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The Magical Monkey King


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About the Author

Youshan Tang grew up in Shanghai, China, and graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts and Peking University with degrees in Chinese art and literature. Since 1980, Tang has made his home in San Francisco where the cultural diversity inspires his work. He is also the illustrator of Abadeha: The Philippine Cinderella and Anklet for a Princess: A Cinderella Story from India.


On the fiction front, one monkey stars in 18 traditional tales in The Magical Monkey King, retold by Ji-li Jiang, illus. by Hui Hui Su-Kennedy. The short stories (each about five pages in length) are set in a large font with b&w illustrations reminiscent of Chinese prints. (May) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Gr 2-6-One of the best-loved figures in Chinese popular culture is the trickster Monkey King. Early traditional stories about him coalesced into Wu Cheng-en's 16th-century epic novel Journey to the West, which uses 100 chapters to chronicle the insouciant, courageous hero's adventures. In this engaging version of his story, Jiang begins with Monkey's birth on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits. After proving himself to the monkey tribe, who choose him as their king, Monkey tries to learn the secret of immortality, travels under the sea to steal a powerful weapon from the Dragon King, and wreaks havoc at the heavenly court of the Jade Emperor. Only Buddha can stop his mischief, and does so in a scene that works as exciting action and profound metaphor. Lively, colloquial language distinguishes this telling, and Su-Kennedy's black-and-white woodcuts enhance the action. Jiang's format serves the old tale better than the two picture-book retellings currently available, Ed Young's Monkey King (HarperCollins, 2001) and Robert Kraus and Debby Chen's The Making of Monkey King (Pan Asian, 1998). David Kherdian's Monkey: A Journey to the West (Shambhala, 1992) abridges the entire story for adults and is accessible to middle and high school students. Jiang's is the best version for elementary school students, and libraries will want it as a good story for younger fantasy lovers, whether or not it is used as an introduction to authentic Chinese literature.-Margaret A. Chang, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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