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From The Asian Reporter, V14, #16 (April 13, 2004), page 13.

Very far

All the Way to Lhasa: A Tale from Tibet

Retelling and art by Barbara Helen Berger

Philomel Books, 2002

Hardcover, 27 pages, $15.99

By Josephine Bridges

How far is it to Lhasa?" two travelers ask an old woman sitting beside the road. When the first traveler gallops up to her on a horse, she tells him that he will not reach Lhasa before dark, but when the second arrives on foot, leading a yak, she tells him that he can make it by night. A Tibetan version of the tortoise and the hare, All the Way to Lhasa is both instructive and delightful.

Barbara Helen Berger heard the story she has retold here from Lama Tharchin Rinpoche, and it is to him that she dedicates All the Way to Lhasa. Her retelling is spare and straightforward, graced by some careful repetition and a few Tibetan words. Children of all ages, not to mention adults of all ages, can find adventure and inspiration in this tale.

The illustrations, which contain elements inspired by Tibetan art, perfectly complement the narrative. "But still the boy kept walking, on and on with his steady yak, one foot in front of the other." In the accompanying illustration, a snow leopard watches from a near ledge as footprints lead into the distant mountains, where the figures of boy and yak are almost lost in the immensity of the landscape.

All the Way to Lhasa concludes with a fine authors note. Barbara Helen Berger explains here that in order to get to Lhasa, "Tibetans have crossed the valleys, plains and snowy passes of their country, the highest on earth." She describes "prayers carved into stones" (these are also depicted in her illustrations) and flags that "flutter and snap in the wind, blessing all who pass" along the way to Lhasa. And she offers her own parting wishes: "May we keep going like the boy and his yak. May all of us reach our own shining goal. And may peace and happiness spread like a sun rising over the mountains to all beings."

 

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