cover image Screen of Frogs: An Old Tale

Screen of Frogs: An Old Tale

Sheila Hamanaka. Orchard Books (NY), $16.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-531-05464-2

This multifaceted Japanese tale encompasses elements of ecology, industriousness and mystery. Koji, a wealthy boy, decides early on that a life of labor is not for him. As an equally slothful man, he whittles his fortune down to a house, a mountain and a lake, all of which he plans to sell at first opportunity. But as Koji naps, a magical frog enters his dreams and convinces him to preserve the mountain and lake for the animals. The hero's change of heart in turn encourages an eerily beautiful thank you from a host of grateful amphibians. Hamanaka's fluid retelling guides readers smoothly through the detailed proceedings, providing an air of anticipation and occasional humor. The plot device--animals pleading a case for conservation to a sleeping man--is similar to Lynne Cherry's The Great Kapok Tree , and may spark a comparison of the two titles. Collage and acrylic illustrations, rendered on handmade paper, are liberally adorned with Asian motifs, while the figures' stark black outlines suggest the strokes of Japanese lettering. An entertaining and thought-provoking text blends with intriguing artwork in a noteworthy package. Ages 4-7. (Mar.)