Explore cultural and geographical aspects of China through literature.
About the Book
The tale of Lon Po Po, the wolf, parallels the European tale of “Little Red Riding Hood.” This Chinese version is believed to be more than a thousand years old. As translator and illustrator, Ed Young relied on a combination of ancient Chinese panel art and contemporary pastels and watercolors to create dramatic illustrations that successfully complement a powerful text.
Before Reading Lon Po Po
Ask how many of the children have ever heard the story of “Little Red Riding Hood.” Ask the children briefly to recount the familiar tale, then tell the class that they are about to hear a traditional Chinese tale with similar elements. Ask the class to imagine how the story might be the same or different from the European version that they are probably familiar with.
After Reading Lon Po Po
Hold a brief discussion about how the two versions of “Red Riding Hood” were, in fact, the same, and how they differed. Invite students familiar with both versions to tell which version they liked better, and why.
Exploring Panel Art
Ed Young's illustrations feature contemporary watercolors and pastels on ancient Chinese panel art. Ask the class to comment on the effectiveness of combining these techniques — what feelings do Young's illustrations evoke? On the board or large chart pad, have children suggest a list of reasons why the illustrations in Lon Po Po are especially scary (e.g., part of almost each illustration is hidden, the illustrator uses lots of dark colors, the eyes in the pictures look frightful or scary, etc.).
Suggest that students try their hands at panel art. Have students use watercolors to paint a picture on a large piece of construction paper (or on pieces of Chinese rice paper available in art supply stores). When they dry, cut the pictures into three or four vertical panels of equal size. Mount each panel on a contrasting construction paper mat slightly larger in size than the painted panel. Mount the matted panels on a larger piece of construction paper or craft paper cut to size. Display in a large area (such as a hallway) with a label reading “Chinese Panel Art.”
Reread the book to the class and have students raise their hands when they hear a vocabulary word they don't comprehend or a word that is particular to China or the Chinese culture. These may include hemp, gingko, and “Hei yo.” Challenge the children to guess at the words' meanings from context cues. Ask the children in class to discuss what words they would substitute for the culturally-inspired words in questions if they were retelling the story, in order to make themselves understood in their own culture. Ask the class to tell why they believe learning such vocabulary may help us to understand and appreciate other people and foreign cultures.