I Am Tama, Lucky Cat: A Japanese Legend

Wendy Henrichs, illus. by Yoshiko Jaeggi. Peachtree, $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-56145-589-8
Ceramic cats with one upraised paw, said to bring good luck and prosperity, are fixtures in Japanese storefronts. In her debut, Henrichs retells the traditional story of the cat's origin, in which a lordly stray befriends a monk in a temple, the monk shares his meager provisions with the cat, and the cat's beckoning gesture saves the life of a samurai warrior whose grateful reward relieves the temple's poverty. Henrichs allows the cat to narrate, a device that can feel clunky ("Without warning, I ran out of the temple and into the mighty storm, startling my master"), but does better when explaining unfamiliar elements ("In Japan, it is believed that when a cat washes its face, a guest will arrive"). Jaeggi (Monsoon Afternoon) lavishes care on the watercolor illustrations, in which everyday features of Japanese life—altar statuary, ragged-edged paper umbrellas, and bamboo fencing—add historical and architectural interest. She paints them in subdued, wintry whites and blues, with lively pink cherry blossoms signaling spring as the story moves toward its happy ending. Ages 5–9. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/04/2011
Release date: 08/01/2011
Genre: Children's
Paperback - 32 pages - 978-1-56145-916-2
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