The Emperor and the Kite

Djeow Seow, the Emperor’s tiniest daughter, is always forgotten by her family as she spends her days flying a kite made from paper and sticks. When her father is taken prisoner, only Djeow Seow’s courage, and a little help from her kite, can save him. Traditional, oriental papercut illustrations embellish this sensitive tale of love and loyalty. Full color. Caldecott Medal Honor Book. (from
Year of Publication
Number of Pages
Philomel Books
New York
ISSN Number
Average: 3.4 (5 votes)


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The Emperor and the Kite for use in Second Grade

Field of Interest/Specialty: Primary Education
Posted On: 04/14/2019

The Emperor and the Kite
By Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Ed Young
1968 Caldecott Medal Honor Book
ALA Notable Book
School Library Book of the year
The story of an emperor’s daughter who was very small and not noticed by her father or his family. Her four brothers were older and valued by her father. They helped her father rule the kingdom and teach the people what was right. Her three sisters were older, bigger and stronger and were valued by her father. They helped her father rule the kingdom and teach the people about peace. The tiny daughter was not even allowed to bring a grain of rice to her father.
The tiny daughter would play by herself and find joy in making and flying kites. A monk would enjoy her kites and often write a poem for her. This became her life. Too small to be noticed and life spent making and flying kites. One day some evil people kidnapped the emperor and locked him up in a tower in a remote area. The tiny daughter witnessed the whole thing. The evil men didn’t notice the tiny daughter. The older daughters and sons fled when they found out what had happened, but not the tiny daughter. Every day the tiny daughter would send food and water on her kite to a small window of the tower to help her father.
The evil men ruled the kingdom in a harsh manor and the people were very sad. The monk who wasn’t connected with this world used a poem let the tiny daughter know how she could help her father.
The tiny daughter used her kite to create a long tail of rope and bring it to her father to allow him to escape. The father kneels in gratitude before his daughter. Back at the palace the emperor is greeted by the crowds and they overthrow the evil men. From then on, the tiny daughter was always at the side of the emperor.
Warm story with beautiful water colors. This story would be a winner with elementary age children, and I would highly recommend this book. There were no concerns with text or appropriateness of the content. Age appropriate for grades Kindergarten and up.
Possible lesson integration:
1. Could be used as part of an elementary guidance lesson on not judging others by outside appearances. Could also be used on a lesson on believing in yourself.
2. Our school district uses the Houghton Mifflin reading series Journeys for reading. There are two units in the second grade series where this story would fit nicely. Gloria Who Might Be My Best Friend (Lesson 22) has a part of the story where the characters make kites. There is even an informational section on kite making. Additionally, Yeh-shen (Lesson 28) is a tale from China.

The Emperor and the Kite by Jane Yolen: suitable for children ages 5 to 9

Field of Interest/Specialty: East Asia
Posted On: 01/19/2018

Jayme Hadley – 1st grade teacher, self-contained classroom, Mary Queen of Apostles
The Emperor and the Kite by Jane Yolen: suitable for children ages 5 to 9
Dejow Seow, a Chinese Emperor’s daughter, is the youngest and smallest in her family. She finds herself overlooked and ignored by her family. To pass time, she spends her days playing with her most beloved toy, her homemade kite. One day, the Emperor is kidnapped and held in a tower and it is Dejow and her kite that manage to free the Emperor, allowing her to forever rule by her father’s side.
This story leaves children with a great message of loyalty and determination, showing that people of all ages and sizes can accomplish great things. What I enjoyed most about this book was its beautiful artwork that is based on an oriental papercut technique that I’m sure children would be fascinated with. I also thought it would lend itself to an introduction and discussion on Chinese cultural of kites. Lessons following this book could include study of the history of kites and kite making and cross curricular activities could include making decorative kites and kite flying experiments.

Inspirational Folktale

Field of Interest/Specialty: The Arts
Posted On: 12/17/2017

No one pays attention to tiny Djeow Seow. The emperor favors Djeow's older brothers and sisters. Ignored by her family and left on her own, the little princess spends her days playing with her kite. When evil men break into the palace and take the emperor prisoner, the older siblings run away crying and hide, lamenting over their misfortune. It is the tiny daughter, Djeow, who stays and cares for her father imprisoned in the tower. With courage, cleverness and her kite she is able to free her father from his prison. This small but mighty little girl exhibits the true meaning of loyalty and love and shows us we are nothing without strength of character.
The illustrations in the book are lovely. Illustrator Ed Young uses a Chinese paper cutting technique called jianzhi. He is inspired by the Chinese philosophy that words and art are complimentary.
"The Emperor and the Kite" would be a good starting point for a number of cross-cultural lessons. The book is well suited for second-third grades.

The Emperor and the kite

Field of Interest/Specialty: ECE
Posted On: 11/07/2014

Diane Hendrick M Ed. Coordinator WCCC Campus Children’s Center Ages 3-12
“The Emperor and the Kite” by Jane Yolen, Illustrated by Ed Young
For Ages: 5-8 I give it
I think the book could be used in a lesson on diversity/disabilities to help children understand
differences do not mean weakness.
Princess Djeow Seow is the youngest in her royal family, she is also the smallest. Being the smallest she is often overlooked. She is overlooked by her father; she is overlooked by her mother, her 3 brothers and her 3 sisters. She eats alone and plays alone. She feels alone and unloved, mostly unloved, but she loves to fly her kite.
She flies it often but always alone. While flying her kite a monk often passes by repeating a short verse he has made up: “My kite sails upward, Mounting to the high heavens, My soul goes on wings.”
Because she is so small and often overlooked when muggers come to the palace and kidnap the king no one sees her follow them into the forest and place her father in a tall tower. Daily the child attaches a basket of food to her kite to feed her father.
One day while she is sending food to her father the monk comes by with a different verse: “My kite sails upward, Mounting to the high heavens, My emperor goes on wings.” This gives her an idea. She crafts a string of grass, vines and her hair until it is tall as the tower. She attaches the sting to her kite and sends it to her father. He releases the kite and attaches the string to the tower bars and slid down the string of grass, vines and her hair. The king no longer overlooked his youngest and tiniest daughter. He built her a throne beside his. She no longer was overlooked and most importantly she felt the love of her father, her mother, her sisters and brothers.

Cute Story

Field of Interest/Specialty: early childhood/ elementary
Posted On: 11/21/2013

The Emperor and the Kite
By Jane Yolen
Review by: Jessica Glenn- Elementary Substitute- Central PA
This is a story about an emperor and his daughter, Princess Djeow Seow. Dejow Seow is one of many children of the emperor, but she is the youngest and tends to go unnoticed quite often. Dejow Seow eats alone, plays alone, and for the most part lives her own life. One day a tragic event happens to her father and his kingdom. The little princess is the only one that knows the whole story and she comes up with a plan to save her father!
I really loved this story and the moral that it teaches. This story would be great to be used with children in kindergarten and first grade. The lesson that no one is too small to help is so well developed in this book that it really could be used for any situation.