Beyond the Great Mountains
A Visual Poem about China
By Ed Young
(Chronicle Books, Hardcover, 9780811843430, 36pp.)
Publication Date: August 1, 2005
List Price: $17.95*
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Ed Young's spare prose, as lovely as a rice-paper painting, describes in measured detail the beautiful and mystical land that the author so clearly loves. The unique format and gorgeous paper-collage illustrations, highlighted with Chinese characters, combine to convey the many facets of China to form a poetic picture of the lands grace, depth, and majesty.
Ed Young has illustrated more than eighty books for children (many of which he also wrote), and many of those books have been about China. Born in Tientsin, China, he is the winner of both the Caldecott Medal and the Caldecott Honor, in addition to many other awards. He lives with his family in New York.
Young's (Lon Po Po) extraordinary "visual poem" is so splendidly conceived and executed that it takes many readings to reveal its richness. Its sophisticated nature may make it a book more suitable for an older audience. In this concise lyric poem about Young's native country, words and pictures unfold simultaneously as if a primordial China were being formed before readers' eyes. "Beyond the great mountains,/ far to the east, a vast fertile plain./ In its sky, mist rose and fell, rain water gathering/.../ As sun, moon kept watch, earth gave birth." The binding of the book is at the top, and the pages are tiered; each line of the poem appears at the narrow bottom edge of the page, so that when readers open the book, they can see the text in its entirety. The cut- and torn-paper collages literally grow with each turn of the page. Just above the text, Young includes ancient Chinese characters, showing how visual symbols sometimes combine to make a single word, and the shapes in the illustrations subtly imitate the lines that form the figurative characters (he collects both ancient and modern Chinese characters on the endpapers). The textured illustrations are breathtaking both visually simple and complex at the same time as Young invites readers to glimpse a world of stunning beauty. -Publishers Weekly
"Readers of any age discovering that a written language is picture-based will be fascinated." -Kirkus Reviews