Sky Sweeper

Phillis Gershator, Author, Holly Meade, Illustrator , illus. by Holly Meade. FSG/Kroupa $16 (40p) ISBN 978-0-374-37007-7

A s Gershator's (Rata-Pata-Scata-Fata ) resonant, lyrical tale opens, young Takeboki takes a job as a Flower Keeper for the temple monks. Though his task is to sweep up the fallen plum and cherry blossoms in their garden in spring, the conscientious, content worker continues sweeping through the other seasons—and many of them. Though his family urges him to find a better job, Takeboki responds that he is happy sweeping and takes comfort in the fact that “he knew what he knew: The monks need a temple, the temple needs a garden, and the garden needs a Flower Keeper.” When he grows too old and sick to work, the monks initially don't notice, but the fall leaves, winter snow and fallen spring blossoms accumulate in his absence. Hastening to the Flower Keeper's home, they find his lifeless body and regret never thanking him. But seeing a smile on his face, they recall the “simple truth” of the Buddha: “A single flower says more than words.” The sweeper's contentment continues in his new world, “a radiant land without end,” where with his silver broom he sweeps “clouds into billowing mountains and shifting, drifting wisps of white” and with his rake of gold he rakes “clouds through the day's last rays—how fiery the setting sun!” Created from Japanese papers, Meade's (Hush! ) richly textured, luminous collage illustrations are as simple and graceful as Gershator's narrative. Like Takeboki's, theirs is a job well done. Ages 5-up. (Apr.)