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The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy


From the The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series

Young readers interested in Japanese traditions and history will find much to enjoy in this simple fantasy tale.

Two magical children go on an adventure to determine their fate in Youmans’ (The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, 2014) sequel to her historical fable set in post-feudal Japan.

With their parents gone, the bird-children Azuki and Shota need to find their way home, so Yuta the monk provides them refuge as they plan their travels. There are battles to consider—soldiers want to kidnap Azuki for her feathers, but she and Shota need to reach Lady Satsuki and prove they’re still alive. While hiding from enemies, Azuki discovers that their land is streaked with coal, something that foreigners have been looking for. They set off to tell Lady Satsuki this valuable news, with Shota disguised as a sparrow and Azuki disguised as young, male student of Yuta. No sooner has their journey begun than they’re attacked by creatures called the Tengu, who believe that Azuki belongs to them. Once thwarted, they swear to return with their monstrous master, a Dai-Tengu. The three travelers continue, helped along the way by a village of kind social outcasts, Shota’s Dragon Princess friend, telepathic horses, and the return of a lost fortune. It may be hard for readers to keep up with all the characters and plotlines in the beginning of this book, although things even out by the time Yuta, Azuki, and Shota reach their destination. When they finally meet with Lady Satsuki, Yuta reveals a secret that will change the bird-children’s lives. Armed with this good news, they begin their return to their homeland only to be met by the Dai-Tengu. The magic from the friends they’ve made along the way will help lead them safely home once and for all. Peppered with Japanese vocabulary and traditions, this story provides a fantastical but engaging portrait of that country. These details manage to be educational without interrupting the story’s flow. Although the previous book was grounded in Shota’s search for Azuki, it takes longer for momentum to develop in this one, as the point of conflict is always changing—soldiers, the Tengu, a nebulous yearning to find their way home. Shota and Azuki’s sibling relationship offers some moments of humor and reflects a sense of love and teasing that many real-life siblings will recognize. Ultimately, the story’s uplifting conclusion makes this historical tale memorable.

Young readers interested in Japanese traditions and history will find much to enjoy in this simple fantasy tale.

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5143-8070-3

Page Count: 200

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2015

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Pub Date: March 31, 2000

ISBN: 0-06-028454-4

Page Count: 250

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1999

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Jake and Sam at the Empty Abbey

The Germans may have failed to destroy England, but this book hits its target.

Strong young characters, a solidly researched historical storyline and expressive illustrations work well here, as they did in Berten and Schott’s previous partnership (Littsie of Cincinnati, 2003).

Joining the ranks of books about children evacuated from London during World War II, Jake and Samantha, or Sam, ages 10 and 8, find themselves in Pevensey in 1940 under the care of the horrible Miss Bottomley. Sam is easily tired by her leg braces, a result of having polio, but Miss Bottomley still forces both children to do all the chores, remain outdoors for long hours in the cold, and barely gives them anything to eat. After one particularly bad morning, the siblings befriend both Miss Bottomley’s pet ferret, Fulham, and Brother Godric, a monk who maintains the ruins of the local abbey. Descriptions of life as an evacuee and the fear of German bombing are interspersed with tales of English history. Berten includes gas mask drills and home front guards while also covering the destruction of monasteries under Henry VIII, the problems of medieval lepers in England and more. Schott’s illustrations are well spaced, well envisioned and complement the text. The seemingly pat ending, in which medieval treasure is found and the children are reunited with their parents, is actually well researched. Fulham’s discovery of a secret area in the abbey is in character for the burrower, and British law does indeed allow for treasure hunters to be paid the full value of their finds. The only resolution that feels rushed and far-fetched is Miss Bottomley’s sudden turnaround of character after a childhood admirer professes his affection. Fans of the Chronicles of Narnia are rediscovering this era in history, and Berten, without the fantasy setting of the classic series, helps the reader find magic in exploring new settings and uncovering medieval history.

The Germans may have failed to destroy England, but this book hits its target.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-9724421-1-4

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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