59. Shen of the Sea by Arthur Bowie Chrisman

Shen of the Sea: Chinese Stories for Children by Arthur Bowie Chrisman. illustrated by Else Hasselriis (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 221 pages
Ages: 8+
Finished: Mar. 31, 2010
First Published: 1925
Publisher: E.P. Dutton
Genre: short stories, folktales
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

"A shamelessly rainy day, my honorable Brother Chi."

Acquired: Bought and own a copy.

Reason for Reading: Read aloud to my 9yo son. We always have a book of folktales, fairy tales, myths, etc. on the go, reading one story every school day.

Comments: I have read this book once before to myself some time ago, as an adult, and came away with the impression that it was OK (maybe 3 stars) but now I think I've found out the problem with that first reading. This book is meant to be read aloud! The stories are told in a storyteller voice that just rolls of the tongue when reading out loud and brings them gloriously to life. The stories are hilarious and I can't say that my ds or I didn't like even a single one the tales. I'm not convinced these are traditional Chinese stories (I've read a lot of folktales in my life and never heard any of these before) but would guess that Chrisman wrote them himself based on the style of Chinese tales. The tales often rely on repetition, some are origin stories and they cover a wide spectrum of characters from peasants to princesses and Kings. A number of the stories are about someone who is not too bright or is incredibly lazy or stubborn. While the great majority of tales are folktales a few pass over into fairytale territory with the appearance of a few dragons and other Chinese mythical creatures. Every single time this book came out my son's face lit up, he thoroughly enjoyed it! I also had a ton of fun reading it. This book has a habit of getting mixed reviews and to those who give it low ratings, I ask you to read aloud a couple of stories to a child or group of children. Then see if you don't change your mind! I've found in my 21 years as a mother that some children's books just beg to be read aloud and don't do the trick when read silently. The only thing I'm not too keen on are the silhouette illustrations. Yes, they add to the ethnicity of the book but detailed drawings would have been more fun to look at.


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