cover image The Crane Wife

The Crane Wife

Odds Bodkin. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-201407-0

Bodkin (The Banshee Train) and Spirin (The Sea King's Daughter) turn to medieval Japan for this vivid retelling of a Japanese folktale. Osamu, a lonely sail maker, nurses an injured crane back to health. Not long afterward, a beautiful and mysterious woman arrives at his home and Osamu takes her in as well. As their love blossoms, she offers to weave Osamu a magic sail to sell at market, though she stipulates that he must not watch her work. Adults will anticipate the tragic outcome of this well-known tale. Bodkin's finely tuned version abounds with drama and emotion in its rich presentation of morals, and near-perfect pacing sets the stage for the pathos of the ending. Spirin's watercolor-and-gouache compositions, filled with Japanese motifs and period details, cast an otherworldly mood. Expanses of sky and clouds provide a sense of airiness, appropriate for a bird-inspired tale. Several gorgeous scenes showing trees in autumn and snowy winter and people draped in the elegant costumes of historical Japan are particularly memorable. Ages 5-up. (Oct.)