Monday, March 19, 2012
"Shen of the Sea" by Arthur Bowie Chriman
"Shen of the Sea" was the 1926 recipient of the Newbery Medal. I was afraid of this book because the 1925 Newbery winner, "Tales from Silver Lands" was a collection of short stories from South America, and it bored the socks off me. I didn't complete it. Imagine how thrilled I was to find the next Newbery book to be a collection of Chinese short stories for children. But I enjoyed it immensely better--I mean, I finished it! Woohoo! I don't know if I could exactly pin-point the reason I enjoyed "Shen" when "Tales" was unbearable. Simple things as the brevity of the short stories, a less florid yet quicker-paced telling. And the stories were humorous and I think children would be able to grasp the irony of humanity in them. I have absolutely no idea of any of these stories are genuine to Chinese culture, but the author supposedly spent a great deal of time studying Chinese and Indian cultures, I suspect if he did fabricate them it wasn't without a solid base of knowledge.