Everyone Knows What a Dragon Looks Like by Jay Williams. Illustrated by Mercer Mayer. Here is an old-but-good one, fortuantely still available from Amazon as well as at my library. Young orphan Han is a cheerful street sweeper who tends to the gate of the city of Wu, between China and the land of the Wild Horsemen. One day, a messenger brings word that attack by the Wild Horsemen is imminent. The Mandarin calls together his advisors – the Captain of the Army, the Leader of the Merchants, the Chief of the Workmen, and the Wisest of Wise Men – to discuss what to do. They decide to pray to the Great Cloud Dragon to save them. Shortly thereafter, Han meets an ragged and fat old man at the city gate, who says he is the dragon and asks to be taken to the Mandarin. Naturally, the Mandarin and his advisors refuse to believe the man – they all know what a dragon looks like. Only Han is polite and hospitable to the old man, and his courtesy of course saves the day. This is a beautiful, slightly twisted fairy tale from Williams, whose “The Practical Princess” I remember vividly reading in Cricket as a child. This is both absorbing on the surface and provides plenty for more conversation. The beautiful pictures are recognizably the prolific and versatile Mercer Mayer’s fairy tale style, but also clearly Asian in palette and layout. Lightning Bolt loved it so much that we read it regularly for six weeks before I brought it back to the library.
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