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Lydia Bailey. Illustrated by Martin Springett.
Richmond Hill, ON: North Wind Press (a division of Scholastic-TAB), 1990.
32pp., galley, $14.95.
ISBN 0-590-73369-9. Also available in French. CIP.

Subject Heading:
Chinese-Folklore-Juvenile literature.

Kindergarten-grade 6 / Ages 5-11

Reviewed by Gwen Maguire.

Volume 18 Number 6
1990 November

Dedicated to the students of Tiananmen Square, this picture-book is the powerful story of a very young Chinese girl, Mei Ming, who endeavours to save the people of her village from a terrible drought. Mei Ming has been endowed with a beautiful singing voice, but her songs seem to be of little help to the parched village.

The author uses very descriptive and poetic language to tell of Mei Ming's desperate struggle to release the waters of a beautiful blue lake, which she accidentally finds on the mountain above her village. To no avail, she uses a small shovel to try to pry open the iron lock on the stone gate that holds back the water. The voice of beautiful wild birds tells her that she must seek out the dragon's daughter in order to open the gate. She befriends the dragon's daughter and together they sing songs to lull the fierce dragon guarding the gate to sleep. Mei Ming then steals the golden key and opens the gate to free the water, which saves her village.

Artist Martin Springett uses vivid, detailed illustrations to enrich and enhance the text. The contrast and blending of colour in the landscape scenes, the vibrant peacocks and birds, the elongated dragons, and the facial expressions of the characters add feeling and vitality to the tale and give the reader a true sense of actually being there.

The powerful story-line, the expressive language, and the truly elegant illustrations harmonize to make this book adventurous and appealing to child and adult alike. It also offers the reader a wonderful taste of Chinese culture. An excellent choice for any children's library.

Gwen Maguire, St. John's, NF.
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