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The Song of Mu Lan
     

The Song of Mu Lan

by Jeanne M. Lee, Handprint
 

Mu Lan is at her loom when she hears the Emperor's call to arms. She rides off to war in her father's stead, embarking on a journey of ten thousand miles that takes her away from home for ten years. Her courage and valor bring her to the Emperor's attention and to the Golden Court. When offered whatever she wishes as a reward, she asks only to go home. There she

Overview

Mu Lan is at her loom when she hears the Emperor's call to arms. She rides off to war in her father's stead, embarking on a journey of ten thousand miles that takes her away from home for ten years. Her courage and valor bring her to the Emperor's attention and to the Golden Court. When offered whatever she wishes as a reward, she asks only to go home. There she surprises her mother and father, sister and brother—but it is her comrades in arms who are most surprised of all.
The Song of Mu Lan is closely translated from an ancient text and echoes the rhythms of Chinese, which is here faithfully reproduced in original calligraphy by Chan Bo Wan, the artist's father. Jeanne M. Lee has rendered the panorama of characters in silken watercolors, providing a lush counterpoint to the spare, elegant text.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Reflecting a combination of delicacy and strength, this translation of an ancient Chinese poem tells of a girl named Mu Lan, who, disguised as a man, goes to war in her father's place, and fights for 12 hard years before returning home. The song-like text, epic in feel, is best read aloud: it attains a simple majesty, an eloquence that belies its spare words: ``War drums ring in the brittle air. The cold moon shines on steel.'' Dominated by hues of amber and sandalwood, Lee's (Silent Lotus) glowing watercolor paintings bow to traditional East Asian artistry; the expansive desert sands and mountain ranges are dotted with soldiers' tunics, flags, horses and bonsai-like trees, striking a balance between war and nature's silent grace. Elegantly presented, the book pulses with striking touches such as the Chinese text (rendered in fine calligraphy by Lee's father) which appears on each page; and the Sung and Ming Dynasty versions of this poem that are handsomely reproduced on the end papers. Powerful and understated. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)
School Library Journal
K-Gr 5-The bilingual edition of a 1500-year-old ballad celebrates the bravery of a Chinese woman. When the emperor calls her ailing father to battle, Mu Lan, having no elder brother, answers the call herself. She buys a horse, puts on armor, takes up sword and spear, and leads the life of a male soldier for 10 years. When the emperor offers the warrior a rich reward, she asks for camels to carry her back to her village. Once home, she puts on women's clothes, convincing her former comrades that courage and fighting skills are not the province of men alone. The story is told through terse, rhythmic, unrhymed stanzas, combining narration with Mu Lan's own words. Lee's art, influenced by classic Chinese painting, illuminates and amplifies the spare poetic text. Character is suggested by gesture, not expression. Reminding us that the ballad has entered the repertoire of Chinese opera, Lee carefully composes each scene, setting the figures against a buff ground. The restraint of both art and text invites readers into the story, leaving space for imaginative interaction. This re-creation of a beloved Chinese poem is a valuable addition to the growing body of authentic Chinese literature for children.-Margaret A. Chang, North Adams State College, MA
Julie Yates Walton
nger for reading aloud. Although originating between A.D. 420 and 589, this Chinese folk poem is more than a historical treasure--it is topical enough to prompt some rather interesting discussions about sex roles and women in the military among children older than the usual picture book set. Because he has no sons to send, the father of a young woman, Mu Lan, is drafted into the emperor's army. Courageously, Mu Lan disguises herself as a boy and takes her father's place. Over 12 years she proves a formidable soldier who earns "twelve medals of honor and a thousand strings of gold." When she returns home, she shocks her fellow soldiers when she appears in womanly garb. The tale ends with this gem: "A male rabbit is fast and agile, / A female rabbit has bright eyes. / When the two rabbits run together, / No one can tell which is male, which is female." Closely translated, the language is pleasingly crisp and staccato; it is accompanied by the Chinese text in a careful reproduction of the original calligraphy. Providing a superb setting for all of this are Lee's traditionally hued and composed pencil illustrations. This is a fine addition to any collection.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781886910003
Publisher:
Highlights Press
Publication date:
08/28/1991
Edition description:
Reissue
Pages:
36
Product dimensions:
7.63(w) x 10.00(h) x (d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author


Jeanne M. Lee has illustrated numerous books for children, most recently The Butterfly Boy, written by Lawrence Yep, of which Publisher's Weekly claimed, "an ethereal sensibility graces the paintings." Ms. Lee wrote and illustrated Silent Lotus, a Reading Rainbow Selection. She lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.

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