Hai Li Bu is a good hunter, but not even he can find enough food for his village when the drought comes. The people grow thin and weak, the children rarely laugh -- but worst of all, they begin to argue and stop listening to one another.
Out on a hunt one day, Hai Li Bu saves a small snake from the beak of a crane. He is surprised to learn that he has rescued the daughter of the Dragon King of the Sea. The Dragon King offers Hai Li Bu the reward of his choice. Hai Li Bu asks only to know the language of animals. Then he can be a better hunter for his village. His wish is granted with a provision: He must never reveal the secret of his gift to anyone.
Hai Li Bu's people are saved from famine, but when he hears from the animals that a flood is coming that will destroy everything in his village, the people do not listen to him. "You ask us to leave our homes. How can we know what you say is true?" a village elder asks him. Now Hai Li Bu is faced with a terrible choice: to let the people of his village die in the flood or to reveal his secret, knowing the dire consequences for himself.
Caldecott Medal and Honor-winner Ed Young's magnificent illustrations bring this poignant traditional folktale to life.
Ages 4-8. In a Chinese village, a drought scorches the countryside and starves the people. Hai Li Bu, a hunter, tries to find food. One day, he saves a small snake from a crane, and in return the snake brings him to the bottom of the sea, where the snake's father, the Dragon King of the Sea, lives. The Dragon King offers rubies and emeralds as a reward, but Hai Li Bu wants only to understand the language of animals so that he can be a better hunter and feed his village. The Dragon King grants the request on the condition that there will never be a whisper of what has transpired. This agreement works until Hai Li Bu overhears the birds and animals chattering about a huge flood that will destroy the village. The hunter tries to warn the people, but they don't believe. Hai Li Bu finally realizes that to save the villagers he must tell them how he knows about the flood. Heroically, he recounts the whole story--as he slowly turns to stone. Casanova, who lists several sources for the story, tells the tale in a dignified yet moving way that is complemented by the stark artwork. Arid-looking, dun-colored paper is the background for Young's masterful brush strokes, which evoke the spirit of each spread. Fingers of color represent the quixotic climate that can burn or soak. With never a wasted line, Young brings to life the hunter, who in the final spread becomes one with the rocky landscape. And in the corner of each page is a bright red box with Chinese calligraphy that proclaims the essence of the tale: "suffer drought," "downpour," "trust."