A young monk lives a simple life, meditating, tending to his vegetable garden and fetching water from a cold stream. Rain or shine, he never misses a day lugging this burden up the mountain to the temple. One day he invites a travelling monk to stay with him. Since they will share the water, they descend the mountain together to fetch it. Due to the difference in their heights, the men are unable to balance the shared load on their carrying pole without sloshing the contents of the two buckets all over the short monk. They manage to retrieve only a fraction of the water the young monk would have carried on his own, and not enough to care for the garden. Just as the young monk begins to see his guest as ungrateful, and the other monk begins to see his host as unreasonable, a third monk arrives.
Ting-xing Ye was born in Shanghai, China and moved to Toronto in 1987 as a visiting scholar to York University. Her books include Share the Sky and Weighing the Elephant. Ting-xing now lives in Orillia with author William Bell.
Harvey Chan is an award-winning children's book illustrator, born in Hong Kong and now living in Toronto. His illustrations are also widely published in magazines.
As author Ting Xing Ye recalls, excuses for not doing chores or passing on a household task to someone else would result in her mother quoting the old, widely used expression, "It's typical. Three monks, no water." As the story unfolds concerning how this saying might have originated, the reader learns how accepting responsibility and the essential lesson of cooperation would have averted the disaster the monks eventually encounter. On opening the cover, attention is immediately drawn to a simple, stamp-sized seal. This seal was specially designed using Chinese characters to depict the expression 'three monks, no water'. Ye's clear and concise style emphasizes the human tendency to avoid tedious chores. The varied characterization of each of the three monks adds humour to the story. Harvey Chan's illustrations, rendered in acrylic and coloured pencil on gessoed board, complement and enhance the text. The repeated orange-yellow textured background gives the appearance of linen or woven grass paper often associated with Chinese art. Throughout the book, the book's title saying is repeated in Chinese calligraphy. Young readers will enjoy Three Monks, No Water for the humour and easy to read style in which the origin of this expression is told. The clever illustrations add to the appeal of the book. Recommended.