Friday, June 1, 2007

YU THE GREAT: Conquering the Flood

Paul D. Storrie
ILLUSTRATOR: Sandy Carruthers
PUBLISHER: Lerner Publishing Company
GENRE: Myths and Legends

FORMAT: Reinforced Library Binding
PAGES: 48 pages
COLOR: Full Color
ISBN-10: 0-8225-3088-0
ISBN-13: 978-0-8225-3088-6
Chinese Mythology

This story is an ancient Chinese legend about the first ruler of the Xia Dynasty (2100 BC). Legend has it that Yu was a descendent of the ruler of the gods, known as the Yellow Emperor. Because of his holy ancestry, Yu is summoned by Shun the Emperor to stop the floodwaters that are ravaging the Chinese countryside. Yu’s father, Gun, was charged with the goal but failed when he stole the magical soil from the Yellow Emperor. Yu must find a way to retrieve the sacred and magical soil from the Yellow Emperor in order to save the world.

YU THE GREAT is an entertaining retelling of the legend of the Xia Dynasty’s first ruler, Yu. By the first narration bubble we know that conflict is on the way. We meet Yu, and then are immediately transported back in time when his father, Gun, was charged with saving the people. Where Gun was led astray by some ill advice, Yu did the right thing and negotiated with his great-grandfather and ruler of the gods.

Because he learned from his father’s mistakes, Yu was rewarded with the magical soil and was sent to stop the floods created by Gong Gong, the god of water. Even still, Yu’s life was full of strife and hard work, but he continued with his destiny and eventually saved the people from the floods. It was not without great cost.

With only 48 pages, the story moves pretty quickly but remains interesting and clear. The book is split into chapters making it an easier read for struggling readers. Some of the names can be hard, but there is a glossary and pronunciation guide in the back, which was very helpful.

The back of the book refers to the Yellow Emperor as Yu’s grandfather. However, the rest of the book states he is Yu’s great-grandfather.

Sandy Carruthers uses a realistic approach to the illustrations, adding a lot of detail and color to the work. Shading is achieved with cross-hatching and coloring and the color palette are bright. The pages are on a heavy, glossy paper making it good for a library or classroom.

AGE RECOMMENDATION My Rating: Ages 9 and older
Publisher’s Recommended Reading Level: Grade 4
Publisher’s Recommended Interest Level: Grades 4-8
All Ages Reads: No Rating
Comics in the Classroom: No Rating

There is one scene with a sword. No fighting is depicted, but one panel shows a character with a bit of blood dripping off his sword. In the next panel, we see a character on the ground, but there is no blood on him. Pretty mild if you ask me, but I mention it anyway.

There are several opportunities to use YU THE GREAT in the classroom. First, kids are interested in myths and legends. This book has a certain appeal that is not otherwise accessible in graphic format.

Secondly, this book will be great for those students who are accelerated and looking for more information outside the typical textbook. This is a great jumping off point for a student to do his or her own research.

Speaking of research, students in a technology-based classroom could use the resources listed in the back of the book to do more research on this legend and compare them to other legends they are more familiar with. They could learn about different types of dragons, and other legends. Students could even write their own legend, based on what they learn.

Lastly, this book is a perfect resource to be used for students who are non-native speakers. I suggested this book to a college professor of mine who spends her summers in China teaching English to middle school-aged students. She was very excited to be able to use this in her classroom as she felt her student would be familiar with the legend.

The book contains a glossary with a pronunciation guide, additional resources and websites, an index, map, and information about the creators.

There are other books in the Graphic Universe series:

Amaterasu: Return of the Sun
Atlanta: The Race Against Destiny
Demeter & Persephone: Spring Held Hostage
Hercules: The Twelve Labors
Isis & Osiris: To the Ends of the Earth
Jason: Quest for the Golden Fleece
King Arthur: Excalibur Unsheathed
Robin Hood: Outlaw of Sherwood Forest
Thor & Loki: In the Land of Giants
The Trojan Horse: The Fall of Troy

MY RECOMMENDATION: Highly Recommended
One reason I really like this book is because it makes myths and legends accessible to children and teens. The story is easy to make sense of and the art is great. Perfect for the classroom.

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