Asia – Chinese ("Southern Chinese
version of a traditional Chinese tale" - Acknowledgments)
Laurence. 1997. The dragon prince: A Chinese Beauty & the Beast tale. Illustrated
by Kam Mak. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
(out of ♥♥♥♥♥). (Cover from Amazon.com).
Summary: A poor farmer with
seven daughters is taken prisoner by a dragon who wants to marry a daughter. Seven (daughter seven) marries the dragon, moves
to a kingdom undersea, and is rewarded for her kindness when the dragon turns into a handsome prince. Three (daughter three)
is jealous and tries to kill her sister and take her place. In the end, Seven and the prince are happily reunited.
Type: wonder tale
Characters: The characters
are one-dimensional. Seven is the “good, kind, talented” daughter and Three is the evil daughter. The dragon turns
into a loving prince who knows with his heart that Three is an imposter. The
old woman is kind and empathetic, and at the end, she takes the place of Seven’s disloyal family. Seven’s father
is a poor farmer who seems somewhat helpless and who is ruled by fear.
Setting: From the subtitle
and illustrations, the reader learns that the tale takes place in China. The time frame is unclear, but Yep tells us that the story happened “Once,”
another way of saying long ago. Yep uses the past tense in his writing.
Plot: In many ways, this
fairy tale mirrors the plot of the the well-known Beauty and the Beast tale. Seven marries a beast to save her father, and
as a result of Seven’s kindness, the beast transforms into a handsome prince who brings her love and happiness. However, in this version, Seven has a jealous sister who tries to kill her and take
her place. Additionally, the rest of her family is disloyal due to fear. Eventually,
the prince and Seven are reunited, and they return to their magic kingdom with an old woman who has been kind to Seven (and
who metaphorically replaces her relatives).
Themes: One main theme is
that sometimes a person must look below the surface to see the beauty in others. Another theme is that a person’s kindness
will eventually be rewarded and that a person’s evil deeds and jealousy will eventually lead to negative consequences.
Other Observations – Language:
Yep’s language is poetic, and this folktale is extremely well-written. For example, Yep writes, “I know the loom
and stove and many ordinary things…but my hand has never touched wonder” (unpaged).
Rating Considerations: Both
the text and the illustrations are magical, and they work well together. However, one point in the story seems unresolved.
Seven never confronts her parents after they betray her. She simply adopts an old woman as her family, reunites with her prince,
and moves on.
Illustrations: In his
eye-catching paintings, Mak effectively utilizes intense primary colors and varying perspectives. Two wordless, double-paged
spreads are particularly stunning. Readers will be touched by a close-up portrait
of the sad Seven before she is reunited with her prince. Karen Morgan writes, “Mak’s illustrations dramatically
combine realism and fantasy” (Booklist, 1997). A reviewer from Kirkus says, “Mak’s splendid, realistic
paintings, in dark jewel tones bordered with white, extend the text elegantly…” (Kirkus, 1997).