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A Bank Street College Best Children’s Book

The Crystal Heart

A Vietnamese Legend

Book illustration

Retold by Aaron Shepard
Illustrated by Joseph Daniel Fiedler

1999 Best Children’s Books, Bank Street College of Education

1999–2000 Recommended Reading List, Kansas Reading Circle

My love is like a blossom in the breeze.
My love is like a moonbeam on the waves.

As the daughter of a great mandarin, Mi Nuong leads a sheltered life. But one day, sitting in her tower, a song floats to her from a distant fishing boat on the river. The voice is so beautiful, she knows the singer must be young and handsome—perhaps even a mandarin’s son in disguise.

Could it be that the song is for her? She longs to meet him, but how? And what will she find if she does?

In this poignant legend, a young lady discovers that appearances can deceive, but the heart speaks true.

Picture book • Ages 7 & up

Aaron Shepard is the award-winning author of The Baker’s Dozen, The Sea King’s Daughter, The Monkey King, and many more children’s books, while his Web site is known internationally as a prime resource for folktales, storytelling, and reader’s theater. Once a professional storyteller, Aaron specializes in lively retellings of folktales and other traditional literature, which have won him honors from the American Library Association, the New York Public Library, the Bank Street College of Education, the National Council for the Social Studies, and the American Folklore Society.

Joseph Daniel Fiedler has had work appear in numerous national and international publications, including Time and Business Week, and has received a Silver Medal from the Society of Illustrators.

Simon & Schuster/Atheneum

Hardcover ~ 1998

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Book cover


“Haunting tale of unrequited love. . . . Shepard paces his polished storytelling to accommodate atmospheric details. Despite the Vietnamese setting, this sophisticated story has much in common with Hans Christian Andersen’s sorrowful romances, and its words and images will likely linger with readers.”—Publishers Weekly, July 6, 1998

“A keen tale of false expectations and confused priorities. . . . For his first picture book, Fiedler produces exquisite artwork; the landscapes are magically transporting, while the lustrous colors radiate an antique, spiritual quality.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Shepard’s retelling captures all the romantic feeling in an economical use of text without forfeiting any of the haunting mood. This could provide a lovely segue into thoughtful discussion on expectations, disappointment, and reparation.”—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, July–Aug. 1998

“Shepard’s simple yet elegant prose meshes well with Fiedler’s dramatic artwork. A good choice for storytellers, this romantic tale will be popular with a wide range of audiences.”—Kay Weisman, Booklist, Oct. 1, 1998

“Attractive. . . . Fiedler’s textured, impressionistic oil paintings are as spare and elegant as Shepard’s retelling.”—Diane S. Marton, School Library Journal, Nov. 1998

“Beautifully retold and illustrated.”—Children’s Book Committee, Bank Street College of Education, Best Children’s Books for the Year, 1999

Sample Text

Hear This Sample Text (1:48 minutes)

Days later, the messenger returned.

“Lord, in no great house of this province does any young man know the song. But in a nearby village I found a man who sings it, a fisherman named Truong Chi. I have brought him to the palace.”

“A fisherman?” said the mandarin in disbelief. “Let me see him.”

The messenger brought him in. The fisherman stood uneasily, his eyes wide as they cast about the richly furnished room.

For a moment, the mandarin was too astounded to speak. The man was neither young nor handsome. His clothes were ragged and he stank of fish. Certainly no match for my daughter! thought the mandarin. Somehow, she must not realize . . . .

He gave his order to the messenger. “Bring the fisherman to my daughter’s door and have him sing his song.”

Soon Truong Chi stood anxiously outside the young lady’s room. He could not understand why they’d brought him here. What could they want? He was just a fisherman, wishing only to make an honest living. He had hurt no one, done nothing wrong!

At the messenger’s signal, he nervously started to sing.

My love is like a blossom in the breeze.

My love is like a moonbeam on the waves.

In the room beyond the door, Mi Nuong’s eyes flew open. “He’s here!” she cried to her maid. “How can that be? Oh, quickly, help me dress!”

Mi Nuong jumped from her bed. Never had she so swiftly clothed herself, put up her hair, made herself up. By the time the song drew to a close, she looked like a heavenly vision in flowing robes.

“Now, open the door!” she said, trying to calm her wildly beating heart.

Sample text copyright © 1998 Aaron Shepard. Illustration copyright © 1998 by Joseph Daniel Fiedler.

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