Alison and Carole promised to tell Dragon Tales from Ancient China. Alison began, explaining that she would tell tales that were over 2000 years old. She told us that China used to be called “All Under Heaven”. She explained that China was constantly at war and that it consisted of 7 states with kings and massive armies. Alison gave us a quote from “The Art of War”, written by Sun Tzu. “All war is based on deception”. Alison told us a story about how Sun Tzu went for a job interview with the king. The king asked him that if he was so good at commanding armies, could he command a group of women? It was a gruesome tale, in which the king became scared of Sun Tzu and two of the King’s favourite wives were killed.
She then read a tale about Dragons and an ancient war in China. Deception was the theme of this tale too. The king in this tale, who was losing the war, made cows look like dragons and frightened the other army away. I don’t think I will try this with my father’s cows.
Alison quizzed the kids about the Great Wall of China. She read a story about a leader of the Mongolian Barbarians from her book, “Wicked Warriors and Evil Emperors”. It was a terrifying tale, barbaric and cruel. But it seems the kids liked it, they listened intently.
Next it was Carole’s turn, she seems to be an absolute expert on Chinese dragons. She quizzed the kids about dragons. It seems that fire breathing dragons do not come from China, and they are evil. She told us that Chinese dragons are in fact kind, and they breathe mist. The mist they breathe rises up into the air, forms clouds and the rains come. This is why the Chinese love dragons so much. We learned that Chinese dragons hibernate during winter in deep water such as lakes. After winter, the people of China make a lot of noise to make sure the dragons wake, and the rains come again.
Carole told us that Chinese dragons come in 5 colours – red, yellow, black, white and greeny-blue. A special characteristic of Chinese dragons is that they have horns. Chinese dragons have wings, but these do not grow until they are 1 000 years old. Chinese dragons can shape shift too, something the kids wanted to learn how to do. We learned that dragons do not like tigers; that metal iron makes them sick; that leaves of the china berry tree are poisonous to them; they do not like silk thread in dragon colours; and more than anything, they are terrified of centipedes. Dragons believe that centipedes crawl into their ears and eat their brains. What dragons like to eat most is roasted swallows. A dragon’s favourite drink is arsenic. The Chinese people believe that different parts of a dragon can be used as medicine. Apparently dragon bones can stop you from farting, and dragon brains can stop you from getting diarrhoea, these will become ‘favourite facts’ for the kids indeed.
Carole read from “Dragonkeeper”. Her attention to detail, creating a believable scenario where a young slave girl helps a dragon, drew the kids into the story. This is another book that I will be adding to my book list.
A quiz was next on the agenda. 3 teams of 2 were required. I could see that the teachers had a really hard time choosing the students. The kids came to the front of the room, their classmates cheered them on.
The teams were Team Dragons, Team Barbarians and Team Phoenix. The kids were quizzed on dragon facts, chocolates were the prizes. I think that some of the questions were really difficult but the kids kept on collecting chocolates. At one stage I got a question right but no chocolate for me :(. The kids in the audience had an enjoyable time too.
I have never seen a quiz before at a children’s literature festival, I am so glad that I witnessed this one. I think it’s a great way to get the kids involved, to make reading more than a solitary activity, and to bring a bucket of joy to all things literature and literacy related.