Hu Wan and the Sleeping Dragon written by Judy Young and illustrated by Jordi Solano is a gentle tale set in ancient China. Two stories, one about the traditional Chinese custom of fashioning cricket cages out of gourds and the other about two young boys from vastly different circumstances, merge in this softly told and beautifully illustrated story.
When he is nine years old, Hu Wan learns how to make a traditional cricket cage out of a special gourd amongst those that he and his grandfather have grown. Grandfather knows it is time to pass this art down to the next generation.
In the Spring, Grandfather shows Hu Wan how to wrap a special gourd in a clay vessel and let it dry out until the Fall. Then, he has him crack off the clay to reveal a beautiful gourd in the shape of the clay vessel. Hu Wan’s gourd looks like a sleeping dragon so he carefully scratches appropriate markings on the gourd, with constant encouragement from Grandfather, turning it into a beautiful cricket cage.
When he goes to the market to sell the gourds that have been made into ladles he hears that the nine year-old Emperor who has just lost his father is in great grief. Hu Won wants to give him a gift to ease his pain and hopes his cricket cage with a cricket inside has been crafted well enough to give to an Emperor and to provide him with music.
The interesting Author’s Note at the back of the book reveals much about cricket cages, crickets and their song.
Hu Wan and the Sleeping Dragon written by Judy Young and illustrated by Jordi Solano is a tale about kindness for 6-9 year olds (Sleeping Bear Press, 2018).
Questions and activities for Hu Wan and the Sleeping Dragon
Hu Wan’s Grandfather teaches him how to make a cricket cage. It requires patience. Has a family member or teacher taught you to do/make something? Don’t forget such lessons as planting flowers, growing a vegetable, baking cut out cookies, making a rock formation or building a perfect snowman. How did it make you feel when the growing, making and building was complete? Write a short thank you note to that person for their help.
Have you ever heard a cricket chirping in the grass or in the garage during the summer? If not, you can hear crickets chirping on the internet. Can you describe what it sounds like? Can you make the sound of a cricket chirping? Go ahead. Chirp away. Have fun!
Do you have a favorite illustration? Look through the book once again and study the rich colors, the graceful lines and the interesting details found in the pictures. Select one and give it a caption that tells why it is your favorite.