Grass Sandals: The Travels of Basho

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The story of a modest man and the art he created

Basho, perhaps the greatest of Japanese haiku poets, was a man of ultimate simplicity. He loved his homeland and spent much of his later life walking its length and breadth carrying with him the simplest of belongings. It was during these travels that Basho was often inspired to write his haiku. In this stunning book Dawnine Spivak describes some of Basho's many experiences as he traveled throughout Japan and, on each spread, ...

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Overview

The story of a modest man and the art he created

Basho, perhaps the greatest of Japanese haiku poets, was a man of ultimate simplicity. He loved his homeland and spent much of his later life walking its length and breadth carrying with him the simplest of belongings. It was during these travels that Basho was often inspired to write his haiku. In this stunning book Dawnine Spivak describes some of Basho's many experiences as he traveled throughout Japan and, on each spread, offers a haiku by Basho that may have been inspired by that experience. On each spread, as well, appears the Japanese character for a word that arises from both the haiku and the story. This is a book that can be used in a number of ways: as a story of an unusual man; as a book about the inspiration of art; and as a book about the beauty of language and the world around us.

A simple retelling of the travels of seventeenth-century Japanese poet, Basho, across his island homeland. Includes examples of the haiku verses he composed.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
Worlds away from the typical, adventure-filled road trip, this travelogue traces the virtually eventless wanderings of Basho, Japan's beloved 17th-century haiku master. The story seems informed by a traditional Japanese aesthetic ideal, utterly (perhaps almost unnervingly) simple and attentively sensory. The account of Basho's travels links a crisply imagistic series of his poems and evokes a joyfully austere life, lived in the present moment and in close relation to the natural world. But first-time author Spivak's plain, descriptive narrative seems pedestrian and detached compared to the haiku, as when she tells the reader that "he heard a frog leap into a pond" to introduce a famous haiku that rings with the sound itself: "old and quiet pond/ suddenly a frog plops in-/ a deep water sound." Demi's customary Asian scenes take the form of porcelain-clear, colored inks brushed on pale fiber-striated paper. A single kanji (such as for "rain," "moon" or "friend") accompanies each spread, and a map shows where Basho traveled. The book may serve the function of introducing Basho's haiku to new readers, but such poems, solid and perfect as worn river rocks, gain little from the trappings of text and art.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Worlds away from the typical, adventure-filled road trip, this travelogue traces the virtually eventless wanderings of Basho, Japan's beloved 17th-century haiku master. The story seems informed by a traditional Japanese aesthetic ideal, utterly perhaps almost unnervingly simple and attentively sensory. The account of Basho's travels links a crisply imagistic series of his poems and evokes a joyfully austere life, lived in the present moment and in close relation to the natural world. But first-time author Spivak's plain, descriptive narrative seems pedestrian and detached compared to the haiku, as when she tells the reader that "he heard a frog leap into a pond" to introduce a famous haiku that rings with the sound itself: "old and quiet pond/ suddenly a frog plops in/ a deep water sound." Demi's customary Asian scenes take the form of porcelain-clear, colored inks brushed on pale fiber-striated paper. A single kanji such as for "rain," "moon" or "friend" accompanies each spread, and a map shows where Basho traveled. The book may serve the function of introducing Basho's haiku to new readers, but such poems, solid and perfect as worn river rocks, gain little from the trappings of text and art. Ages 6-9. Apr.
School Library Journal
Gr 1-6Basho, the most revered of Japanese haiku poets, walked through many parts of the country recording his travels in diaries of prose and poetry. This picture book offers Western children a glimpse of the 17th-century poet's classic work. Each double-page spread describes, in art and text, a notable event from one of his trips, and includes one relevant haiku and one kanji, or ideograph borrowed from written Chinese. Demi's richly colored paintings, executed with Asian brushes on textured rice paper, are freer than those found in much of her previous work, with the figures larger and more expressive. Readers familiar with Basho and his haiku will find a romanticized and tidied-up portrait of the stark, austere poet who was more interested in inanimate objects than the animals that surround him in Demi's pictures. That said, the author and artist accurately convey the sensibility of a man who was famous for seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary, for maintaining his individuality while prizing community. They have created an inviting introduction to his life and language. The widespread interest in haiku and in Japanese culture make Basho's story a valuable addition to any collection.Margaret A. Chang, North Adams State College, MA
Kirkus Reviews
Spivak compresses the travels of a 17th-century Japanese poet into one journey meant to convey the essence of his life.

After an over-abundance of front matter—obtrusive but endearing dedication, two half-title pages, title page, prefatory notes on haiku and Japanese characters (kanji), and an odd spread devoted to old men in China who nest in trees, the story of Basho begins. He leaves his home with few belongings, writing haiku to describe his steady delight in his experiences. The haiku are displayed on the pages; nowhere in the book is it expressly stated that these are Basho's. One verse is credited to Issa, a poet who lived a century after Basho; the CIP states that examples of Basho's work appear but no information backs that assumption; no translator is listed. A map of places Basho visited and a list of what he saw, with place names, is followed by a biographical note. Demi does her best to create a feeling for historical Japan, but the book is dissected into so many notes and extraneous components that the simplicity of Basho's life—and haiku in general—will elude readers.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689807763
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 4/28/1997
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 6 - 9 Years
  • Lexile: 910L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Dawnine Spivak is living and writing in Vermont. She lives in rented farmhouses where old maples line the dirt road, near violet mountains where cold and poverty protect the beauty of the land. She has taught the Japanese novel and poetry at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Presently Dawnine teaches literature at Sterling College and was a recent member of the Vermont Anti-Hunger Corps.

Demi is the award-winning creator of numerous books for children, including The Empty Pot; Buddha; The Dalai Lama; The Legend of Saint Nicholas; Gandhi, which was named a New York Times Best Illustrated Book and received an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award; and Muhammad, which was named a Kirkus Reviews Editors’ Choice selection, a Booklist Editors’ Choice selection, one of the Booklist Top Ten Religion Books for Youth, and a Book Links “Lasting Connections” selection, and was cited in a Publishers Weekly starred review as a “timely, exceptionally handsome biography [that] serves as an excellent introduction to Islam.” Demi lives in Carnation, Washington.

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