Booklist - Hu Wan and the Sleeping Dragon
In 1572, Hu Wan works with his grandfather in their vegetable garden near the Forbidden City in Beijing, China. Their specialty is growing gourds, which are shaped into useful kitchen utensils such as bowls and large spoons to be sold at their village market. Each spring, as the gourds begin to appear, Grandfather makes a clay mold into which one chosen gourd would grow, taking on the mold’s shape. When mature, the special gourd will be freed from its clay mold and carved into a cricket cage so the insect’s song could be enjoyed by the old man and his grandson. In Hu Wan’s ninth year, his grandfather gives him the opportunity to create the gourd cricket cage. How the boy shapes his gourd and what he chooses to do with it make a satisfying story of thoughtfulness and compassion. Muted colors and beautiful illustrations enhance the tale of a young peasant, his grandfather, and the new emperor, himself only a child of nine years of age.