THE BOY WHO DREW CATS

A JAPANESE FOLKTALE

A competent adaptation of a legend about a frail boy whose farm family takes him to a monastery to train as a priest. Turned out because he neglects his work to draw cats, Kenji is ashamed to go home; instead, he goes to another village, where a fearsome Goblin Rat infests the temple where he seeks refuge. There his artistic ability serves well: while he sleeps, his wonderfully lifelike cats kill the goblin. ClÇment's acrylic paintings, in a spare palette of grays and browns touched with rust or garnet, are austere yet quietly dramatic. Unusual perspectives, strong composition in the picture plane, split-screen artwork, and boldly drawn Japanese characters incorporating illustrative vignettes—all contribute to an unusually well designed format. Citing Lafcadio Hearn's English paraphrase (1898), Levine offers an embellished retelling, naming characters, describing scenes in more detail, changing the point at which Kenji first experiences fear and some details of the conclusion. It's not an improvement on Hearn's graceful simplicity, but it's a likable update, striking a good balance between contemporary warmth and accessibility and respect for the earlier version. (Folklore/Picture book. 5+)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-8037-1172-7

Page Count: 28

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1994

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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THE GIRL WHO LOVED WILD HORSES

            There are many parallel legends – the seal women, for example, with their strange sad longings – but none is more direct than this American Indian story of a girl who is carried away in a horses’ stampede…to ride thenceforth by the side of a beautiful stallion who leads the wild horses.  The girl had always loved horses, and seemed to understand them “in a special way”; a year after her disappearance her people find her riding beside the stallion, calf in tow, and take her home despite his strong resistance.  But she is unhappy and returns to the stallion; after that, a beautiful mare is seen riding always beside him.  Goble tells the story soberly, allowing it to settle, to find its own level.  The illustrations are in the familiar striking Goble style, but softened out here and there with masses of flowers and foliage – suitable perhaps for the switch in subject matter from war to love, but we miss the spanking clean design of Custer’s Last Battle and The Fetterman Fight.          6-7

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1978

ISBN: 0689845049

Page Count: -

Publisher: Bradbury

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1978

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