By: Virginia Loh-Hagan
Illustrated by: Timothy Banks
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: December 2019
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: December 1, 2019
Nian, The Chinese New Year Dragon is loosely based on a Chinese legend that explains the origins of Chinese New Year traditions. In this, author Virginia Loh-Hagan's version, a young girl by the name of Mei (pronounced "May") must outwit the evil dragon if her village is to survive.
Mei hated spring. In fact, her whole village hated spring. Why? Because every spring, Nian, the dragon who slept in a mountain under the sea, would wake up and head to the village in search of food. And he'd eat everything, or everyone, he came upon.
One night, a warrior came to Mei in a dream and said that it was up to her to stop the dragon. He gave her his magic cane, and said she had fifteen days to stop the beast or he would be free forever. Could Mei stop the dragon?
When the villagers heard the roar of Nian, they all went running. Mei's mother called to her, telling her to get the animals and hide in the barn. At the last minute, however, Mei realized she had left the warrior's cane in the house. She ran to get it, but before she could get back to the barn, Nian appeared. He roared, showed his sharp teeth and it looked like Mei might be the dragon's next meal. Would Mei be able to save herself, and the village, as well as defeat Nian?
Nian, The Chinese New Year Dragon is a fabulous story that had me hooked on the first page. I have no doubt that young readers will love following along with Mei to see what will happen to her and the dragon. In the story, Mei first outwits the dragon by making loud noises, but then he returns with cotton in his ears. Each time Mei comes up with an idea and defeats the dragon, the evil beast comes back. Children will stay latched to the pages to see if Mei can finally defeat Nian. The whole story also ties in very nicely to the traditions of the Chinese New Year - endnotes explain the origins of the legend and how the author came up with her version. The illustrations were perfect for this title, where the colors really play a part in the story, with dark colors of the dragon in sharp contrast to the bold reds that play an important role in defeating Nian.
Quill says: Nian, The Chinese New Year Dragon is a fantastically fun story that will engage young readers as they follow along with Mei to see if she can outwit the dragon that has been terrorizing her village.