Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this imaginative, tightly woven tale starring Basho (the 17th-century Japanese poet), Myers cleverly places the renowned poet's own words at its heart. When Basho discovers a kimono-clad fox feasting on the fruit of his favorite cherry tree, he attempts to chase away the animal, who holds his ground. The seemingly sly fox strikes a deal with Basho: he and his fellow foxes will allow the poet to have the tree's entire yield only if he can write "one good haiku" (they grant him three chances). The poet's first two attempts don't cut it (ironically, the second is Basho's most celebrated haiku: "An old pond. A frog jumps in. The sound of water"). The third, written impulsively as the deadline draws near, satisfies the vain creature because the poem mentions a fox. Delivered with a light touch, in a lyrical narrative befitting its poetic hero, Myers's cunning caper offers a sage lesson: "From that day forward, Basho understood that a poem should be written for its own sake." Han's (Kongi and Potgi) elegant, expressive watercolors capture the changing seasons and the setting's natural beauty as gracefully as classic Japanese silkscreen. Ages 5-8. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
In this clever tale, Basho, one of Japan's greatest poets, lives by himself and writes beautiful haiku poems about his natural surroundings. While out on a walk one day, he encounters a hungry fox eating cherries from a tree near his hut. After a discussion about the ownership of the cherries and the superior poetic abilities of foxes, the fox trots off into the woods with a promise to settle the matter in the spring. When the warm season arrives, the fox emerges and agrees to let the poet have all of the cherries in the tree if he can write one good haiku. Thinking it an easy task, Basho eagerly accepts the challenge and sets off to write a wonderful poem. When the pair meets under the May Moon one month later, the fox rebuffs the poet's first effort. Determined to beat the fox, he writes a second poem about a frog, which is again rejected by the fox. Discouraged by these events, Basho spends another month trying to create his best haiku. Before he knows it, the full moon arrives again and he rushes to meet his foe under the tree, where he nervously blurts out a new poem about a fox under the summer moonlight. Pleased with the final haiku, the fox congratulates him and runs back to his den to share the poem with his family. Confused by the quick acceptance of his poem, Basho eventually realizes the importance of writing poetry for its own sake and decides to share the cherries with the foxes anyway. Delicate watercolor paintings perfectly accent the flowing text in this appealing picture book. Young readers will enjoy the delightful humor in this trickster tale. 2000, Marshall Cavendish, $15.95. Ages 5 to 9. Reviewer: Debra Briatico
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-Living as a hermit, the Japanese poet Basho often goes to the banks of a river where he sits under a wild cherry tree enjoying its sweet late-summer cherries. One day, he finds a fox eating the delicious fruit, and when he tries to chase it away, it quickly identifies Basho and boasts of the poetic abilities of foxes. A bargain is made: if Basho can write a fine haiku, all of the cherries are his. The poet works all winter, but the fox has scant praise for the first two poems, one of which is Basho's most-famous haiku. With his confidence shaken, he approaches the third meeting without a suitable offering. He quickly composes a haiku to avoid embarrassment, and to his surprise, the animal is pleased. Why? Because it mentions the fox! This lively tale has good pacing, convincing characters, and a clever ending. Done in watercolor, the double-page illustrations give viewers a sense of both the outdoor world and the interior of Basho's small house. However, when separate paintings occur on facing pages, they sometimes seem at odds with one another, and though the dark palette suits the pace and subject of the book, it occasionally results in a certain murkiness. The author is careful to say that this is his own tale about Basho; a wise librarian might also want to use Dawnine Spivak's Grass Sandals: The Travels of Basho (Atheneum, 1997) to introduce the poet to this audience.-Barbara Scotto, Michael Driscoll School, Brookline, MA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Most people are introduced to haiku sometime in elementary school when they awkwardly attempt seventeen syllable nature poems. In Japan, however, haiku is revered as a true art form, a powerful, poetic example of the axiom "less is more." One of the great haiku masters, Basho, who lived and wrote in seventeenth century Japan, is the inspiration for this charming fable by Myers.
Basho lives the simple life of a hermit poet, whose tranquility is disturbed when he meets a fox stealing fruit from a nearby cherry tree. The fox insists that the cherries belong to foxes more than humans, since it is the foxes that are the better poets. Their exchange results in a challenge, in which Basho is given three chances to write one good haiku. If he can do so, the fox agrees that all the cherries will be his to keep.
Basho works diligently, but his first two attempts are met with scorn. With wounded pride and determination, he tries again to write a perfect poem. When he meets the fox for the third time, he is at a loss for words. At the last minute, a haiku "comes into his head, as easily as flowing water." It is this poem that convinces the fox of Basho's greatness, and insures that the cherries will belong to the poet alone.
Myers' clever commentary on the nature of ego and art is a perfect introduction to haiku for all ages. Han's illustrations are lovely watercolors that fill each page with a delicate balance of nature and traditional Japanese border patterns. She offers unusual perspectives, giving the reader the stunning beauty of a cherry tree in full bloom and the whimsical group of foxes wearing kimonos. Basho and the Fox is a delight.
Myers obscures his point in this original tale, which features the famous poet and a fox who challenges him to write a poem that " �needn't be greatonly good.' " When Basho tries to drive a fox away from a prize cherry tree, the animalstanding on two legs and clad in a gorgeously patterned robeissues its dare, haughtily declaring that his kind are far superior to humans as poets. The fox pooh-poohs Basho's first two carefully crafted efforts, then professes awed delight at his desperately extemporaneous third"Summer moon over / mountains is white as the tip / of a fox's tail." Why does this one satisfy? Because Basho has put a fox in it. Myers then closes with several conclusions, which are so subtle as to risk being missed by the reader. Han's precisely drafted watercolors (Kongi and Potgi, 1994) place her figures in a leafy, semi-wild landscape bursting with inspiration for a nature poet. The muddled message keeps this from succeeding completely as a story, but, like Matthew Gollub's Cool Melons, Turn to Frogs! The Life and Poems of Issa (1998), it could introduce a poet who should be known to every poetry reader. (Picture book. 7-9)