Cover of The Emperor and the Kite by Jane Yolen

Emperor and the Kite, The

Illustrated by Ed Young
World Publishing ISBN # LC 67-138161967 hardcover
Collins World edition ISBN# 0-529-00255-8 hardcover
Philomel ISBN # 0-399-21499-2 hardcover and paperback
Putnam Paperstar ISBN # 0-698-11644-5 paperback

This story about a Chinese emperor who is saved by his youngest and most insignificant daughter won a Caldecott Honor Book in 1968 for illustrator Ed Young. It was the first of three books that I have done with him. (The others: Seventh Mandarin and The Girl Who Loved the Wind.) He used a Chinese papercut technique, perhaps the first time such was done as illustration for a modern children’s book. I found the line “The Emperor Shin was saved from a tower where he was imprisoned by means of a kite” when I was doing research for my father’s book about kite flying. (My father was the International Kite Flying Champion and author of two books on kite flying–which I mainly wrote–and numerous articles on the subject.) That line stuck with me for many years. The book is semi-autobiographical in that I had always wanted to please my father and never seemed to get it right.

I had first sold the book to Frances Keene at Macmillan. But when Keene was canned, the new editor Susan Hirschman gave me back the manuscript (with two others) saying, “You don’t know how to write. Perhaps when you have a child and that child is six months old, you will understand how to write for children.” (I already had four books published for young readers.) A year and a half later, the book was sold to editor Ann Beneduce at World, who put Ed Young on it, and the rest is Caldecott history.

There’s an important article in PW and Ed’s work in the September 2, 1968 issue.

Only the Philomel hardcover and Putnam Paperstar editions are available now.


  • There is a sound film strip of THE EMPEROR & THE KITE from Listening Library, # JFS 151.


  • Caldecott Honor Book, 1968; Lewis Caroll Shelf Book, 1968

What reviewers have said:

  • “A familiar jewel polished to unaccustomed brilliance.” Booklist
  • “It is rare to find a book where the beauty of the language and imageare so finely meshed as in this tale of loyalty and love. ” — United Press International
  • **(Double starred review) “Delightful version of the Chinese legend. . .The illustrations are superb. The author’s use of language is poetic in the tradition of the Chinese storyteller.”–School LIbrary Journal
  • “A beautifully illustrated, lyrically written tale. . .Children will be with it all the way.”–N.Y. Times
  • “Distinguished illustrations, adaptations of the ancient Chinese papercut art form, contribute to the beauty of the poetically told story.”–Horn Book
  • “. . .distinguished proof that extravagance, intelligent, premediatated extravagance, always justifies itself. In this case, the extravagant use of white space highlights the distinguished illustrations–and gives stature to the story.”–PW