Review Blog

Sep 11 2015

Two tengu tales from Japan: retold by Duncan Ball

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Ill. by David Allan. Christmas Press Picture Books, 2015. ISBN 9780992283865
(All ages) Highly recommended. Christmas Press continues their celebration of stories from around the world. This impressive, beautifully illustrated picture book is a retelling of two Japanese folk tales. Duncan Ball author of the Selby the talking dog and Emily Eyefinger series introduces the tengu, magical forest goblins who grant wishes to people who need a miracle. They are tricksters and there is always a sting in the tail. There's always a consequence, often unexpected. Good and evil, poor and rich are themes that resonate here.
Kenji's magic sandals is the tale of a sick mother and her son who will do anything to buy medicine for her. She lies helpless by the fire, as Kenji leaves on a cold winter's day to beg for aid from his mean uncle Gonzo. Even with the promise of money from the summer crops, Gonzo refuses to help. A long-nosed, red-faced tengu magically appears and gifts Kenji with a magic pair of geta - wooden sandals. When the wearer falls over, a gold coin magically appears; they deliver a magic coin. The tengu warns that this will cause the person to shrink in size. This is a cautionary tale; Kenji does the right thing, his mother receives her medicine, but when Gonzo hears about the sandals, he is punished for his greediness.
Hichoiki is a sneaky, lazy, greedy villager whose bad habits cause trouble in The invisible cloak. On a journey through the mountains, he tricks a tengu into giving him a straw cloak of invisibility. He walks through the village stealing food and sake, scaring the townsfolk who think he's a ghost. When the innkeeper's daughter throws the dirty cloak into the fire, Hichoiki covers his bare body with the magic ashes and runs through town.
David Allan's art nouveau styled scenes, inspired by Japanese paintings and linocuts, are wonderful, bringing the stories to life. They evocatively set the scenes, showcasing the traditional ways of life, the mountains and countryside. An engaging read for families and classes, one to share with young and old.
Rhyllis Bignell

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