Saturday, March 10, 2018

Newbery Winners: Shen of the Sea

The fifth book to win the Newbery Medal, which it did in 1926, is Shen of the Sea by Arthur Bowie Chrisman, a collection of short stories set in China. The tales are not at all connected. I suspect this would be a hard book to get published today, as some aspects of Chinese culture that it depicts have not aged well. But it's also not horrible, either, and holds up a lot better than many other books of the time, I'm sure. (And let's face it, just about anything written for children nearly a century ago is going to feel quaint and dated anyway.) Although I gather these stories were originally created by Chrisman, they read like old folk tales. Some are just little slice-of-life stories, but others delve into the origins of aspects of Chinese culture (printing, chopsticks, pottery, kites, tea, gunpowder), and others show people thinking outside the box, or tricking demons, or just being clever. It's a fun, light read, and I enjoyed this one a lot.