The Warlord's Puzzle

The Warlord's Puzzle

5.0 1
by Virginia Pilegard, Nicolas Debon

A young peasant boy convinces his poor but wise father to enter a contest to solve the warlord's puzzle, which is actually the original tangram. Recommended by the Califorina Department of Education.  See more details below


A young peasant boy convinces his poor but wise father to enter a contest to solve the warlord's puzzle, which is actually the original tangram. Recommended by the Califorina Department of Education.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This tale of the origin of the Chinese tangram grew out of Pilegard's thesis project for her M.A. in education. When an artist bestows his gift of a blue tile on a warlord, he drops it, breaking it into seven pieces ("a parallelogram, a square, and five triangles"). As the warlord prepares to mete out "my worst punishment," the artist postpones his fate by suggesting a contest. The warlord proclaims that whoever puts the tile back together will receive a treasure and come to live in the palace. People eager to try their skill soon line the road to the palace gate; where wise men fail, a poor peasant's son quietly completes the puzzle. Pilegard punctuates her prose with colorful description (e.g., the tile is "the rare blue of a winter sky when dark storm clouds part"), but the boy's solution is anticlimactic, requiring little deductive reasoning ("He put the two large triangles together. They looked like his father's hat"). The strength of Debon's (The Moon Festival) paintings lies in the details of clothing, landscape and architecture. Unfortunately, his characterizations rely on stereotype: the tile artist comes off as a stooge, a monk as a smiley-faced goon. Though the appeal is primarily for adults, young puzzlers may enjoy the traceable tangram pattern at book's end--but likely won't be back for repeated readings. Ages 4-8. (Apr.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Children's Literature - Children's Literature
A powerful warlord smiles when he receive a beautiful blue tile, but then the artist drops and breaks it. Its seven pieces, a parallelogram, a square, and five triangles seem to defy being mended into the original square. Threatened with the warlord's worst punishment, the artist suggests a contest. Thinking it an excellent idea, the warlord declares, "Anyone who can solve the puzzle of the tile will be given a great treasure and brought to live in my palace." The line of contestants wanders across the Japanese landscape to the river, where a fisherman and his son decide to try their luck. Striking illustrations in a bright palette of reds, greens, burnt oranges and gold leap out against a brown background and contrast nicely with the tile's pieces. The use of foreshortening and a wide variety of camera angles makes each page a visual surprise. The emotions so clearly portrayed on each character's face echo those of the reader, who will finish this book with a broad smile. 2000, Pelican Publishing Company, Ages 5 to 8, $14.95. Reviewer: Nancy Tilly
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4-An artist presents an autocratic warlord with a beautiful blue tile, but when he accidentally drops it, it breaks into seven geometrical pieces. Terrified by cruel threats of punishment, he cannot arrange the pieces back into a square to mend them. The warlord then holds a contest, promising a reward to anyone who solves the puzzle. Crowds assemble, but no one, including a self-important scholar and an inscrutable monk, can reassemble the pieces. A poor fisherman's little boy at last solves the puzzle as he quietly plays with the shapes. No source is given for the incident, mentioned in the author's note, that inspired this tale about the origin of the tangram, believed to date back to the T'ang Dynasty (618-906). The illustrations reinforce the text's whimsical tone, presenting the characters as aliens in an operetta, striking static, exaggerated poses against plain backdrops, their faces contorted into melodramatic expressions of rage, fear, serenity, relief, and joy. Ann Tompert's Grandfather Tang's Story (Crown, 1990) uses characters that seem a bit more human to introduce tangrams in storytelling. The newer title's weaknesses-an improbable story, peopled with caricatures that speak in clich d dialogue-undermine whatever contributions it might make toward teaching geometry.-Margaret A. Chang, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Childrens Book Watch
A Chinese warlord receives a ceramic tile as a gift and promptly sentences the artist who made it to death when the title is shattered into seven pieces. The desperate artist proposes that a contest be held. Whoever is clever enough to put the tile fragments back together will be asked to live in the warlord's palace -- and his own life would be spared. After an enormous multitude of people fail at the task, a little peasant boy figures out a novel and unexpected solution. Virginia Pilegard's The Warlord's Puzzle is a delightful, highly recommended picturebook story that is gorgeously illustrated with the full color, museum quality artwork of Nicholas Debon.
—Childrens Book Watch

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Product Details

Pelican Publishing Company, Incorporated
Publication date:
Warlord's Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.24(w) x 11.54(h) x 0.22(d)
AD620L (what's this?)
Age Range:
5 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Virginia Walton Pilegard wrote The Warlord's Puzzle as part of a teaching unit that uses informal geometry to strengthen students' visual learning abilities. Mrs. Pilegard studied elementary mathematics and completed both a B.A. and M.A. in Education. She then went on to teach elementary grades and in juvenile correction schools.

Nicolas Debon is a freelance illustrator in Versailles, France. In addition to his illustrations for the Warlord's Series , he is also the author/illustrator of several other books, including two Canadian Governor General's Literary Award finalists.

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