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The Paper Dragon
  • Alternative view 1 of The Paper Dragon
  • Alternative view 2 of The Paper Dragon

The Paper Dragon

by Marguerite W. Davol, Robert Sabuda (Illustrator), Robert Clarke Sabuda (Illustrator)
Mi Fei is a humble painter of scrolls. Between each day's sunrise and sunset, he paints scenes of the gods and their festivals' portraits of heroes and their deeds. Although the scrolls bring him fame, Mi Fei is content to live in his village, surrounded by people he loves.
But one day a messenger enters the village with terrible news: the dragon Sui Jen has


Mi Fei is a humble painter of scrolls. Between each day's sunrise and sunset, he paints scenes of the gods and their festivals' portraits of heroes and their deeds. Although the scrolls bring him fame, Mi Fei is content to live in his village, surrounded by people he loves.
But one day a messenger enters the village with terrible news: the dragon Sui Jen has awakened from its hundred years' sleep and is destroying everything in its path. Someone must find a way to return Sui Jen to its slumber. To the villagers, only one among them is wise enough to confront the scaly beast -- Mi Fei.
The power of the artist's vision and the ever-sustaining nature of love are brought together in Marguerite W. Davol's beautiful story, strikingly interpreted by Robert Sabuda in a series of gatefold illustrations that convey the storytelling majesty of the Chinese narrative scrollmaker's art.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Davol's (Batwings and the Curtain of Night) eloquent original Chinese tale about a humble scroll artist who saves his village is the inspiration for Sabuda's (The 12 Days of Christmas) intricate and glorious gatefolds. Mi Fei goes to see the dragon, Sui Jen, at the behest of his fellow villagers. Sui Jen will stop terrorizing Mi Fei's village if he can perform three tasks (each completed with the aid of his scrolls), the last of which is to bring him the strongest thing in the world wrapped in paper. Mi Fei brings him lovein the form of a scroll depicting his beloved villagers. Sabuda, known for his artistic versatility, this time channels his zeal into creating exquisite two-dimensional cut-paper illustrations. He takes the story to epic proportions through the use of intriguing perspectives (e.g., the artist bowing before the enormous fire-breathing dragon or painting the life-saving scroll of his cherished villagers) that span three panels and are composed of tiny incisions in splattered, streaked, almost psychedelically colored tissue papers. In the climactic final scene, when Mi Fei presents his gift of love, the reader sees only the head of the great dragon (on the left). Opening the gatefold reveals a brilliant progression of color as the great head turns from deep green, purple and red to a golden path of flame and alightsin a paper imagein the palm of the artist's hand. Both artists have come together to celebrate their gifts in this ode to the simplest of all: love. Ages 5-8. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
This is a story about a humble Chinese painter, Mi Fei. Although his love for his art is great, he cares little for fame and is always ready to put aside his brushes to listen to his fellow villagers. When Sui Jen, a fiery dragon, threatens to destroy his community, Mi Fei agrees to undertake three great tasks to free his people from danger. It is his love for his friends that brings salvation and solutions to questions that seem unanswerable. The book is exquisitely illustrated by master paper craftsman, Robert Sabuda. His pictures elegantly fold out to reveal the enormity of the dragon, the tasks he successfully performs, and his love of the community.
Children's Literature - Mary Quattlebaum
A humble Chinese artist must vanquish the dragon terrorizing his village-but how? Armed only with the tools of his trade and the kindness of his heart, Mi Fei is able to bring peace to the creature in Marguerite Davol's riveting The Paper Dragon. Robert Sabuda's cut tissue-paper illustrations and fold-out spreads capture the spirit of old China and the majesty of the dragon.
School Library Journal
Gr 1-4--A teller of felicitous tall tales from America's heartland sets this fantasy in China. When a fire-breathing dragon threatens to destroy their rice fields, the villagers turn to their humble but famous artist, Mi Fei. They reckon that his years of painting great heroes might inspire him to defeat the villain. Terrified but determined, he confronts the beast and saves the village. The story has such a sweet conclusion--love conquers all--that it seems churlish to point out that Chinese dragons are creatures of mist and rain, and that humble peasants would never wear silk. The artist-hero's pigtail places him in the recent Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), a historical era when a dragon's presence would be as unexpected in China as in the countryside of Georgian England. Such quibbles may be beside the point, for the story is overshadowed by the book's lavish design. The text is printed on a flap that opens into a triple-page spread, a long rectangular shape reminiscent of Chinese scrolls. This makes the book awkward for reading aloud in groups, and vulnerable to tearing by energetic youngsters. The art, cut from painted tissue paper and laid over textured, ivory-colored handmade Japanese paper, is arresting but hard to read. In spite of the vibrant colors and elegant composition, the overall effect is more ostentatious than emotionally resonant. While the pictures evoke Chinese paper cuts, the protaganist is shown painting one of the lines--mixing two important but quite different techniques. The book's striking appearance will command attention, but for all its generalized celebration of love, it remains chilly and disappointing.--Margaret A. Chang, North Adams State College, MA
New York Times Book Review
Elegantly illustrated with collages of painted tissue paper on a background of handmade Japanese paper. The gatefold illustrations open out in a way suggesting the style of Chinese scrolls. -- New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
From Davol (Batwings and the Curtain of Night, p. 379, etc.), an ambitious folk tale set in China. Humble Mi Fei is an artist, painting scenes of gods and heroes, and content to live in the small village where he is always ready to stop work and listen to the tales of his neighbors. One day his peaceful life is shattered when the great dragon of Lung Mountain awakens from sleep, destroying crops and ruining villages, and Mi Fei is chosen to appease it. The dragon assigns Mi Fei three seemingly impossible tasks: to bring fire wrapped in paper (he fashions a paper lantern), to bring wind wrapped in paper (he folds a fan), and to bring the strongest thing in the world—wrapped in paper. Mi Fei struggles over this last one, but paints a scene of his village and delivers the message to the dragon that love is stronger than everything. Sabuda's illustrations are endlessly inventive; the forms of clothing, dragon, plants, and trees are portrayed in painted tissue-paper collages affixed to Japanese papers; the faces of the figures are expertly painted, using economical brush strokes that express the personalities of the people Mi Fei so loves. The right-hand page of every scene is a gatefold, making each picture a triple-page horizontal spread—sometimes Mi Fei is within the scene, sometimes he is creating it. It all comes together in a vibrant and surprising work.

Product Details

Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.50(d)
850L (what's this?)
Age Range:
5 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Robert Sabuda is one of the most innovative and inventive children's book creators and is known worldwide for his amazing pop-up paper engineering. His books include Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Twelve Days of Christmas, The Night Before Christmas, The Winter's Tale, Peter Pan, Beauty and the Beast, to name but afew, have garnered numerous awards and have made the New York Times bestseller lists on many occasions. He lives in New York City.

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