Lady Kaguya's Secret: A Japanese Tale

Jirina Marton, Author, Jirina Marton, Illustrator
Jirina Marton, Author, Jirina Marton, Illustrator Annick Press $19.95 (48p) ISBN 978-1-55037-441-4
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Marton's (Amelia's Celebration) variable oil pastels illustrate this quiet, somewhat solemn Japanese folktale, which tells of a lovely young woman discovered as an infant within the trunk of a bamboo tree by a bamboo cutter and raised by him and his wife. Paintings of different sizes, including vertical panels and full-page pictures, present an uneven assemblage of images, ranging from sharply focused portraits to grainy, murky scenes. The most memorable aspect of the art is Marton's deft manipulation of shadow and light, with which she effectively conveys the ethereal nature of the title character. When word of the Lady Kaguya's beauty spreads throughout the land, noblemen, and eventually even the Emperor, arrive to court her. But though this ruler captures her heart, the brooding heroine discloses to her parents that she is a ""lady of the moon"" and cannot marry anyone on earth. The often stilted narrative contains a curious omission that will not be lost on young readers: though Lady Kaguya sends five suitors on quests to determine which is the most courageous, the exploits of only three are described (no mention is made of the last two). Students of Japanese literature or culture are the most likely audience for this steeply priced, paper-over-board volume. Ages 5-up. (Nov.)
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