Exploring the Depths of Taiwan’s Forests
By Sarah-Jayne Carver
Dec 17, 2021

Every single one of us has our own set of skills, no matter how big or small we might be.

Award-winning author-illustrator Chang Che-ming’s picture book series The Three Little Moles uses exquisite hand-painted watercolors to bring the magic of Taiwan’s forests to life and tell the story of two young moles as they discover the world with the help of their knowledgeable grandfather.

The first book in the series, A Special Gift, sees the three protagonists set out from their cosy home in a tunnel beneath a tree stump and encounter a mother duck whose baby is stuck in a deep, well-like hole. The three moles use their digging skills to make a tunnel and rescue the duckling. The mother duck is thrilled and later returns the favor by rescuing the moles from a huge fish while they’re crossing a river on a raft.

The second two books, Let’s Roast Sweet Potatoes and Adventure in the Forest, build on the themes of the first story but can be read as standalone books as well. The three moles use their digging skills to unearth some delicious sweet potatoes only to find that as they pull the roots from below, a family of chipmunks is pulling the potatoes up from above! The moles use a kiln to roast the sweet potatoes and the chipmunks declare that the potatoes are absolutely delicious, so the moles offer to teach the chipmunks how to roast them. Adventure in the Forest sees the three moles go out in the fog and stumble across two baby birds and an egg. An owl swoops overhead preying on the moles and baby birds, so the moles quickly dig a hole for them all to hide in. The egg hatches while they’re in the hole and then the birds’ parents arrive, a pair of beautiful Mikado pheasants (the unofficial national bird of Taiwan).



All three books have the same fundamental themes of self-affirmation, learning from ones’ elders and the importance of sharing. The moles expressive faces and gestures create a focal point against the beautifully rendered forest landscapes in the background. Most of the illustrations are sweeping double-page spreads that capture the scale of the forest and the tininess of the protagonists, although occasionally the pages are divided into smaller scenes which work especially well when the moles are hiding underground with the baby birds while the owl flies overhead. Chang’s delicate use of watercolors and fine brush strokes gives the illustrations a timelessness which still feels fresh and original. Captivatingly depicting Taiwan’s local culture and customs is a priority for Chang, as seen in his previous works Food Market and Night Market, and it’s a joy to see him apply a new blend of scale and attention to detail in his portrayal of Taiwan’s flora and fauna in The Three Little Moles.

Set against the backdrop of Taiwan’s deep mountain forests, The Three Little Moles is a series about universal values that already feels like a classic.



Read more:
- Chang Che-ming: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=362
- The Three Little Moles Series: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=375