Over the holidays, I had hoped to catch up on several book reviews for Random House Children's Books, but one of the selections I was sent (thank you, Jenny!) grabbed my eye immediately, The Silk Princess, written and illustrated by Charles Santore:
Based on Chinese folklore about the discovery of silk, the story is charming, very imaginative, and best read aloud to very young readers as the vocabulary may prove too advanced for them. (And I could probably use some pronunciation lessons in Chinese words!)
Princess Hsi-Ling Chi is in the garden with her mother, the Empress Lei-Tsu, when a cocoon drops into a cup of hot tea, becoming loosened and unraveled. Intrigued by the shimmering thread, the little Princess embarks on an adventure that will take her out of the palace walls and into the Holy Mountains where she will meet a furious dragon and a mysterious old man who weaves with a special loom.
Though the story is reason enough to pick up this book, the absolutely stunning illustrations are what make The Silk Princess magical. The art reminds me of those ancient Chinese tapestries called kesi, very detailed and Zen-like with rich colors and intricate designs.
Each page was a delight to turn, and I have gone back to the first just to study the little nuances and cleverly added plants and animals that escaped my first read-through. If your own little reading companion is like mine, wanting to find the tiny blue bird on the crooked tree limb or the rabbit hiding in the berry bushes, books like this offer much more than just a story experience. Reaching beyond mere reading skills, The Silk Princess offers lessons in history, culture and art all tucked together nicely in a beautiful picture book.
I love this book!