The Magic Purse

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
On his way to the Iseh shrine, a young farmer meets a ghostly maiden who begs him to take a message to her parents in the Red Swamp. Though others attempt to dissuade him from the dangerous journey, he risks the snakes and crocodiles of the swamp because he has a ``kind and gentle heart'' and wants to help the young woman. Although he never sees her again, the red purse she has given him mysteriously fills with money overnight, and he becomes prosperous beyond measure. His friends rejoice at his good fortune, telling him, ``Only a man with a kind heart would have delivered the letter. . . . And only a man of courage would have ventured alone into the Red Swamp. Surely you deserve all the riches that have come your way.'' For the most part, Uchida ( Journey Home ; A Jar of Dreams ) avoids the inherent preachiness of this old Japanese tale, and her elegant retelling is well paced and dotted with lyrical imagery. In a departure from the contemporary flavor of her other books for children ( Who Said Red? ; Rain Talk ), Narahashi clearly evokes Japanese scroll paintings through her boldly outlined, seemingly spontaneous watercolors. Her luminous art sets the mood perfectly for Uchida's magical tale. Ages 6-9. (Sept.)
Elizabeth Bush
A poor, young Japanese farmer interrupts his pilgrimage to the temple to carry a letter from a beautiful wraithlike maiden, held captive by the Black Swamp lord, to her parents in the treacherous Red Swamp. His courage and kindness are rewarded with an ever-filled purse and a tray of gold pieces. Forever after, the now-prosperous farmer brings an offering of rice cakes and wine to the Black Swamp; in return, he receives a flower and hears the maiden's haunting plea, "Don't forget me." Although the story has classic folktale trappings, Uchida's retelling lacks tension. The task is accomplished with facility and little dread, and the point of the farmer's journey, the temple visit, is thinly developed. However, the imagery of the tale provides a wonderful springboard for Narahashi's watercolors. Boldly brushed black strokes of swamp trees and mountains shimmer like wet ink. The diaphanous rendering of the maiden and the Swamps calls into question the reality of the farmer's visions, but then the solidity of the magic purse itself confirms his experience. This might be used as a supplement to units on Japan, but, unfortunately, notes on sources of the tale and its adaptation are not given.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689505591
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
  • Publication date: 9/1/1993
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 11.27 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.40 (d)

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