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.
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I bought this book yesterday for my two daughters, both toddlers, and I'm absolutely in love with it. It is a story about the great haiku poet Basho and his fictional encounters with a kitsune (fox.) Basho lives as a hermit deep in the woods, and in the late summer, he enjoys eating the sweet cherries from a nearby cherry tree. When he stumbles upon a kitsune eating cherries in the same tree, he asks the kitsune to leave. The kitsune promises that he'll stop eating the cherries if Basho can write a good haiku. What follows is both interesting and hilarious. Han's lovely illustrations compliment the storytelling beautifully, as well. I loved the characterization of the kitsune in this story. It comes across as quite a haughty creature in the beginning, telling Basho that the kitsune are far better poets than humans could ever be. But in the end, when Basho finally comes up with a poem that the kitsune enjoys, the reader finds out just how hilariously self- absorbed the kitsune can be. There are small references to the kitsune's family, which I appreciated, since kitsune in Japanese folklore are always concerned, first and foremost, with their families. Another thing I love about this book is that there isn't too much text on each page. As a mother of toddlers, I often find it difficult to keep their interest when a book has too many words on a page; they like to keep the pages turning quickly. I think this will be a wonderful introduction to haiku for them, as well as an interesting glimpse into the mysterious world of the kitsune. Next on my list to buy is Myers' _Tanuki's Gift_.
What a wonderful book! The pictures are charming-quite 16th century Japan. The writing is clever. The students I have read the book to have enjoyed it-from Kindergarten to Fourth grade. And I must honestly say that SOMEONE in each class has caught the humor of the punchline after the climax. Kudos to both author and artist.
During the three years my family and I lived in Japan, I fell in love with Japanese folktales, some of the most wonderful in the world and of great use to me in my professional storytelling. Even before that, though, my interest in haiku (I've published a number of them) led me to Matsuo Basho, one of Japan's most revered writers and the person who more or less created the haiku as we know it today. So it was only natural for me to put the two together. But my book isn't an analysis--it's a straightforward tale about a poetry contest between a fox and a human, a man quite capable of egotism but also of honesty about himself. The real Basho seems to have been a very open-minded and good-hearted man, given at times to self-criticism but also, naturally enough, ambitious about his writing. I like to think that he'd approve of this story, and not only because it depicts the ups and downs of the creative process--but also because he loved humor. You'll forgive me, I hope, for giving my own book the Five Star rating--I had to put something in that blank! And I think it balances things out, since one reviewer claimed the book is obscured by multiple conclusions--when in fact there's only a single concluding sentence after the climax, and it's quite clear. But then, writers and critics--like foxes and poets--don't always see eye to eye, even if we do share the summer cherries. Happy reading! Tim Myers