July 30, 2007

Review:Shen of the Sea

Shen of the Sea; Chinese Stories for Children
by Arthur Bowie Chrisman

I picked this up for the kiddos since it was a Newbery Medal Winner for 1926. As we study ancient history in the fall I plan to read folktales from every nation. I was prereading to see if this would be better as a read-aloud or a quiet read for the 5th grader.

Well, it definitely works as a read-aloud. The stories are humorous and lend themselves to the subtle play-acting of reading to smaller children. Also some of the names are very similar and confusing so a difference in voice will help my kiddos, who are 5 & 9, to differentiate between characters. My kids will enjoy the Chinese words that are taught throughout the stories.

The stories tell of the origins of chopsticks, books, tea and China dinnerware, among other things. But these folktales are purely from the imagination of the author. They are not original legend. That doesn't detract from the stories but it does prevent it from being an accurate historical record of the beliefs of the ancient Chinese people. Nonetheless, it will create a pleasant cuddle time with my kiddos; and that's one of the biggest benefits of homeschooling.

I read this as part of the Newbery Award Challenge and the Book Awards Challenge as well. I'd recommend Shen to children ages 6-11.


Nymeth said...

I know very little about Chinese folklore. This sounds like a great introduction. Thanks for the review!

Eva said...

That's weird that the folktales are entirely out of the author's imagination. Doesn't that defeat the entire purpose of folk tales? lol

Petunia said...

nymeth-this was my first exposure to Chinese folktales. It's very similar to Greek mythology in a lot of wways.

eva-I think this fact has caused some controversy. I rank it up there with modern retellings of ancient myths or fairytales.

Carrie K said...

A modern retelling is one thing, entirely made up isn't a folk tale, it's a novel. IMO. Did I mention that I ranked as Bobby Brady? WTH?

But the book does sound like a good read for your kids.

Trish said...

Sounds fantastic! Do you hometeach your children? Have fun with the stories!

Petunia said...

carrie k-lol, Bobby Brady. He was cute.

trish-We've homeschooled for 5 years. I wouldn't trade it for the world.