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by Blia Xiong

illustrated by Nancy Horn


School Library Journal:

PreK-Gr 6- Xiong and Spagnoli recount this Hmong folktale with compelling directness. In the beginning of the world, a lonely tiger journeys to the great god Shao to find out if she will have cubs. Shao replies that she will have nine cubs a year– if she can remember his words. As she has a poor memory, the tiger creates a mnemonic chant to recite for the journey home, “Nine-in-one Grr! Grr!” The Eu (black) bird overhears her and asks Shao to change what he said, for “If Tiger has nine cubs each year, they will eat all of us. Soon there will be nothing but tigers in the land.” But this cannot be done, so the bird flies back to the tiger, distracts her, and substitutes his own “one-in-nine,” meaning one cub born in nine years, thereby altering the course of natural history and saving the rest of creation. At once realistic, fanciful, and clever, this tale compares favorably with the “Raven the Trickster” and “Just So” stories. Illustrations are innovative, yet faithful to Hmong culture. Long noted for brilliant embroidery, the Hmong’s vicissitudes in and after the Vietnam War have inspired them to a new form of “narrative stitchery,” stories told in needlework. Hom has captured this style to perfection in silkscreen, watercolor, and colored pencil, producing amazingly bright and beautiful pictures of great depth and originality while maintaining ethnic accuracy. Each picture is also framed in intricate borders, adding yet another facet of authenticity. Clearly this is a superior production and an important addition to folk literature for children. Unlike other books from Children’s Book  Press, the original language of the tale is not included, but this is a small quibble in the face of so magnificent an achievement.– John Philbrook, San Francisco Public Library


  • ALA Notable Children’s Books: 1990


1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade, Animals, Folklore, Kindergarten, Pre-Kindergarten