Yesterday famed author and illustrator Ed Young made a presentation at the Childrens Literature Festival for the young set at Buckland Shelburne Elementary School. He did everything the children asked, making a lion – and a chicken – according to their directions while he stood behind the easel and making a horse paper cut.
He also had the children hold a long long scroll with a poem he had written some 20 years ago to demonstrate Chinese characters. In China, as in other countries, there are many styles of handwriting and calligraphy. The style he used on this scroll is an early simple style that makes it easy to understand how the Chinese written language developed. See how the characters for Mountains, Above and Clouds make sense.
The characters for Rain, Water and Rivers are poetic.
If there is rain there must be Sun to make crops grow in the Fields.
We all know that Rice is a Chinese staple, especially in the south of China.
Salt is a staple everywhere.
Young bamboo shoots are also a part of the Chinese diet, but the many many varieties of bamboo have countless other uses, besides being a symbol of the flexibility that is needed to meet the challenges of life. Bending without breaking.
I told Mr. Young that I had had occasions to point out to American children that they have an easier time than Chinese children learning to read and write. Americans need only learn how to recognize and arrange 26 letters, but the Chinese need to learn 5000 characters to be literate. He corrected me and said it wasn’t quite that bad – and after all – if I could learn 45 characters in the one lesson he had just given, it would not be long before I’d have memorized many characters. He is right of course, but I still think American children have an easier time.
I could not show the whole poem with its 45 characters, but it was eventually made into a interestingly paged book, Beyond the Great Mountains, with his own unique and prize winning illustrations. He thought the book was out of print, but I ran home and checked Amazon.com and was able to order a copy for myself.
Thank you Susan Samoriski for arranging Mr. Young’s visit, thank you, Mr. Young for engaging our children, and thank you for letting me attend. I had a wonderful time.
Mr. Young’s books have won many awards over the years for his beautiful illustrations, and for the stories he has told. You can see a full list of his books and awards on his website.