The Chinese Emperor's New Clothes

illus. by David Roberts. 32p. Abrams. Jan. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781419725425.
K-Gr 3—The emperor in Compestine's version of this well-known tale is a child who's been stymied in his intentions to do right by his subjects because the adult ministers who surround him are corrupt. The emperor enlists the cooperation of the court tailors in revealing the ministers' perfidy, dressing them in burlap to parade the streets for Chinese New Year. The ministers must pretend to believe they are clothed in opulent silks to hide their dishonesty and, as in Andersen's original story; the truth is made known by a little boy watching the parade. Compestine's prose is adequate for her purposes wherein responsible leadership and honesty receive their due recognition, but it is Roberts's watercolor, pen-and-ink illustrations that lift the book above the commonplace. He often incorporates Chinese latticework screens to frame the action and uses Chinese textile motifs, headdresses, and hair styles to ground the drawings in the culture. A mouse and a cricket make frequent appearances to delight observant readers and listeners. The dragon dancers parade through a multicultural crowd in an interesting variety of costumes (presumably their new best clothes for the holiday celebration). Each of Roberts's images adds pleasure to a tale that might otherwise have seemed overly preachy.
VERDICT A variant of an oft-told classic that is suitable for classroom and individual reading.

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