Hu Wan and the Sleeping Dragon by Judy Young


Hu Wan and the Sleeping Dragon by Judy Young
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Genre: Childrens, Historical
Length: Short Story ( 32 pages)
Age Recommendation: 6+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by Astilbe

Outside Beijing, China, in the year 1572, nine-year-old Hu-Wan tends the vegetable garden with his grandfather. Their specialty is growing gourds that are made into ladles and bowls and sold in the marketplace. Each year, one special gourd is made into a cricket cage. This year, it is Hu-Wan’s turn to grow and carve the special gourd. He decides it should be carved into the shape of a sleeping dragon. When Hu-Wan learns that the emperor has died and his nine-year-old son is named Emperor of China, he decides to give the dragon cricket cage to the young emperor to offer comfort and cheer.

A gift doesn’t have to cost money in order to be valuable.

Hu Wan was a very likeable main character. He wasn’t afraid to work hard, he had a gentle personality, and he had a lot of empathy for people near him who were struggling with physical or emotional health problems. With every scene I became even more fond of him. I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen to him next.

I would have liked to see more time spent developing the ending. It happened so suddenly that I was surprised by the fact it was over. Had it been given as much attention as the beginning and middle of this tale, I would have chosen a much higher rating for this book as I really enjoyed the storytelling overall.

The relationship between Hu Wan and his grandfather was so kind and supportive. What I found most interesting about their family was how much time they spent showing each other how they felt instead of talking about it. The audience had to read between the lines in order to see how much these characters really did care for each other. Finding the small gestures that showed just how close their family was to each other was one of my favorite parts of the plot.

Hu Wan and the Sleeping Dragon was a captivating story that I’d recommend to anyone who is in the mood for something that will make them feel as though they’ve just been transported hundreds of years in the past.

A Christmas Spider’s Miracle by Trinka Hakes Nobel


A Christmas Spider’s Miracle by Trinka Hakes Nobel
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Genre: Children’s, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Holiday, Historical
Length: Short Story (32 pages)
Age Recommendation: 6+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Long ago in a faraway place there lived two mothers. One, a humble peasant woman who struggled daily to provide for her children. And the other, a mother spider who also worked hard to care for her family. And although it would appear they were as different as night and day, these two mothers had more in common than would first seem. As the only holiday gift she can give her children, one cold Christmas Eve the peasant woman goes to the forest to get a tree, never noticing that someone has made a home among its branches. During the night, the mother spider spins webs decorating the tree, resulting in a Christmas that neither mother will ever forget. Based on an old Ukrainian story, Trinka Hakes Noble (The Orange Shoes) crafts an original heartwarming tale of the grace that can be found in the true spirit of Christmas.

Kindness can repay itself in all sorts of lovely ways.

Nothing on Earth can compare to the love of a parent for their children. I enjoyed seeing how the spider and the peasant woman did everything they possibly could to keep their babies safe, warm, fed, and happy. They were both dedicated mothers who took wonderful care of their families. The scenes that showed just how far they went to do that were the best ones in this tale.

There were pacing issues. The plot sped up and then slowed down again at various points of the story. Due to this, the quieter sections didn’t have enough going on in them while the busier scenes were a little overwhelming because so many different things were happening in them at once. It would have been nice to have one consistent speed from the beginning to the end.

The fantasy elements of this book didn’t show up right away, but they were definitely worth the wait once they did appear. I was curious to see how a spider could be connected to the fantasy genre and what either of them would have to do with the Christmas season since I don’t automatically think of spiders when I think of either one of these topics. Finding out what that connection was only made me want to know more. It was all tied together quite nicely.

A Christmas Spider’s Miracle should be read by anyone who is in the mood for new twist to a classic legend.