ISBN 0590449885 - Ironic that this book followed The Value of Honesty (ISBN 0916392368) in the pile - they go well together, both culturally and in the teaching-morals way.
A pair of ducks lived near a pond on land in the district of a cruel lord, who liked to surround himself with beautiful things, and disliked all things not beautiful. Among the things he'd come to dislike was Shozo, who had once been the lord's mightiest samurai. Shozo lost an eye in battle and was not handsome, but he was a compassionate man. When the lord saw the drake, the more attractively colored duck, he decided to take him home as a pet. In captivity, the duck withered and became ugly, missing his mate, so a maid set him free. The lord blamed Shozo, and punished him, but Shozo did not mind so much - he had fallen in love with the maid. Eventually ordered put to death, the pair are saved by mysterious Imperial messengers and live in peace, knowing that a burden is lighter when it is shared.
A superb book for kids, who will enjoy the story while learning about compassion and caring. The back of the book says ages 5-9; that's fairly accurate, but a lot of 5 year olds will need a bit of help to understand it. By the time the reader is 9, the few big words won't seem so intimidating.
"Patterson's story is rich with magic, compassion and love. (While Leo & Diane Dillion iillustrated the book with) elegant watercolor and pastel drawings ... are exquisite." said Publishers Weekly. Booklist says. " An appealing folktale with quite dignity." This children's book is a winner of the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award for illustrations, and a New York Times Best Children's Book of the Year.
The storyline is about a beautiful duck captured & caged by a greedy lord who wants to show off the bird's magnificent plummage. But the wild creature pines for his mate, and two servants risk their lives to release the bird against their master's command. Will their death sentence be carried out?