Top of Their Fields

Ed Young and Laurence Yep are the authors I chose to represent Chinese Folklore and Fairy Tales because they introduced two recent generations to a completely new genre of books that had not been highly publicized before.  Ed Young contributed to literary society in 1964 as an illustrator and has illustrated over 80 books including ones self-written.  Laurence Yep was nominated for the Newberry Award based upon his second published book.  These men’s careers have proven longevity as they both have been nominated for or won prestigious awards for every decade during which they have produced written work.  Ed Young has been nominated twice for the Hans Christian Anderson Medal honoring people that have made a lasting contribution to the field of children’s literature. Yep won the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal in 2005 for making lasting contributions to the field of published children’s literature over a long period of time.  Yep’s and Young’s books are in every Library and they have brought to life dozens and dozens of Chinese Folk and Fairytales for the masses.  These authors no longer made Asian American stories and artwork a niche market, but one that is now widely available for all to learn from, connect with, and enjoy.


Ed Young Chinese Folk and Fairy Tale Titles

Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China- 3 sisters set off with leftovers to visit their grandmother. The wolf, Lon Po Po, pretends to be their grandmother, but the girls are not fooled. They lure Lon Po Po to the top of a tree by tempting him with gingko nuts. But before he reaches the top they release the rope supporting him, causing the wolf to fall to his death. The illustrations are rich and in true Chinese tradition bring the story to life.

The Lost Horse: A Chinese Folktale- A man named Sai loses his horse. People around him console him by saying “You know, it may not be such a bad thing.” In a turn of events, the loss of his horse actually benefits Sai. His horse returns with a mare but Sai said”Perhaps it is not such a good thing” which turns out to be true as the mare throws Sai’s son. This repetition reiterates itself until the end of the story at which time the moral is learned life is ever changing.


Cat and Rat: The legend of the Chinese Zodiac- The Emperor instructs all the animals to race each other. Their prize will be that they will be added to a calendar that repeats itself every 12 years, the Chinese Zodiac Calendar. The story is lively as it speaks of the competition and in contrast the illustrations are understated. Ed Young uses the contrast of colors in his illustrations, using mostly dark silhouettes.

The Sons of Dragon King: A Chinese Legend- The Dragon King sends his nine sons off into the worked to find their true calling in life. When he checked in on them, he is disturbed to find what he believes to be laziness and self-indulgence. He looks closely thought and realizes each of his sons desires can be used as a source of income, One loud son can be a musician while another’s keen observation could be used to protect others from danger. Some of the connections are less obvious than others, which is why this book is more suitable for an upper elementary audience.


Monkey King- The monkey King is the tale of a trickster monkey. He uses his spryness to outwit others, causing him to be disliked by some. He is employed by the Jade Emperor to steal the forbidden immortal peaches from a tree and he eats them all. He is punished by being trapped by the Buddha for 500 years. When he is released he has grown emotionally, but who knows how long this will last. His understated illustrations are considered by some to be confusing while by others’ accounts lets the reader imagine what they will from the story.


Laurence Yep Chinese Folk and Fairy Tale Titles

The Man Who Tricked a Ghost – This is the story of a man named Sung who visits a friend in a different village and stays too late. He walks home, despite it being too dark out to travel.   He meets a ghost on his journey and thankfully outwits the ghost by convincing the ghost that he also is a ghost.

The Khan’s Daughter: A Mongolian Folktale- This is a funny folktale about a commoner named Mongke who seeks the Khan’s daughter’s hand in marriage. He is given a series of three tasks to complete, which he completes more by luck than skill. He demonstrated his strength and bravery in the first two tasks. Lastly he must defeat a bandit, Bagatur, and he fails. He returns to the castle to admit defeat and discovers the princess posed as this bandit. Having discovered humility the princess agrees to marry him and they rule together as equals.

The Junior Thunder Lord- Merchant Yue as a child was not a very good student. The smartest boy in the class helped him stating, “ Those at the top should help those at the bottom.” As an adult passing through an area devastated by a drought he feeds a man, Bear Face, who others would not help because they find his manners appalling. Bear Face soon saves Yue’s life. In return Yue asks the man to live with him, but the man reveals himself to be Junior Thunder Lord. Because of Yue’s kindness, the god brings the much needed rain to the drought-stricken area.

The Dragon Prince: A Chinese Beauty and the Beast Tale- A poor farmer is captured by a dragon. In exchange for the man’s life the dragon wishes to marry one of his seven daughters. The only one to consent to the union is the youngest. The youngest daughter is taken under the ocean to the dragon’s lair. She is not frightened but amazed. She says, “The eye sees what it will, but the heart sees what it should,” the dragon is transformed into a handsome prince. Life is wonderful, but she longs to return home. Her jealous sister tries to drown her to take her place under the sea. The prince must now rescue his wife.

