Genre: China / Rivalry / Trickery
Year Published: 1991
Year Read: 2014
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
I have read many books by Demi and I always loved the fact that Demi is always exploring different cultures with her works. So, imagine my surprise and delight when I stumbled upon another one of Demi’s works called “The Artist and the Architect,” which is a tale that takes place in China. Man, did I end up enjoying this mesmerizing tale of deceit and cunning!
In Ancient China, there lived a wise and fair Emperor who had two experienced men, an architect and an artist who would create various buildings and artwork for the Emperor. Unfortunately, the artist was always jealous of the architect and he decided to plot the demise of the architect. The artist then tells the Emperor about how the Emperor’s deceased father wanted an architect to build him a palace in Heaven and in order to do that, they must gather a large pile of wood and set it on fire with the architect standing in the middle of the fire until he rises up to Heaven.
I have always loved reading folktales from different countries, especially China and I was so delighted in finding another folktale from China retold by none other than Demi! I loved the way that Demi retold this tale as it was full of drama and magical elements at the same time! I was amazed at the fact that this is a tale about the artist deceiving the Emperor in order to get rid of the architect, which is a subject that I find so common in many folktales where the main antagonist wishes to get rid of the protagonist through any means possible and that is what made this story so interesting to read! I also loved the Chinese influence of this tale as it made this story even more exotic in tone and I have always enjoyed checking out folktales from different countries! But, probably the best part of this entire book was Demi’s illustrations as they were truly beautiful and creative to look at! I loved the way that Demi drew the palaces in China as they look so beautiful and I also loved the clothing worn by the Emperor and his subjects as they truly look so distinguished!
The only problem I had with this book was that the ending seemed a bit too ambiguous, since I was not able to figure out what became of the artist at the end of the book.
The only thing I gathered from the ending of the book was this little proverb that was mentioned:
“The small man harbors an envious spirit; the great man rejoices in the talents of others.”
It is sort of unknown if the architect forgave the artist for his deceit or not, although it looked like they were making up at the end, judging by the image of them shaking hands.
Overall, “The Artist and the Architect” is a fantastic folktale from China that fans of Chinese folklore would enjoy immensely! I would recommend this book to children ages six and up since the book might be too complex for some smaller children.
Review is also on: Rabbit Ears Book Blog