From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Ages 4^-8. In a Chinese village, a drought scorches the countryside and starves the people. Hai Li Bu, a hunter, tries to find food. One day, he saves a small snake from a crane, and in return the snake brings him to the bottom of the sea, where the snake's father, the Dragon King of the Sea, lives. The Dragon King offers rubies and emeralds as a reward, but Hai Li Bu wants only to understand the language of animals so that he can be a better hunter and feed his village. The Dragon King grants the request on the condition that there will never be a whisper of what has transpired. This agreement works until Hai Li Bu overhears the birds and animals chattering about a huge flood that will destroy the village. The hunter tries to warn the people, but they don't believe. Hai Li Bu finally realizes that to save the villagers he must tell them how he knows about the flood. Heroically, he recounts the whole story--as he slowly turns to stone. Casanova, who lists several sources for the story, tells the tale in a dignified yet moving way that is complemented by the stark artwork. Arid-looking, dun-colored paper is the background for Young's masterful brush strokes, which evoke the spirit of each spread. Fingers of color represent the quixotic climate that can burn or soak. With never a wasted line, Young brings to life the hunter, who in the final spread becomes one with the rocky landscape. And in the corner of each page is a bright red box with Chinese calligraphy that proclaims the essence of the tale: "suffer drought," "downpour," "trust." --Ilene Cooper
School Library Journal
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K-Gr 3-Hai Li Bu, a hunter from a drought-stricken village in mythic China, rescues a small pearly snake from the beak of a crane. The snake tells the young man that she is the daughter of the Dragon King of the Sea, and takes him to visit her father's undersea palace. When the Dragon King tries to reward him with fabulous jewels, Hai Li Bu asks only to understand the language of animals, so that he may provide more food for the starving inhabitants of his village. The Dragon King complies, but on the condition that Hai Li Bu must not reveal his secret, or he will turn to stone. Hai Li Bu restores his famished community to health, but when the animals warn him of an approaching flood, the hunter cannot convince the villagers to leave their homes without exposing his source of information. The tale of his sacrifice is well told in measured, poetic prose, unified by repeating word patterns. Young's spare calligraphic illustrations, ink against a muted golden-brown background that recalls old silk, are more suggestive than representational. Pastels add touches of color to art steeped in the tradition of Chinese brush painting. While sophisticated, the artwork is accessible and perfectly suited to the tale. A red seal appears in the corner of each double-page spread. The ancient characters within each one, all translated below the source note, comment on the story while reminding readers of its original language. A handsome addition to any folktale collection.-Margaret A. Chang, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.