THE FIVE SPARROWS: A Japanese Folktale by Patricia Montgomery--Adapt. & Illus. Newton

THE FIVE SPARROWS: A Japanese Folktale

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You will recognize the common folk-tale motif: A kind-hearted human helps a small bird and is richly rewarded; then a wicked rival tries to imitate the act and is dealt a harsher justice. Here it's an old woman who tends a wounded sparrow (""The old woman ignored her daughter-in-law's thoughtless [ridicule] and the jests of the rest of the family""), then sets it free (""It faltered as it left [her] hand""), and is happy to be remembered when the sparrow returns with the gift of a gourd seed. (""Lovingly she caressed its dear head."") The seed yields so many huge gourds that the old woman feeds the entire village (""every family . . . shared the bounty of the gourd""), and when she dries a few gourds for containers she finds them filled with an unending supply of white rice. (""Surely my little sparrow friend must be responsible for this wondrous good fortune."") Then an envious neighbor stones some sparrows so that she can fix them up and be similarly rewarded; but the seeds they give her yield bitter gourds that make everyone sick, and instead of rice the dried ones are filled with buzzing, furious flies. It's easy to understand the durability of this old moral tale and its many forms. However, Newton's stiff, conventional telling and stiff, predictable, Japanese-derived pictures make a pallid, pious work of the elemental satisfactions.

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 1982
Publisher: Atheneum