Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The Peach Boy (Traditional Chinese Folk Tale) Retold by Alex Frith, Illustrated by Kelly Murphy (Usborne Books)

Chinese myths and legends are rich and adventurous, and a fertile place to seek out stories to re-tell to a whole new audience.

The legend of Peach Boy, here retold by Alex Frith with illustrations by Kelly Murphy, is a tale that will feel familiar and one that you'll probably recognise as being 'westernised' in various ways and in other stories.

The original tells the tale of an old couple, never blessed with children, who one day find a giant peach floating down the river. Hauling the giant succulent fruit back to their table to carve up and eat, they're surprised to find that - instead of a giant stone inside, there's a small boy.

The boy soon grows big and strong. He's an excellent fighter, and can turn his hand to anything. They call him Momotaro - "Peach Boy" and when a local village is raided by mountain trolls, Momotaro sets out to fight the trolls and retrieve the village treasures stolen by the rotten horde.

He carries with him peaches to eat on his journey and as he travels to the troll's hideout, Momotaro meets various animals along the way and enlists their help (in exchange for a ripe juicy peach, of course!)

We'll leave you to discover the rest of the story yourself, including the fabulous climax.

As part of Usborne's excellent early readers range, "Peach Boy" is nicely paced and adapted from the original tales - and the illustrations are beautiful to look at, retaining a lovely fuzzy Chinese painting feel.  If you fancy a change from the usual fairy tales or fables, "Peach Boy" feels fresh and adventurous, great for both boys and girls, and a fabulous introduction to slightly more complex and meaty stories for early readers.

Charlotte's best bit: Peach Boy's brilliant animal friends pitching in at the end of the book.

Daddy's favourite bit: Atmospheric and inviting, lovely fuzzy and beautiful artwork, and a great rollicking finish. Not to be missed!