Tanuki's Gift: A Japanese Tale

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Roth's (Mama Provi and the Pot of Rice) collages lend snowy radiance to this story of kindness rewarded. A tanuki ("a raccoon-dog") looks something like a badger; in Japanese stories, they often play tricks on humans. In Myers's (Basho and the Fox) version of this traditional tale, a priest gives a tanuki shelter one winter night despite the creature's shady reputation. Paper shapes scribbled with energetic ink and crayon lines represent the priest's elegant robes, radiant smile and tiny hut; ink, golden and lavender lines detail his few possessions. The interior scenes are firelit; outdoors, the snow makes everything brilliant. The two friends grow closer, and the tanuki tells the priest that he wants to give him something. The priest asks for a few gold pieces "for prayers to be said for me so I might enter Paradise after my death." Roth makes this unfamiliar thought friendly; he imagines the smiling priest carried skyward under a big paper umbrella, while tiny villagers below wave farewell. The tanuki, knowing dishonesty will offend the priest, sets off to mine and smelt the gold himself; it takes months. The priest mourns his friend; his expression turns to a frown. "Oh, little one," he says remorsefully, when the tanuki returns, "I was wrong to ask for the gold!... I have again the gift of your friendship-which is what I wanted all along." The kindly priest enchants; the tanuki, with his sincere determination and long nose sporting such inquisitive whiskers, will win readers' hearts. Ages 5-8. (Apr.)
Children's Literature
An elderly priest who spent all his time praying to Budda heard a cry for help one cold winter night. Outside his door he found a tanuki (a raccoon—dog) and the priest let the little creature come in to warm himself by the fire. Although most people feared the tanuki and considered it capable of magic and trickery, the priest treated the animal kindly as for ten winters it came to his home. Wishing somehow to repay the priest the tanuki begged the old man to tell him what gift he might want. Finally the priest admitted that he would like to have three riyo of gold that he could use to pay for prayers to be said for his entrance to Paradise. After the tanuki went to extreme lengths to obtain the gold, the priest realized that it was not gold he wanted, but friendship. Although the message is confusing, this is an interesting tale brilliantly illustrated. 2003, Marshall Cavendish,
— Carolyn Mott Ford
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 3-An old Buddhist priest lives a solitary life until a tanuki, or raccoon dog, comes to ask for shelter during a storm. For 10 years these nightly visits continue. Finally the tanuki insists on repaying the kindness, so the priest asks for some gold to pay for prayers to be said for him so he can enter Paradise after his death. When the small creature does not return for several seasons, the man becomes worried. He realizes that the tanuki's greatest gift was that of his friendship, and is overjoyed when the animal returns. This simple tale is illustrated with ink, watercolor, and cut paper in a somewhat abstract Japanese style. Although both the story and the art are understated, the book has a strong and lasting message.-Nancy A. Gifford, Schenectady County Public Library, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An extensive author's note details the origins of this somewhat bland story of a priest who takes in a creature (Tanuki) suffering from the cold. After returning each evening for ten winters, Tanuki begs the priest to request something from him so he can repay the priest for his kindnesses. After some reluctance, the priest requests three riyo of gold-gold that would allow him to hire more prayers to be said to insure his entrance into Paradise. The next evening and many more after, Tanuki does not come back. All winter and summer and into the following winter, there is no sign of Tanuki. The priest is concerned. Finally one winter's night, Tanuki returns with the three coins he has worked to obtain during his absence. The priest cries tears of joy for Tanuki's successful return. He realizes that their friendship is the most valuable gift. Roth's collage illustrations, created with painted papers, glow in their simplicity and sunny gold palette. Shapes are simple and blockish with pen and ink details. Each illustration adds to the enjoyment of Myers's (Basho and the Fox, 2000, etc.) tale that by itself lacks the sparkle needed to make this a first purchase. However, in this case the illustrations do redeem the text and will make this a satisfying tale for most collections in need of additional selections in the genre. (Picture book/folktale. 5-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780761451013
  • Publisher: Cavendish Square Publishing
  • Publication date: 4/20/2003
  • Pages: 300
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.66 (w) x 11.32 (h) x 0.43 (d)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2003

    A note from the author

    Years ago when I was teaching, I found a copy of this folktale in the trash after teaching a unit on storytelling. I fell in love with the story and only found its actual source after a great deal of research. Before that, though, it had 'bothered' me to the point where I wanted to re-tell it and did so. The story is a simple one about goodness and the true meaning of friendship--which has a lot to do with learning that a fitting gift is one your friend wants, not one you want for him. Tanukis are small, furry Japanese mammals, something like raccoons or badgers, known for their magical abilities. But in this case the only magic involved is the power of sympathy, compassion, and love. (I shouldn't say 'the ONLY magic,' actually, since I think Robert Roth's illustrations are utterly enchanting!). And I tried to put some deeper levels in the story too, for those adults who--like me--often find much that's profound in good writing for children. I hope you like it! Sincerely, Tim Myers

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