Review of A Thousand Beginnings and Endings: 15 Retellings of Asian Myths and Legends

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings: 15 Retellings of Asian Myths and Legends
edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman
Middle School, High School    Greenwillow    328 pp.    g
6/18    978-0-06-267115-8    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-267117-2    $8.99

Fifteen authors of East and South Asian descent present original short stories inspired by culture-specific tales from their own childhoods; immediately following each story, the authors provide synopses and/or other information about their source material. The Hmong cautionary tale “The Woman and the Tiger” spawns a dystopian story of an android uprising (“Steel Skin” by Lori M. Lee). From the South Korean epic myth “Chasa Bonpuli” springs a story of a daughter’s mourning, a role-playing video game, and the blurred line between reality and virtual reality (“The Land of the Morning Calm” by E. C. Myers). Aswang, the Filipino creature of the night, inspires the quest of a modern-day teen girl vampire in New York City (“Code of Honor” by Melissa de la Cruz). Middle-school friendship drama has its origin in the Gujārati tale of the goddess Durgā (“Girls Who Twirl and Other Dangers” by Preeti Chhibber). All of the stories achieve emotional depth and connection while showcasing each storyteller’s unique literary voice. The co-editors’ choice to preserve the many culturally authentic words and expressions used throughout, even if unfamiliar to outsiders (and without the interruption of those pesky parenthetical English translations), allows fluidity in the storytelling. It also shows respect to young readers who are more than capable of deciphering meanings from context or looking up definitions to gain even richer understandings of the tales and their cultural bases.

From the July/August 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: ALA Awards.

Roxanne Hsu Feldman
Roxanne Hsu Feldman is the Middle School Librarian at The Dalton School in New York City. She is fully bilingual in Mandarin and English.

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