The Boy in the Garden

Allen Say, Illustrator
Allen Say, Houghton Mifflin, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-547-21410-8
Ebook - 32 pages - 978-0-547-76048-3
Open Ebook - 32 pages - 978-0-547-50487-2
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Caldecott Medalist Say (Grandfather's Journey), his work always painstaking and poignant, ventures tentatively into the realm of fantasy. He paints a boy named Jiro, set free to wander in the vast Japanese garden of his father's wealthy friend Mr. Ozu. In the garden's teahouse, Jiro meets a beautiful woman who promises to weave something for him, just like the crane wife in the mournful Japanese fairy tale his mother has read him. In the story, a woodcutter's marriage is ruined by his curiosity and greed. The thread of Jiro's story, though, veers eerily back and forth between the real and surreal ("My, you have a wonderful imagination," the woman tells Jiro), and toys seductively with Jiro's puzzlement as he enters deeper into his own fantasy ("I'm the woodcutter," he thinks, setting off into a snowy dream morning. "I'll sell firewood and buy things to eat"). Just as sensitively, Say portrays Jiro's uncertainty in the face of his father and Mr. Ozu's hearty bluster. Pale colors and expanses of empty space contribute to the feeling of haunted charm. Did Jiro dream? Possibly— or possibly not. Ages 5–7. (Oct.)
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