Issa's elegant haiku and Karas's poignant illustrations guide readers through the seasons, symbolized by the changing branches of a cherry blossom tree. The translations of 18 works from several of the 18th-century Japanese poet's volumes come together in this collection like delicate beads, tiny moments common to us all. Meanwhile the illustrations follow the lives of a specific fictional family. Although death is never mentioned in the text, the beginning of the book shows an elderly man sitting peacefully on a chair as a father helps his son untangle a kite from the tree ("Just being alive!/ —miraculous to be in/ cherry blossom shadows!"). By winter, that chair is empty and, a few pages later, the family assembles in the cemetery ("Here/ I'm here—/ the snow falling"). In a hopeful spread, a child sits in the once-empty chair beneath flowering branches ("As simple as that—/ spring has finally arrived/ with a pale blue sky"). Small human figures appear against richly textured landscapes, as if underscoring the powerful cycle of nature. The view inside a house through a screened window, golden leaves streaming across the lawn like moonlight, and stars ringed in a midnight blue sky à la Van Gogh—"whispering to each other"—all act as touching backdrops for universal events. Combining various paper textures with both paint and pencil drawings, Karas creates a memorable feast of images that portray both the joy and sorrow of existence. Ages 4-8. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Elegant illustrations created with traditional Japanese materialsrice paper, wood plank, pencil, and paintgrace carefully selected haiku, rendering quiet movement through the seasons and through life's transitions. Spring begins with the melting of snow, the flying of kites, and the blooming of cherry blossoms. How miraculousjust being alive. The softly colored pictures introduce a typical family from anywherea dad, a mom, a sister, a brother, and a grandfather. Summer brings beautiful dawn mornings, cicada's songs on gentle breezes, and summer nights with stars whispering to each other. Leaves fall from trees and chrysanthemums bloom in autumn. A picture of grandpa's empty chair appears at the end of this season and a winter scene shows the brother and sister looking out the window of a hospital. The family visits a cemetery as snow is falling. Spring arrives again and the small sister sits in grandfather's chair under the cherry blossoms. A lovely tribute to the cycles of seasons and of life.
Children's Literature - Phyllis Kennemer
This poignant meditation about death combines 18th-century haiku with Karas's illustrations made with rice paper, wood planks, and pencils, and done in a muted palette. The book is divided by season, with each section announced by a painting of a cherry branch. Karas has imagined a family, and it is their poignant tale that commands readers' attention. The family members share those moments when time appears to stand still: "The spring day/lingers/in the pools" and, during a summer night, "even the stars/are whispering to each other." Children will be able to make inferences through the many symbols within the book: the grandfather is offered a chair at the beginning; in autumn, he is seen with a blanket over his lap; and just before the close of autumn, an empty chair is followed by a lifeless sprig of cherry tree weighted by snow. A winter scene shows the small family in a cemetery. The story comes full circle with the last page showing the child outside, with the same cherry branch in full bloom. Teresa PfeiferCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.