The Empty Pot. Demi. Henry H0lt and Company. 1990.
What will you tell your children about beauty? Is it the polished veneer of the best face money can buy?” Is it the glitter of gold leaf in the mansion of someone selling empty dreams? Or is it the smile on your little one’s face after a hug? Is it the truth?
Reading the Empty Pot, it is not difficult to guess what Demi thinks. Here we have the story of a boy, Ping. Ping has always been good at growing flowers. When the Emperor holds a competition to see who can grow the most beautiful flower, Ping naturally seems like a shoe-in. That wily Emperor, though, has a few tricks up his sleeve.
The story is well told so that kids around age three can clearly understand what is going on. While set in China, “emperor” and “Ping” are just about the only unusual words. You won’t see very Chinese words like” Qing”, “eunuch”, or “concubine”.
The illustrations are great, they are done in a sort of Chinese landscape panorama style. Some are realistic with beautiful details of a Chinese residence. Others are minimal, but imbued with symbolism. In one scene, the emperor stands alone on a blank canvas on one page, with Ping in the opposite corner on the next page.
Overall, this book wears its message on its sleeve, and has an interesting story. After all, unadorned honesty is more beautiful than voluptuous deceit.