Bamboo Hats and a Rice Cake: A Tale Adapted from Japanese Folklore

Bamboo Hats and a Rice Cake: A Tale Adapted from Japanese Folklore

by Ann Tompert, Demi

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Like San Souci and Johnson (see above review of The Snow Wife ), Tompert and Demi retell a Japanese folktale. There, however, the similarities end. The story, about a childless couple so poor they can't afford a rice cake (symbol of good luck) for the New Year, is simpler and its lessons more pronounced. Although there's a supernatural element at work, Tompert emphasizes aspects of daily life in Old Japan: religious practices, the hustle-bustle of the marketplace, arduous treks through the snow. The presentation is also more consciously cross-cultural. The text, for example, incorporates Japanese characters; a vertically printed key translating the characters used on each page appears in the margin. Demi, meanwhile, adapts her trademark style to recall Asian art. Her pen-and-ink drawings and paintings float across backgrounds of handmade papers; flattened perspectives and stylized compositions nod at scroll paintings. An author's note elaborates on specific themes (e.g., the importance of rice; a particular Buddhist deity); an illustrator's note explains that the Buddhist law of ten chi jin (placement of Heaven, Earth and Man) has been followed in this book. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 2-5-In a story set in long-ago Japan, an old couple has no money for rice cakes and so can not start the New Year auspiciously. En route to the village to sell his wife's wedding kimono, the man discovers six statues of the deity Jizo by the roadside, and vows to bring them an offering on his return. Continuing on, he exchanges the garment for a basketful of fans, the fans for a golden bell, and the bell for five bamboo hats-but no rice cakes. Passing the statues on his way home, he places a hat on each one's head. As there are only five hats, he includes his own. In the middle of the night, the couple are awakened to find an enormous rice cake, and see the statues departing. A peculiarity of the text is the insertion of Sino-Japanese characters for certain key words. They are also reproduced in the margins with English translations. While this rebus technique makes for a mildly interesting guessing game, it impedes the flow of the story. In an end note, Tompert identifies Jizo as the deity of children, without mentioning his capacity as guardian of souls. Demi's ink, watercolor, and collage illustrations are done in her usual minuscule manner, with details drawn from Harunobu and much earlier Japanese print masters. Also, the six Jizo carry different attributes in their hands, indicating their different aspects and Buddhist ranks, rather than the uniformity depicted here. The artist's note, while explaining an underlying principle of Far Eastern painting, neither adds to the book nor rings true for its artwork.-John Philbrook, San Francisco Public Library

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st ed
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

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