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Chang, Margaret 1941–

Chang, Margaret 1941–

(Margaret Scrogin Chang)

PERSONAL: Born July 12, 1941, in Portola, CA; daughter of Frank Piety (a lumber salesman) and Hope (a secretary; maiden name, Millar) Scrogin; married Raymond Chang (a college professor), August 3, 1968; children: Elizabeth Hope. Education: Scripps College, B.A., 1963; Rutgers University, M.L.S., 1965; Simmon's College, M.A., 1988. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Liberal Protestant.

ADDRESSES: Home—146 Forest Rd., Williamstown, MA 01267. Office—Department of Education, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, 375 Church St., North Adams, MA 01247.

CAREER: Writer, educator, and librarian. Joseph Es-tabrook School, Lexington, MA, librarian, 1965–67; New York Public Library, New York, NY, children's librarian, 1967–68; Mount Grey lock Regional High School, Williamstown, MA, librarian, 1968–72; Williams College, Williamstown, part-time reference librarian, 1979–89; Buxton School, Williamstown, librarian, beginning 1985; Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams, MA, instructor in literature for children and young adults, 1989–, adjunct instructor in Department of Education.

MEMBER: American Library Association, Children's Literature Association.

AWARDS, HONORS: Books for the Teen Age selection, New York Public Library, 1980, 1981, and 1982, all for Speaking of Chinese; Parents' Choice Honor Book award, 1990, for In the Eye of War, and 1999, for Da Wei's Treasure: A Chinese Tale; outstanding children's book citation, Parenting Magazine, 1994, for The Cricket Warrior: A Chinese Tale; Selectors' Choice, Elementary School Library Collection, 2000, for The Beggar's Magic: A Chinese Tale.

WRITINGS:

Discovering Your Library, Creative Teaching Press (Huntington Beach, CA), 1976.

WITH HUSBAND, RAYMOND CHANG

Speaking of Chinese, Norton (New York, NY), 1978, updated edition, 2001.

In the Eye of War, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 1990.

The Cricket Warrior: A Chinese Tale, illustrated by Warwick Hutton, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 1994.

The Beggar's Magic: A Chinese Tale, illustrated by David Johnson, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 1997.

Da Wei's Treasure: A Chinese Tale, illustrated by Lori McElrath-Eslick, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 1999.

Also author of play, The Great Man's Wife, produced in Massachusetts. Contributor to periodicals, including School Library Journal.

SIDELIGHTS: Margaret Chang has written several books for children which focus on Chinese history and tradition. Together with her husband, Raymond Chang, she has written In the Eye of War, a novel for children about a Chinese family living in occupied Shanghai. Also with her husband, she has created the texts for several picture books based on traditional Chinese tales, among them The Cricket Warrior: A Chinese Tale and The Beggar's Magic: A Chinese Tale.

In the Eye of War is based in part on Raymond Chang's own memories of Shanghai during the Japanese occupation of that city during World War II. Chang's family had moved to Hong Kong to escape the war, but when the Japanese invaded that city on Christmas day of 1941, they decided to move back to their hometown of Shanghai. Chang was just a little boy at the time, and he grew up in the midst of the military occupation. In the Eye of War tells of a ten-year-old Chinese boy whose father works in the resistance movement against the Japanese invaders. Diane Roback in Publishers Weekly called the novel "a riveting exploration of a time and place now gone."

In The Cricket Warrior, the Changs update a traditional Chinese folktale first written down by seventeenth-century author Pu Songling. When a poor farmer and his son Wei nian trap a healthy fighting cricket, the farmer promises the insect to the emperor, a man who loves cricket fights and has imposed a "cricket tax" on each family in his domain in order to keep himself well supplied. After the curious young Wei nian accidentally frees the insect, he quickly realizes that he has put his family's farm in jeopardy and seeks the aid of his ancestors in transforming himself into a cricket. Winning many matches for the emperor, he preserves his father's commitment and makes his family wealthy before regaining his human form. In the end, father and son are "truly happy only when they are reunited," a Publishers Weekly reviewer observed. The Cricket Warrior contains what School Library Journal reviewer John Philbrook described as a "brisk, colloquial narrative" through which the Changs "skillfully render … each turn of plot." Praising the Changs' retelling in a review of The Cricket Warrior, a Publishers Weekly contributor noted that their "dynamic retelling" of the traditional Chinese tale "emphasizes Wei nian's concern with honor … and the strength of the familial bond." Recommending the story for reading aloud, Booklist contributor Carolyn Phelan praised the Changs' style, which she described as "fluid" and "spiced with dramatic dialogue."

