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Kirkus reviews - Nian, The Chinese New Year Dragon

Cover: Nian, The Chinese New Year Dragon

This retelling of a Chinese legend explains why people light firecrackers, wear red, and give food offerings to celebrate Chinese New Year. In Loh-Hagan’s account, a fierce dragon named Nian ruled the land until a magical warrior’s spell forced him underground. But each spring, the spell’s strength weakens and Nian awakes to fill his empty stomach—he especially likes eating boys and girls! One night, little Mei dreams of the magical warrior, who charges her with defeating the monster. The next day, clever Mei discovers that the dragon is afraid of loud noises. She tells the villagers to bang on pans and light firecrackers, scaring the monster off. A few days later it returns, and she discovers that it is afraid of fire and the color red. She tells everyone to wear red and light lanterns. With each return of the dragon, another New Year’s tradition is explained, until finally she defeats the dragon for good. Wispy illustrations paying homage to Chinese brush painting illuminate this retelling and its spunky female lead, giving new details and a refreshing twist to a famous Chinese story. Endnotes explain more about Chinese New Year traditions but do not address why the evil monster here is a dragon when dragons in Chinese folklore are traditionally auspicious creatures. A charming retelling of a Chinese legend despite some liberties taken.

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