Born and raised in New York City, Jane Yolen now lives in Hatfield, Massachusetts. She attended Smith College and received her master's degree in education from the University of Massachusetts. The distinguished author of more than 170 books, Jane Yolen is a person of many talents. When she is not writing, Yolen composes songs, is a professional storyteller on the stage, and is the busy wife of a university professor, the mother of three grown children, and a grandmother. All of Yolen's stories and poems are rooted in her sense of family and self. The Emperor and the Kite, which was a Caldecott Honor Book in 1983 for its intricate paper-cut illustrations by Ed Young, was based on Yolen's relationship with her late father, who was an international kite-flying champion. Owl Moon, winner of the 1988 Caldecott Medal for John Schoenherr's exquisite watercolors, was inspired by her husband's interest in birding. Li Ming is an illustrator whose works include Merlin and the Dragons.
Gr 3-5‘Drawing once again upon Arthurian legend, Yolen has created a stirring tale within a tale. Young Arthur wakes one stormy night from uneasy dreams and seeks out the company of Merlin. Sensing the boy's readiness to learn of his legacy in claiming the crown he wears without conviction, Merlin tells him of another fatherless boy, Emrys, who dreamed baffling dreams of dragons and crumbling stone towers. When the cruel Vortigern attempted to take over all of Britain, Emrys's dreams became prophetic and catalytic. Merlin ends his tale cryptically, as a certain knight advances toward Vortigern's tower. When Arthur cries out for a proper ending, Merlin draws him into the story and it becomes revelatory‘at last he is able to call the crown his own. Yolen goes beyond her sources‘folklore and history‘and moves expertly into the realm of invention. Matched with arresting oil paintings, the legend comes alive on a grand scale, the dramatic narrative and well-wrought dialogue heightening the theatrical effect and inviting a fast-paced read-aloud. Some of Ming's illustrations are magnificent, those of the dragons in particular. One can sense this talented artist's respect for these creatures as he brings them fully to life‘terrifying, violent, beautiful. So, too, does he paint Arthur with great sensitivity, a figure bathed in light, his face complex, thoughtful, and full of wonder. Although all the pictures serve the story well and elevate the drama, some seem a bit flat and overexplicit, without the pulsing life and radiance that characterizes those that are invested with emotion and are remarkable for their power.-Susan Powers, Rock Creek Forest Elementary School, Chevy Chase, MD