and win the hand of the Khan's daughter in marriage, Mngke, a shepherd, must succeed in three trials. His mother-in-law-to-be sets the first two. To prove his strength, he must steal the wealth of seven demons. To demonstrate his bravery, he must vanquish the enemy. The third trial, however, is imposed by the Khan's daughter herself, after which a humbled but determined Mngke does indeed become a wise and beloved husband. While this retelling of a Mongolian folktale adheres to the predictable and traditional quest motif, Yep succeeds in endowing his characters with multidimensional personalities. Mngke is brave, foolish, boastful, then finally contrite. Women are not simply trophies but actively determine their destiny. The well-paced story effortlessly balances humor and adventure, fantasy and reality, and is wonderfully enhanced by the artwork. From their ravishing cover with its acrylic portrait of the Khan's daughter (and a dashing but much smaller Mngke) superimposed on luminous gold leaf, through the gold-framed watercolors that add a wealth of detail and atmosphere, the Tsengs once again capture a faraway place and time and make it eminently accessible to children-just as they did in Margaret Mahy's The Seven Chinese Brothers (Scholastic, 1990). As a sprightly read-aloud or an opportunity for independent readers to lose themselves in an unfamiliar and fascinating culture, this is a solid addition to folklore collections.-Carol Ann Wilson, Westfield Memorial Library, NJ
Yep (The Boy Who Swallowed Snakes, 1994, etc.) extends his series of picture-book retellings of Asian folktales with this Mongolian story of a poor young shepherd who wins the hand of the Khan's daughter through dumb luck and the smitten maiden's collusion.
As is usual in such stories, there are three impossible tasks to be accomplished before the hero, Möngke, may wed lovely Borte. He vanquishes seven gruesome demons, frightens off an enemy army, and, in a trial suggested by Borte, "conquers" Bagatur the Clever and Mighty (actually his bride-to-be disguised as a warrior) by surrendering the instant he is endangered. The high-spirited story is idealbarring a few awkward phrasesfor reading aloud. The Tsengs' vibrant watercolors bring the windswept Mongolian steppes and the proud luxury of the Khan's court vividly to the page. The jacket art is especially striking: A montage of acrylic on gold leaf shows Borte in a bejeweled headdress, Möngke astride his sturdy pony at full gallop, and the wind-whipped banners and embroidered felt tents of the Khan's realm.