In this retelling of a Japanese tale, a scrawny country boy named Kaito heads to Kyoto to enter a wrestling tournament.
He leaves his village filled with confidence about his chances against the “Champion Wrestlers” he hopes to compete against. He’s tempted to tickle a girl he meets along the way to make her spill the bucket she’s carrying on her head. She’s far stronger than he is, though, and doesn’t spill a drop. Her name is Hana, and she offers to help him prepare for the tournament. Kaito spends the next three weeks training in her cottage, then goes to Kyoto, where he wins the championship despite his small stature. There’s humor in the fact that Hana is stronger than Kaito, even after he’s crowned champion. The mixed-media collage of watercolor and pencil on brightly colored paper set against a white background works well with the book’s lighthearted tone. Souhami plays with the typeface, incorporating the text into the design to highlight parts of the story. The change in protagonist from the 13th-century tale’s mature warrior learning to be “invincible” to a puny boy able to defeat the outsized sumo wrestlers may strain readers’ suspension of disbelief.
Modern boys who dream of athletic prowess should find this appealing. (author’s note) (Picture book/folk tale. 4-7)