Sturm pays tribute to the Japanese art of kamishibai storytelling with a wordless tale of two wicked children who are turned into monkeys.
Bearing sticks and angry expressions, a boy and a girl chase a red bird up a mountain slope—only to meet an enraged wizard who transforms them and leaves them to be chased by a tiger, then captured for a circus sideshow (“They Read! They Write!”). By the time they are released, both have undergone inner transformations too, and their reverent treatment of the bird when it returns leads to final glimpses of three birds flying off together. (Though inspired by the Japanese art, Sturm draws Western characters; the children and wizard are white, though the sideshow crowd is multiracial.) In an afterword with photos, Sturm (of the Adventures in Cartooning series) explains how traditional kamishibai works, drawing a clear connection between the art and graphic storytelling. He leaves decorated but otherwise blank pages opposite each of his cleanly drawn full-page illustrations throughout as silent invitations to viewers to supply their own narratives, dialogue, and sound effects to his story. Children will not be slow to take him up on the offer.
For all its simplicity, an episode rich in drama, humor, pathos, and thematic depth—with plenty of latitude for verbal embellishment. (resource list) (Graphic early reader. 4-8)