Fu Finds The Way
Publication Date: October 1, 2009
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When the warrior Chang challenges young Fu to a duel, Fu panics. His only hope is that the Master will train him, just as he's trained all the young warriors of the village. But instead of teaching Fu to fight, the Master teaches him to pour tea. Fu learns purpose, flow and patience in the process, but will it be enough to defeat the mighty Chang?
With his signature breathtaking art, John Rocco has created a modern parable full of adventure, heart, humor, and a gentle message about the importance of focus and finding joy in simple tasks.
John Rocco is the author and illustrator of Moonpowder and Wolf! Wolf! and the illustrator of Alice, by Whoopi Goldberg. He earned his degrees from RISD and The School of the Visual Arts and worked for several years in L.A on such projects as Shrek (as Pre-Production Art Director) and at the Disneyquest theme park. He was the winner of the SCBWI New York Showcase in 2004 and 2007, and the winner of the 2008 Borders Original Voices Award. This story was inspired by a visit to a shop in Hong Kong, where John spotted a beautiful teapot in the window. He had to have tea with the owner, an elderly Chinese woman, before he could buy the teapot. Her deft moments in serving the tea were mesmerizing. "She was not just making tea," John says, "She was making art." John lives with his wife (another children's book author-artist) and daughter in a loft in Brooklyn, NY.
Fu, a rebellious Chinese farm boy, accidentally provokes the warrior Chang, who challenges him to a duel. With one night to prepare, Fu seeks tutelage from a silver-bearded Master, but the training take a surreal turn when the Master instructs Fu not in swordplay but in how to pour tea. The Master's neck stretches toward Fu like the body of a serpent as he says, "Just as bamboo grows upward to meet the sun's rays, you too must have purpose when pouring tea." Fu finds himself rowing downstream on a tea leaf; later he appears inside a teapot, looking up at a gigantic Master. "This is crazy," thinks Fu, but his magical lessons, which teach him the virtue of mental focus, enable him to face Chang armed only with a tea set. Rocco (Wolf! Wolf!) paints rice paddies and jagged mountains with a palette of hazy yellow-greens and browns, using panels and dramatic perspectives to cinematic effect. While the intricacies of the tea ceremony may be unfamiliar to readers, Rocco's prose is concise and he has a wealth of ways to convey information visually in this off-beat tale.—PW
Westerners have long been fascinated with Eastern culture. Still, this tale of a boy whose accidental affront of a fierce warrior results in a challenge may struggle to find an enthusiastic audience. Fu is clearly a small boy with a big imagination. Pretending that his pet duck is a fierce dragon makes him careless in his planting and leads to a reprimand. Frustrated, Fu flings a handful of mud-right into warrior Chang's face. Hoping for help, Fu visits the Master, who has trained many fighters. Rather than instruct him in swordplay, however, the Master teaches Fu how to pour tea with purpose, flow and patience. Miraculously, when they meet, Chang is so impressed by Fu's mastery of the tea ceremony that the fight is forestalled. Rocco's story flows smoothly and his illustrations are rich and appealing, varying full spreads with panels to tell the story. Sepia tones reinforce the story's faraway feel; touches of humor add interest. Nonetheless, the ending feels flat and may not make sense to some young listeners. Best shared by an enlightened adult with a thoughtful child.—Kirkus