I saw the cover dragon of The Chinese Emperor’s New Clothes peeking up off the cart, hidden behind several other titles, it was sitting on. I enjoy a good story from Asia (particularly if it is about Japan or Chinese New Year). I was hoping this was a Chinese New Year story, instead what I got was the “true story” of the Emperor’s New Clothes. I also like alternative tellings of stories we know and this was a delightful treat.
Ying Chang Compestine’s story differs from what we are used to. Different from the Western classic, where the tailors trick a vain Emperor, this time the tailors are the heroes of the story, along with a young Emperor who knows his advisors are lying, cheating and stealing from him. This retelling is a pleasant change to what we are used to, and the illustrations are fabulous.
David Roberts artwork captures the time and place in such an amazing way. These colors are rich and bold. They are also sweet but not sugary. The people come to life in the clothing, hair, and surroundings. A second read is needed so you can take in all the details of them as well as the fact they are telling the story, too.
The historical information about the author was a fun bonus. I enjoy stories about the Cultural Revolution that show the not so “little things” people did to be survive the time. We see how Compestine, their family and friends read forbidden books and journals by finding clever ways to disguise them from authorities. When the mere act of reading could have your family put into a labor camp, one realizes the power of words and stories. And Compestine and Roberts have a powerful story.