Hai Li Bu is a good hunter, but not even he can find enough food for his village when the drought comes. The people grow thin and weak, the children rarely laugh -- but worst of all, they begin to argue and stop listening to one another.
Out on a hunt one day, Hai Li Bu saves a small snake from the beak of a crane. He is surprised to learn that he has rescued the daughter of the Dragon King of the Sea. The Dragon King offers Hai Li Bu the reward of his choice. Hai Li Bu asks only to know the language of animals. Then he can be a better hunter for his village. His wish is granted with a provision: He must never reveal the secret of his gift to anyone.
Hai Li Bu's people are saved from famine, but when he hears from the animals that a flood is coming that will destroy everything in his village, the people do not listen to him. "You ask us to leave our homes. How can we know what you say is true?" a village elder asks him. Now Hai Li Bu is faced with a terrible choice: to let the people of his village die in the flood or to reveal his secret, knowing the dire consequences for himself.
Caldecott Medal and Honor-winner Ed Young's magnificent illustrations bring this poignant traditional folktale to life.