Disclosure: I received a copy of Hu Wan and the Sleeping Dragon to assess. All opinions are my own.
For centuries in China, many Chinese have kept crickets as pets to enjoy their singing-like sounds. More common with the wealthier segment of the population, some people made cricket cages out of ivory while others created them from gourds. The historical fiction picture book Hu Wan and the Sleeping Dragon by Judy Young and illustrated by Jordi Solano imagines two young boys of different social statuses connected by a cricket and a gourd cage.
Based in Beijing, China in 1572, the book follows nine-year-old Hu Wan. He and his grandfather hone a specialty in growing gourds. They make the gourds into ladles and bowls to sell in the village market. Every year they choose one special gourd to make into a cricket cage. Hu Wan determines that a special gourd is shaped like a sleeping dragon. As such, he carves it as one. When China’s emperor dies, his nine-year-old son inherits the title (in true life, nine-year-old Wan Li replaces his deceased father as emperor of China in 1572). In an act of kindness, Hu Wan gives the new emperor the gourd cricket cage to comfort the young new leader. The palace guard laughs when Hu Wan presents the simple gourd. But looks are deceiving, and the young emperor ends up appreciating the gift when he discovers the music-like sounds from the cricket lulls him into sweet dreams.
Hu Wan and the Sleeping Dragon gives readers a look into historic Chinese culture. It also highlights timeless themes such as the power of empathy and inner beauty. The cricket storyline will interest curious kids. Fun fact: Count the number of chirps one cricket makes in 15 seconds and add 37 – this will provide the approximate current temperature.
Hu Wan and the Sleeping Dragon is published by Sleeping Bear Press. The book’s reading level is for children ages 6 to 9 years old. The publisher will be releasing the book on December 15, 2017. Before the release date, the book is available for pre-order on Amazon.
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