Bedtime Stories is a new column that will highlight Children’s Books with a diverse, global perspective.
It is the eve of Chinese New Year!
Lanterns are hung in the shopping malls and Yao is preparing to wake the ancient sky dragon, Shen Long, from his year-long sleep. Soon Yao will be propelled on a magical journey to battle the bad luck of the previous year and usher in the good.
Will he succeed? Will his grandfather watch over him and protect him from harm?
Dragon Dancer, written by Joyce Chng and illustrated by Jérémy Pailler, was originally published in the UK by Lantana Publishing, but just became available in the US in January and we are the richer for it.
This story is about Yao, a dragon dancer who is both afraid of and excited by the great responsibility of taking up the family tradition of chasing all the bad luck away upon the Lunar New Year (which occurs on February 16th this year!). It is a responsibility he does not undertake alone, but with the force of a dragon behind him, the family dragon, Shen Long. Joyce Chng weaves the every day with the magical in this gorgeously illustrated book that pulses with the sounds and beauty of the Chinese Lunar New Year. Jérémy Pailler’s art is the perfect accompaniment, flowing across the stark white pages like clouds of watercolor, giving us rich details beyond those contained in the text. But it’s Joyce’s evocative prose that both explains the traditions of the dragon dance while also telling an utterly heartwarming tale. I burst into tears the first time I read it, both when Yao and Shen Long triumph over bad luck, and when Shen Long, as both ancient sky dragon and grandfather, expresses his pride in Yao’s dance.
This is exactly the kind of story that I wish I had been able to read to my children, but it’s just as powerful to me as an adult. Suitable for children ages 4-8.