The Paper Dragon - Thao Lam
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The Paper Dragon

The Paper Dragon

The Paper Dragon

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Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year because it is based on the lunisolar Chinese calendar, is an important holiday in Chinese tradition, and is widely celebrated in Chinese communities around the world. The festival begins on the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar and it ends on the fifteenth day. 2010 is the Year of the Tiger. Keep reading…

Customs and traditions surrounding this time of year are different throughout China, but common themes of “happiness”, “wealth”, and “longevity” are evident in all celebrations. On New Year’s Eve, families gather together to indulge in a feast. In the morning, children are given red envelopes containing money. People also set off firecrackers and perform lion dances to usher in the New Year; both performance are supposed to be deafening as to scare away evil spirits. Other traditions include offering or bribing the Kitchen God with food, so he will report only the good deeds of the family to the Jade Emperor.

Chinese traditions have also influenced how its neighbouring countries mark their New Year celebrations. For example, in Vietnam, it is tradition for families to clean their house to sweep away any ill fortune and make way for incoming good luck, but brooms and dustpans are put away on the first day of the year so that luck cannot be swept away.

The Paper Dragon, written by Marguerite W. Davol and illustrated by Robert Sabuda, is a tale of a humble artist Mi Fei, who paints scenes of gods and the deeds of glorious heroes. One day, the great dragon of Lung Mountain awakens from sleep, trampling and destroying crops and land. Villages everywhere are left in ruins. Mi Fei is chosen by the villagers to face the dragon and try to convince it to sleep once more. The dragon challenges Mi Fei to three impossible tasks: to bring fire wrapped in paper, to bring wind wrapped in paper, and to bring the strongest thing in the world carried in paper.

In my opinion, the story itself is overshadowed by the illustrations, which consist of wonderful, cut-out painted tissue paper that is laid over textured Japanese paper. The collage of vibrant colours and textured painting is stunning, but the text is difficult to read when printed on textured paper. Each illustration is spread out on a triple page spread, and the resulting long rectangular shapes are reminiscent of Mi Fei’s Chinese scrolls.

The Paper Dragon, a children’s book review by Thao Lam

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Author Marguerite W. Davol

Marguerite W. Davol was born in a small northern Illinois town during the Depression. As a child, her most enjoyable times were visits to her town’s library and exploring its bookshelves. She taught young children at Mount Holyoke College for a number of years; the College’s laboratory school was the perfect environment for learning about children’s books. It wasn’t until the death of her husband in 1982 that she decided to try writing books. Her inspiration comes from other storytellers and her books were originally created from the stories she told the children she taught.

To read more on Marguerite W. Davol, please visit her website:

Illustrator Robert Sabuda

Robert Sabuda grew up in Pinckney, Michigan where his mother would read a story to him and his siblings every night before they went to bed. As a child he would spend hours drawing, painting, cutting, gluing, and creating creating books filled with stories and pictures.

One day while waiting at the dentist’s office, he discovered a pop-up book and soon discovered that paper could be used for more than just drawing and painting on. This was the start of Sabuda’s life-long love with paper and pop-up books.

He attended Pratt Institute in New York City, studying art. During his junior year at Pratt, he interned at Dial Books for Young Readers where he learned everything about how children’s book are created. While interning, he got a chance to see original artwork by Barbara Cooney, Thomas Locker, and James Marshall, which inspired him to become an illustrator.

To read more on Robert Sabuda, please visit his website:

Publisher Atheneum; 1st edition (November 1, 1997)

ISBN-10 0689319924

ISBN-13 978-0689319921