An exuberant young girl finds her match in taiko drumming.
A whirlwind of energy, Natsumi often hears the words, “Not so fast” or “hard” or “loud” from her family. When she worries her boisterous actions always lead to mistakes, her grandfather finds the perfect outlet: taiko. On stage, Natsumi pounds the large, barrel-shaped drums—their thundering boom an extension of her enthusiastic spirit. Like Kevin Henkes with his water pistol–toting Lilly, Lendroth offers a charming character who defies traditional gender associations. However, her choice to place this modern story in a “village” is interesting. Cultural festivals such as the one she describes are experienced by Japanese-Americans today, and the United States has a thriving taiko or kumidaiko scene, yet Americans do not typically refer to their small towns or rural locations as villages. Acknowledgement that the setting is in Japan in the tale’s initial setup would have been helpful, as it establishes an entirely different lens for readers. Digital art, made to look like marker drawings, are colored in a mostly pastel palette. Unfortunately, while the artist is capable of including more interest and detail in her illustrations, as in her Five Green and Speckled Frogs (2003), she fails to give these characters and setting the specificity she gave generic animals.
Lendroth brings the right ingredients, offering a tale that challenges gender stereotypes and showcases an intergenerational bond, but overall, it’s a disappointing execution to a promising start. (Picture book. 3-7)