The Magic Horse of Han Gan by Chen Jiang Hong will entertain children of all nationalities. Personally, I have enjoyed ancient Chinese and Japanese stories from the time I received a used book of Japanese legends and stories as a teenager. It was with some anticipation that I began this review project, and I enjoyed it very much. Other members of the family have already taken turns to read the book, and I can hardly wait to donate it to the literacy group, which enjoys multi-cultural stories.
The lead character, Han Gan, was actually a historically significant artist in China more than 1,200 years ago.
His specialty was horses, just like the main character of the story. Also, the magical horse is an ancient Chinese legend. Because of these factors, the book could also be considered a history or cultural lesson.
Artists may find it interesting that, when creating the illustrations, Chen used the same ancient techniques that Han Gan employed in his famous works of art. At the end of the book, readers will find an image of one of the few surviving paintings by Han Gan, which they can use to compare the two artists' techniques.
The Magic Horse of Han Gan is a story about the sadness of a powerful magical horse and the greed of a mighty warrior.
An artistically inclined young Chinese boy is first sponsored by an accomplished artist then educated through the Emperorís generosity. His specialty and main focus
is painting tethered horses. He jokes that this is because
they look so real they might jump off the page.
When Han Gan has grown to be a young man, he is called upon to create a magical horse that can withstand the enemies of the realm. The artist works night and day to fulfill the request. Unfortunately, the warriorís greed grows with the increased power of his wonderful steed, and his work becomes less about protection and more about acquisition. Luckily, the horse had a sensitive heart and cannot bear the destruction around him. I donít want to spoil the story for you, so if you want to find out what happens next, youíll have to read the book.
The Magic Horse of Han Gan is quite a large book at 36 pages
long and approximately 12-1/2 inches wide and 10 inches tall. Originally published in French as Le Cheval Magique de Han Gan (2004), it was recently released in English through Enchanted Lion Books (2006).
The protective slipcover is printed with the same art as the cover,
and caregivers and group leaders will be pleased to find the pages thick and durable, ensuring a long life for the book.
The Magic Horse of Han Gan is filled with beautiful, calming art Ė detailed and full of activity. Interestingly, Chen Jiang Hong was schooled in
fine arts in the classical techniques of ancient Chinese masters. Currently residing in Paris, this accomplished author has written and illustrated eight other books. Chen is also a recognized childrenís book illustrator, having provided work for 18 books by other authors. He specializes in work that revives interest in ancient China. Chenís next book, Little Eagle, will be released in 2007.