The Sea Maidens of Japan

Lili Bell, Author, Erin McGonigle Brammer, Illustrator
Lili Bell, Author, Erin McGonigle Brammer, Illustrator Ideals Publishing Company $14.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-57102-095-6
Reviewed on: 10/02/1996
Release date: 10/01/1996
Hardcover - 32 pages - 978-0-8249-5426-0
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A vanishing traditional livelihood--ocean-diving sans oxygen tanks--could have been a sufficiently interesting topic on its own. But Bell and Brammer, each making a picture book debut, add further depths by exploring coming-of-age issues. Kiyomi's mother is an ama, a Japanese woman who dives deep into the ocean to harvest shellfish and seaweed. Kiyomi must choose either to overcome her fear of diving to become an ama, or to work in the city's canning factories like her more modern sisters. While the story, which covers several years, is at first diffuse, it conjoins elegantly with a subplot in which Kiyomi rescues a disoriented baby sea turtle who, like her, is tempted away from the sea by the bright lights of the paper lanterns in the village. Brammer's muted sunsets and seascapes, rendered in hazy, grainy oil wash and colored pencil, are equal players with the plot; it is impossible to think of the ocean as mere background in her images of the sea turtles dragging themselves out of the water to lay eggs, and of the white-clad ama, their faces covered with protective white cream, cooking dinner on the beach. Both author and illustrator make palpable how closely this arduous way of life links the ""sea maidens"" with their element. Ages 5-9. (Apr.)
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