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Evelyn Nagai-Berthrong.
Illustrations and Dialogue by Anker Odum.

Toronto, Royal Ontario Museum, c1983.
40pp, paper-bound boards, $9.95.
ISBN 0-88854-300-X.

Grades 5 and up.
Reviewed by Ann Fiske.

Volume 12 Number 1
1984 January

Through Adventures of the Magic Monkey Along the Silk Roads, Evelyn Nagai-Berthrong attempts to bring Chinese culture and philosophy to the attention of school-aged children. The basis for the book is The Journey to the West, a popular sixteenth-century Chinese novel; the medium, a much abbreviated comic-book version of portions of the same; the raison d'etre, an accompaniment to the Royal Ontario Museum exhibit, Silk Roads, China Ships.

The book, itself, is a colourful presentation of fanciful characters represented in a manner that faithfully illustrates the limited text. The animal figures, particularly, have much appeal for children. The major weaknesses of the book seem to stem from the author's good intentions; the desire to incorporate into an appropriate length as many of Journey to the West's monkey-themes as possible. As a result of this and of the simplification felt necessary for young readers, transitions between actions are not well developed. Time lapses need more accentuation and occurrences, more detail.

Nagai-Berthrong and Odum have offered children an enticing menu; a mischievous monkey, a gluttonous pig, and a magical horse. Although the ingredients are commendable, the final meal is somewhat superficial. The mixture of formal dialogue with colloquial speech and behaviours and the lack of development in certain areas of the "plot," disturb the natural flow of language. This seems particularly distressing given the possibilities for jnaking the beauty of the Oriental tale a part of the Canadian child's repertoire. Despite its initial appeal, Adventures of the Magic Monkey displays the same negative qualities as do the classics or Bible stories when reduced to comic-book format. Although its intrinsic value may be restrictive, the book could serve as reinforcement to a unit on ancient China. Once the underlying philosophies and artistic contributions of this civilization have been studied, the story, and the photographs of Oriental artifacts at the end of the book, will be more meaningful.

Ann Fiske, Faculty of Education, University of Western Ontario, London, ON.
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