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Gr. 3--5, younger for reading aloud. No one fabricates a better make-believe kingdom than Alexander, as this story about a clever cat proves. Known for her beautiful green eyes, Dream-of-Jade lives in the forbidden city of the Celestial Emperor Kwan-Yu, upon whose grand personage no one is permitted to gaze. But Dream-of-Jade is very, very curious, and she boldly enters the emperor's throne room. Her grave offense would have cost her her life had she not saved the emperor from a falling ceiling. Five chapters, three of which were previously published in Cricket magazine in 1976, delightfully elucidate the special bond that grows between the emperor and his anointed Imperial Cat. The fairy-tale-style narrative flourishes with wily wit, details of ancient Chinese court life, and sophisticated language levied with tongue-in-cheek titles and descriptions, e.g., Department of Lighthearted But Not-Too-Frivolous Diversions, Yawn of Profound Uninterest, and Imperial Couch of Blissful Repose. Finely lined, stylish paintings on marbled yellow backgrounds convey the cultural mystique, invoking both richness and absurdity. This fancy feast of delicious satire begs to be read aloud. --Julie Cummins Copyright 2005 Booklist
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Each of Alexander's (the Prydain Chronicles) five stories explores how the relationship between a talking cat, Dream-of-Jade, and Kwan-Yu, Celestial Emperor of China's Middle Kingdom, gradually frees the Emperor from his advisers' bureaucratic stranglehold. Perhaps best suited to newly independent readers, the tales (first published in Cricket magazine) range from eight to 11 pages, with a generous helping of illustrations breaking up lengthy chunks of text. The strongest of the stories leads off: "How Dream-of-Jade Looked at the Emperor" describes their initial meeting. Dream-of-Jade, "as curious as she was beautiful, and as determined as she was curious," defies custom, sits on the throne (where she notices loose ceiling tiles) and gazes directly at the Emperor's face. When the Emperor alerts his Chief Minister to this etiquette violation, the fellow responds: "Son of Heaven, your observation is highly illuminating. There does, in fact, appear to be a feline creature so situated and performing the ocular activity you have so graciously called to my unworthy attention." The Chief Minister calls for the cat's execution, but Dream-of-Jade leaps onto the Emperor just as the ceiling tiles fall, saving his life and winning his friendship. Thanks to Dream-of-Jade's valuable life lessons, the Emperor comes to discern when his counselors proffer officious, nonsensical guidance. Burkett (My Own Backyard) humorously illustrates the havoc the feline's advice wreaks (in one scene the Emperor, chasing a piece of string, upsets the entire kitchen) and captures the growing love between the wise cat and the perceptive Emperor who comes to appreciate her honesty. Ages 7-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal
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Gr 1-4-In a fictional ancient Chinese empire, a cat named Dream-of-Jade befriends the lonely and badly advised Celestial Emperor. First she saves his life by noticing that the neglected ceiling above his throne is about to collapse, and then she teaches him the invigorating effect of a bit of physical labor. Next she introduces him to laughter and playfulness. So, little by little, Dream-of-Jade intervenes between the Emperor and his courtiers, lifting the weight of stifling tradition and meaningless ceremony from his shoulders and allowing honesty and common sense to prevail. This handsome book is illustrated with graceful pencil-and-watercolor art that adds atmosphere and emotion to Alexander's ornate prose. Because the characters speak in highly stylized, stilted language-"There does, in fact, appear to be a feline creature so situated and performing the oracular activity you have so graciously called to my unworthy attention-."-the book is better suited as a read-aloud than for independent reading.-Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.