Ling Li's lantern by Steve Heron

cover image

Illus. by Benjamin Johnston. MidnightSun Publishing, 2020. ISBN: 9781925227673.
(Age: 6+) Recommended. Beautiful lanterns in soft creams and reds greet the reader on this impressive front cover, enticing the reader to turn the page and read about the girl, Ling Li, the face peering from behind one of the lanterns.
She and her two brothers are given coins from their father, Da Zhi with the instruction that each should use the money wisely to fill one of the three pagodas by the river. Each goes off to do their task. The first brother, Jingming, harvests bamboo and fills his pagoda with the bamboo stems, heaping the leaves on the top. His father is pleased that he has made a sound investment.
Miao the second child sets off for a nearly village where he buys feathers and down from the duck farm. He fills his pagoda with soft pillows of feathers and down and his father is pleased, telling him he has been wise.
The third child, Ling Li is not sure what to do. She wanders through the village. She spots a crying child who has lost the eggs he was sent to buy. Ling Li buys some eggs to replace those lost. She sees a child at the market who has lost its mother. She settles the child with a bowl of rice, using a little more of her money. She gives some money to the old ragged magician trying to make a living in the marketplace, and hands over a little more to the old woman unable to sell her necklaces. By now it is almost dark, and Ling Li has not used her money to buy something to fill the pagoda. She spies a lantern seller and with her last two coins purchases a lantern to take home. Usually the lanterns are three coins but having heard of her goodness through the day, the seller takes her two coins.
Arriving home she is saddened that she only has the lantern, but her father is pleased because he has heard of her deeds in the village and her lantern fills the pagoda with light. The light from her heart is indeed the special wisdom that he wants for his children.
This beautiful story, reading like a fable telling us of the true nature of wisdom, the things learnt from the tale reflect Ling Li's traits; compassion, sharing, empathy, and these outshine those of her brothers only interested in making a sound investment.
The stunning illustrations reflect the setting with bridges, pagodas, people working in rice fields, marketplaces, village squares and people in all their colourful costumes. Readers will love picking out the detail in the background on every page.
Theme: Compassion, Task, Family, Wisdom.
Fran Knight