By Michelle Cox

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If you’ve ever devoted your best effort to a project only to have it fail, then you will relate to this telling of the Chinese folktale “The Empty Pot” by Demi.

The time has arrived for the emperor of China to select his successor. He sends a proclamation to all the children of the land. Each child who comes to meet him will be given a flower seed. After nurturing the seed for a year, the children will return and show the emperor their best.

Flowers are a beautiful and celebrated part of the country. The children love growing flowers and spend a fair amount of time nurturing their gardens. Ping is no different. He is known to be particularly talented and feels certain he will produce a magnificent flower for the emperor. We get to walk with Ping as he nurtures and cares for the seed. Unfortunately, the results aren’t what he expects and in embarrassment he returns to the emperor.

Turn to the pages of “The Empty Pot” by Demi to experience the rest of Ping’s journey.

While this story shares a beautiful display of honesty and courage, it can also be used to illustrate perseverance, focusing on the journey instead of the outcome, and how sometimes doing our best doesn’t look quite like we expected.

Kids will enjoy the simple and colorful illustrations that highlight traditional Chinese dress and culture.

Some questions to spark discussion might include:

  • Do you really think an emperor would try to pick the next person to lead using a flower seed?
  • Why did he in this story?
  • Do you think it was easy for Ping to show up with an empty pot?
  • What do you think Ping was feeling?
  • Have you ever felt that way? Tell me about it.
  • Have you ever had something happen to you that reminds you of Ping’s story?
  • If you were an emperor, how would you choose who was going to take your place?

Wrap up the fun be giving your child a seed and small pot to practice growing their own flower!

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