Dragon Dancer by Joyce Chng and Jérémy Pailler
It is the eve of Chinese New Year. Lanterns are hung in the shopping malls of Singapore and Yao is preparing to wake the ancient sky dragon, Shen Long, from his year-long sleep. From the moment Shen Long opens his great amber eyes and unfurls his silver-blue tail, Yao will be propelled on a magical journey through the skies of Singapore to battle the bad luck of the previous year and usher in the good. Will he succeed? Will his grandfather watch over him and protect him from harm? A beautiful story of a Chinese festival and its symbolism for Chinese communities everywhere, told from the perspective of Yao, the dragon dancer.
I’ve reviewed another of Joyce’s books here, the Dragon Physician (Joyce also writes about werewolves in space, but I have a soft spot for dragons over werewolves).
This is a different type of books, in that it is an illustrated one and more poetical. I ahve to admit since I am not that familiar with Chinese dancing and rituals, I started unsure what to expect.
The artwork is stunning and fits perfectly in style with the story and words, with the dragon and the dragon dancer. And it feels like it fits the way China is and was and may be. So in general, artwokr is a win here.
The story has a vibe of being thought in Chinese (please excuse me if I generalise) and then adapted to transmit the feeling and story in English. I feel it because I have done similar with some stories in Spanish and culture that is hard to translate (sometimes Egnlish doesn’t even have the words, or using an expression means nothing if translated).
I don’t think this is a bad thing, rather I like that it is being shared and told in English (as I can’t read/understand Chinese), but I am aware it may be something readers find odd (I doubt children would, but the adult reading it, might). This is very definitely not a Western tale, and as such, it is worth coming to it with a different mindset rather than expecting a Western view.
To me this is a winner and I enjoyed the book and the story. It made me curious about the dancing and what the rituals and traditions behind it are. So now I leave you while I go do some research on that.