The Chinese Emperor’s New Clothes
Ying Chang Compestine and David Roberts
Abrams & Chronicle
Many people are familiar with the Hans Andersen classic fairy tale, The Emperor’s New Clothes, and here it’s given a clever Chinese twist that sheds a different light on the whole matter of that vain emperor and his tricky tailors.
Set in Imperial China it tells how in fact this particular emperor, one Ming Da, is not vain at all; indeed he is a boy trickster who comes to the throne at the tender age of nine and there are no tricky tailors at all. Instead, as the young emperor discovers, it is his ministers who are the dishonest ones, stealing the country’s food, gold and other resources and leaving Ming Da with scant resources to feed his people and run his kingdom.
What can the boy emperor do to outsmart his perfidious ministers and thus avoid rebellion against him on their part? He ponders hard.
Then as Chinese New Year draws close, Ming Da decides to engage the help of his loyal tailors to dress him in rice sacks rather than the splendid finery expected for a new year celebration.
“Honest people will see their true splendour, while the dishonest will see only burlap sacks,” a young tailor asserts as the emperor shows the ministers his new ‘magical’ outfit, setting in action his plan to recover some of the kingdom’s riches.
In an author’s note at the end of her story, Compestine explains how she has drawn on her personal experience as a child growing up during China’s Cultural Revolution and her efforts to outsmart the officials in order to obtain ‘forbidden literature’.
David Roberts (who has illustrated several other fairy tales as well as Ada Twist Scientist, Rosie Revere Engineer and Iggy Peck Architect) uses watercolour, pen, and ink for his wonderfully detailed, witty artwork.
An enchanting story to share over Chinese New Year or at any time, this will have a wide age appeal.
There is even a final page giving step by step instructions for making a Chinese New Year parade robe; a great starting point for a class celebratory parade.