Also based on a traditional Chinese tale first set down centuries ago by Pu Songling, The Beggar's Magic tells of a small village where a mysterious elderly stranger has captured the interest of young Fu Nan and his friends through the unknown man's ability to perform magic. The entire village benefits from the stranger's talents after he creates, almost overnight, a bountiful pear tree with fruit enough for all in the village to share. Only after the stranger leaves does Fu Nan realize that the "tree" was created by magically transporting pears from a cache hoarded by stingy and greedy Farmer Wu. Calling The Beggar's Magic a "delightful cautionary tale on avarice and selfishness," School Library Journal contributor Philbrook added that the earth-toned ink-and-watercolor illustrations by David Johnson combine effectively with the Changs' "simple and elegant" prose to create "a perfect gem of a book that will linger in the mind long after a first reading." Horn Book reviewer Ann A. Flowers found The Beggar's Magic to be "a gentle and delicate tale" that would serve young listeners as a "quiet lesson in sharing," while in Booklist, Phelan praised the Changs' retelling as one done "with simplicity and elegance."

The Changs' retelling of Da Wei's Treasure: A Chinese Tale comes from a more personal source than does The Cricket Warrior and The Beggar's Magic: it is based on a story Raymond Chang's mother told him while he was growing up in Shanghai. Da Wei is the son of a poor man who ekes out a meager living in the barren lands of northern China. The only thing of value to his father is a rock shaped like a mountain in miniature, on top of which is perched a carved miniature house. After Da Wei's father dies, the miniature scene generates a magical cart, which leads young Da Wei to a magical land that yields him not only a beautiful wife and great wealth, but also a certain amount of problems that only magic can make right. In her Booklist review of Da Wei's Treasure, GraceAnne A. DeCandido praised it as a "heartwarming story," and a Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that "the Changs' … eloquent retelling weaves together familiar strands of classic tales into a fresh story" that encourages virtuous behavior and teaches that goodness will be rewarded. Also commenting that Chang's mother may have drawn from a number of traditional tales, such as the classic "The Crane's Wife," to create her own bedside tale, School Library Journal reviewer Nina Lindsay maintained that "the narrative is long and involved but never ceases to be intriguing."

Chang told CA: "I was born in California's High Sierra and grew up in postwar Los Angeles, where I savored the multicultural flavor of my surroundings. My two abiding interests as a child were reading and observing the marine life in the tide pools and on the beaches of southern California. I earned a library degree, specializing in service to children and young adults and have worked in public, school, and academic libraries."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, November 1, 1994, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Cricket Warrior: A Chinese Tale, p. 502; October 15, 1997, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Beggar's Magic: A Chinese Tale, p. 407; May 15, 1999, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Da Wei's Treasure: A Chinese Tale, p. 1699.

Horn Book Magazine, November-December, 1997, Ann A. Flowers, review of The Beggar's Magic, p. 690.

Publishers Weekly, March 16, 1990, Diane Roback, review of In the Eye of War, p. 70; September 5, 1994, review of The Cricket Warrior, p. 110; June 14, 1999, review of Da Wei's Treasure, p. 70.

School Library Journal, August, 1990, John Phil-brook, review of In the Eye of War, p. 146; January, 1995, John Philbrook, review of The Cricket Warrior, p. 102; December, 1997, John Philbrook, review of The Beggar's Magic, p. 107; June, 1999, Nina Lindsay, review of Da Wei's Treasure, p. 112.

ONLINE

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts Web site, http://www.mcla.edu/ (April 14, 2006), biography of Margaret Scrogin Chang.

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