THE FEAST OF LANTERNS
In a small, unorchestrated story that reads a bit like a memory, Bozu and Kozo leave their tiny fishing island of Kamome Jima to visit the mainland, which they call "the better place." Snitching Uncle Tojo's boat on the first day of the Feast of the Lanterns, they drift across to a cove and--alternately frightened, astonished, and very hungry, frequently scolded for smelling like fish and having no money--they roam the market, follow a troupe of clowns with a monkey onto a train, watch a fireworks display that turns into a town fire, and huddle for the night in a roadside shrine where a policeman finds them and takes them to their father. Say turns out to be less adept at realistic narrative and conversation than at the tall/folk tale (Once Under the Cherry Blossom Tree, 1975), but somehow the very lack of polish to the prose adds to the credibility here. And even if children don't know where Kamome Jima is, they'll appreciate the chance to share the exploration of a different (if not better) place without being subjected to a geography lesson--or any other kind.