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Red Butterfly: How a Princess Smuggled the Secret of Silk Out of Chinaby Deborah Noyes
Synopses & Reviews
An enchanting tale of hidden beauty and fierce courage, retold in the style of Tang Dynasty poetry and illustrated with charm and grace
A young Chinese princess is sent from her fathers kingdom to marry the king of a far-off land. She must leave behind her home of splendors: sour plums and pink peach petals and — most precious and secret of all — the small silkworm. She begs her father to let her stay, but he insists that she go and fulfill her destiny as the queen of Khotan. Beautifully told and arrestingly illustrated, here is a coming-of-age tale of a brave young princess whose clever plan will go on to live in legend — and will ensure that her cherished home is with her always.
"Ancient sources say silkworms and mulberry seeds left China hidden in the elaborately coiffed hair of a princess. Imagining what might have prompted the princess to reveal the secret of silk production, a crime punishable by death, Noyes (Hana in the Time of the Tulips) writes with exquisite delicacy of Princess Red Butterfly's truncated girlhood: 'I am a child with my hair/ yet cut across my forehead,/ but soon I will marry/ the king of far Khotan.' Blackall (Ruby's Wish) composes sumptuous portraits of the imperial Chinese court: ladies whisper behind fans, consorts bathe in hot springs, a dressmaker fits the princess for a robe. Her ink-and-wash spreads swirl with flourishes (fluttering silk sashes, curving garden paths and tumbling locks of black hair). Red Butterfly must leave her parents, her little brother — whose grief Blackall paints in quiet brushstrokes — and all the beauty around her: 'Good-bye,/ red-crowned crane. / Good-bye,/ sour plums.' Noyes understands Red Butterfly's theft as a small but powerful rebellion against loss: 'If you must go.... from all you know,/ take with you/ some small piece/ of brightness,/ some shining memory...' The story ends as Red Butterfly leaves for Khotan, but Blackall gives readers visual clues (the princess's smile, flying silk moths) to suggest that the girl's resilience creates a hopeful future. Ages 6-10." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"More than 1,500 years ago, Deborah Noyes writes in a note appended to this beautiful picture book, a Chinese princess married the king of a desert oasis far to the west and took with her, hidden in her hair or headdress, silkworm cocoons and mulberry seeds. Or so goes the legend. In language recalling the poet Li Po, best known to readers of English through Ezra Pound's rendering of 'The River Merchant's... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) Wife: A Letter,' Noyes tries to imagine what might have driven a heartsick young princess to give up China's precious secret. 'I am a child with my hair yet cut across my forehead, but soon I will marry the king of far Khotan. ... The night court hums with poets. Scroll painters stretch white silk. ... I would give every silver hairpin, every jade carving and gold ornament for one brush of southern mist, one windy, silken promise — that home be with me always.' Sophie Blackall did the pictures, light and bright as butterflies, in Chinese ink and watercolors. Elizabeth Ward can be reached at warde(at symbol)washpost.com." Reviewed by Elizabeth Ward, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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This enchanting tale of hidden beauty and fierce courage offers the story of a young Chinese princess who must leave her fathers home of many splendors to marry the king of a far-off land. Her clever plan to ensure her cherished home is with her always continues to live in legend. Full color.
About the Author
Deborah Noyes is the author of HANA IN THE TIME OF THE TULIPS, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline, as well as other books for children and adults. She also edited the young adult anthologies GOTHIC! and THE RESTLESS DEAD. Deborah Noyes lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.
Sophie Blackall is the illustrator of several award-winning picture books, including RUBY'S WISH by Shirin Yim Bridges, MEET WILD BOARS by Meg Rosoff, and the Ivy and Bean books by Annie Barrows. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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Children's » Folk Tales » Asian and Pacific