This is a book for young people who like to read chapter books that aren’t too long and have the occasional illustration. The story takes place in ancient China. A 12-year-old boy, Wang, does not want to spend his life working in the fields like his father. He leaves his family in order to find the legendary Eternals, learn magic, and become rich and powerful. When he tells his father this, his father responds, “Wang, we do not believe in the legend of the Internals. You are giving into foolish longings. A man is valued for his worth, not for his wealth.” This is the theme of the story and it is delivered well.
Wang is a lazy and greedy boy at the beginning of the story. He spends a year in Zen-like training but it is not until he returns home that he understands who he truly needs to be. This is a coming-of-age story with an important message.
Cioffi creates a believable setting without focusing too much on Chinese culture. This is not an historical novel, but a fantasy/fable and it is true to its genre. The style of speech gives one a sensation of listening to a Chinese person speak without being overdone. Although the focus is on Wang, the supporting characters are believable and important to the overall significance of the plot and Wang’s inward and outward journey.
Willow Raven does an exemplary job of illustrating with black and white drawings. The pictures are simple with little to no background, focusing on Wang’s emotions. The cover, a red, white, and black dragon, is attractive and intriguing. It may be a little misleading, however, as the dragon only appears in Wang’s dream.
Readers aged 10 and up will enjoy this short novel.
A copy of this book was generously donated by the author to my Little Free Library.
Karen Cioffi was interviewed on this blog on September 28, 2016.