By Deborah Noyes
Illustrated by Sophie Blackall
First of all, I must say this book is stunning. The illustrations look like an intricate Chinese painting. The details are beautifully imagined and portrayed. I picked this book out because I just fell in love with the illustrations. When I got the book home, I noticed it was on my “to read” list from a few months ago. I love when that kind of serendipity happens at the library.
You can visit Sophie Blackall’s website for some samples of her work from this book.
For as beautifully as this book is illustrated, it is matched by poetic writing that also brings out the beauty of this story.
The story is about a young girl in China who loves the silkworm that feeds on the mulberry tree on her father’s land. China is known for its prized silkworms and the thread it provides. But the young girl is soon to be married off to royalty in Khotan, and she is sad because she will miss her silkworm and her beautiful land. The red butterfly is her outfit that makes her look like a butterfly when her arms are outstretched. She sneaks some silkworms, some leaves, and some seeds of a mulberry tree in her hair and carries it off to her new home.
Here is a passage by Noyes that describes the beauty of the land:
“In my father’s kingdom
there are many splendors.
As we cross the wide
to the summer palace,
sunbeams slice through dark
spilling on moss. Monkeys wail
in maple groves along the
Sparrows peck mud
for their nests.”
I just wanted to read parts of this book over and over again to soak up the poetry of the story. Mixed with the illustrations, this is one of my favorite books I have read in a long time!
This story is based on a true story and the author’s note in the back explains the history behind the story.