The Musician

Reycraft. Oct. 2020. 32p. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781478869788.
Gr 1-4–Liu retells the millennia-old Chinese story of Yu Boya and Zhong Ziqi—a tale of friendship and the power of music. Yu Boya is the best player of guqin (a stringed instrument) in China. On one of his journeys, he unexpectedly encounters a man—Zhong Ziqi. They bond over their love of music and its connection with the natural world and in just a day become fast friends. As Boya returns the next year, he discovers his friend has recently passed away. Filled with grief, he breaks his guqin, as he can’t imagine playing music in a world where his friend is not there to listen. In an author’s note, Liu explains that this story is a representation of the Chinese ideal of friendship. The power of music is conveyed clearly through the lyrical story. In Boya’s origin story, his musical genius blossoms when he is left on an island in isolation as a young student. “Every part of nature seemed to have its own song. The running waters gurgled, the flying seagulls squawked, and the green forests whispered their secrets.” The ending, however, is quite abrupt. After Boya destroys his instrument, there is no resolution, either negative or positive. Even so, Grossholz and Wan’s exquisite illustrations compensate for this one jarring moment. Their lush landscapes and beautifully painted spreads feature magnificent seascapes and mountain scenes, depicting the natural world and all of its creatures in splendid detail.
VERDICT This traditional tale, told here in English for the first time, belongs on the folktale shelf of every library.

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