Chinese musical instruments have been used for many thousands of years and still continues to evolve in today’s modern world. From the simple design of the Dizi to the more elegant and exquisite Yangqin, these traditional pieces of fine craftsmanship connect us with our history and teaches us more about ourselves than we can ever imagine.

From the person who is just beginning to pick up an instrument to the person who has mastered the art of playing, both can agree that with practice makes perfect. Emily Jiang’s unique picture book Summoning the Phoenix is filled with poems and prose alongside a brief description of different instruments.

Each separate account of a child’s performance captures the creativity and nuance of something greater; one that is embedded not just solely into each stroke of the string, blow into a hole, or a strike of a stick, but also through the back story in which their Chinese musical instrument is connected with. As these instruments play in harmony with each other, it becomes a smaller piece of the puzzle that joins into the making of something much grander in the grand finale.

April Chu‘s vivid illustrations of 13 young musicians of diverse backgrounds in imagined natural landscapes gives this story a new dimension by bringing attention to the sophistication of the artwork in motion but also the simplicity that goes into each piece of poetry. This book is sure to entertain the most adventurous of readers and will certainly bring out the curiosity in any individual with hopes of developing a deeper appreciation and understanding for cultural music.

Title: Summoning the Phoenix
Illustrator: April Chu
Publisher: Shen’s Books 2014
Edition: Softcover
Age Suitability: 6-11 years

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