Review Detail

 
Kids Fiction
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A

Artistic Short Story Collection

In this heavily illustrated short story collection, Tan explores the interconnectedness of humans and the natural world. Using animals to link together the narrative, Tan explores such topics as the eternal relationship between mankind and dogs, the place that fishing holds in one community's daily life, and a vignette about all of the members of a governing board turning into frogs. Some of these tales are longer narrative form, and some are blank verse.

Good Points
All of the stories have at least one full page illustration done in Tan's trademark dark, impressionistic style. The cycle that goes with the dog story is especially evocative and touching, showing the relationship of the two through history. There are some that are a little unnerving, such as a stark-eyed owl in a hospital bed, followed several pages later with a two page spread of just the owl's eyes, and some are just rather sad, like a pig looking out of the darkness through a door. All complement the stories well and add to their meaning.

This would be a very useful book for a classroom studying essential conflicts in literature, since the stories are predominately about the theme of man versus nature. This theme is explored in a variety of approaches that would be conducive for interpretation. I can't think of a lot of collections of literary short stories for middle grade students; this is certainly a level above the Guys Read short story collections on a variety of themes, or the Alvin Schwartz Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books, two of the most popular short story collections in my library.
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