Shell Woman and the King- Uncle Wu lost the love of his life to another. When he was lonely he visited the ocean. There he met a beautiful woman, Shell, whom he later discovers comes from the sea. Shell is able to transform from a woman to a shell as she wishes. The vile king wishes to have Shell to himself and captures Wu. In order to free her husband Shell must perform a series of tasks. Upon completion of the last task the king still does not release Wu. Shell tricks the king, escaping with Wu.

Laurence Yep Personal Philosophy

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Laurence Yep started writing early in life. His first article was published while he was in High School. His first novel was published when he was in college and he was chosen as a Newberry Honor Book shortly after receiving his PhD. Yep feels his writing is so well received by teenagers because he writes about being an outsider in many of his novels. He also writes about everything. Mundane, ordinary things can grasp a reader if  written well and Yep strives to write about all experiences. In a Scholastic interview, he described writing Dragonwings which began with him thinking of a plane flying over a hill.

When writing a novel he first starts with an outline. From there he creates characters and the plot. Yep is never afraid of changing or scrapping drafts if an idea comes about that he feels is better than what he has written. Yep enjoys writing several novels at the same time. If he runs out of ideas for one, he switches to another. Yep is sometimes writing 4 stories at a time and he finds writing in fiction or non fiction, different styles ( diary, historical, fantasy), and even for different age groups helps keep his momentum going, so he never tires of one type of writing. For his children’s books though he does not begin with the moral. Yep wants the reader to realize the moral throughout his writing and discover it by the end. Yep likes to visit libraries wherever he goes as it aids him in his research for his writing. He researches books for a minimum of six months before beginning to write and some books take decades of research. Yep’s advice to young writers is to write what you know about and explore all your senses in your writing. Yep believes that too often writers forget the details of how senses other than vision can connect readers with a piece of writing.

Ed Young Personal Philosophy

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Ed Young finds his inspiration in Chinese painting Philosophy. He believes a solid foundation achieved by studying the past must be established in order to truly make new and inspirational images. Young hopes through such images he can draw in readers and expose them to new knowledge.

In his Horn Book acceptance speech, Young described the Eight Matters of the Heart from his book Voices of the Heart. To work on pieces he feels truly connected and invested in, Young puts his mind into his work before he begins. He stated in his speech “We put ourselves in jeopardy in life if we don’t have our mind and body in the right place. The eight matters must accompany me wherever I tread so that I know the time that I have in this world is well spent.”

Young is a T’ai Chi Master studying under the renown Master Cheng Man-Ch’ing. Young has taught T’ai Chi to his own students for over three decades. He also swims to calm himself as one of his favorite sounds is waves reaching the shore.

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Ed Young Biography

Ed Young was born on November 28th 1931 in Tianjin, China. From an early age he loved to create stories and draw. When Young was three his family moved to Shanghai, China. When Young was twenty years old he came to the United States of America on a student study visa in Architecture. He realized his passion for illustration and changed to an art major. Young worked at an advertising agency in New York City but soon realized his heart desired more. Ed graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. His first book, The Mean Mouse and Other Mean Stories, was published in 1962, winning the American Institute of Graphic Arts award. Young won the 1990 Caldecott medal for illustrations for Lon Po Po, a Chinese version of Little Red Riding Hood. Young has illustrated over 80 books for children, 17 of which he has also written. Young has taught at the Pratt Institute, Yale, Naropa Institute, and the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Below are 3 interviews with Ed Young discussing his work:

Laurence Yep Biography

Laurence Yep was born on June 14th, 1948 in San Francisco California. His was the youngest child of Thomas Gim Yep and Franche Lee Yep. Yep’s mother was born in Ohio and Yep’s father immigrated from China at the age of ten. Laurence grew up in a multicultural neighborhood that was mostly African-American and never felt that he fully fit in to any mold. He attended Bilingual Parochial Jesuit School in San Francisco’s Chinatown and only spoke English. While in school, Yep worked as a bagger at a grocery store his father owned. Even then he loved to write in-between bagging groceries. During high school he started writing for a science fiction magazine and was paid one cent per word. This may have been where his love of writing historical fantasy novels was solidified. He attended Marquette University for two years, then transferred to University of California at Santa Cruz graduating in 1970. At 23 years old he published his first novel, Sweetwater. He then earned a PhD. in English from the University of New York at Buffalo in 1975. By the time he had graduated with his PhD. he had written the highly acclaimed book Dragon Wings. He has taught writing and Asian-American Studies classes at the University of California at Berkeley and Santa Cruz.

Below is an interview with Laurence Yep: