cover image Natsumi’s Song of Summer

Natsumi’s Song of Summer

Robert Paul Weston, illus. by Misa Saburi. Tundra, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-7352-6541-7

Weston writes his tale in elegant tanka, a form defined in his author’s note—it’s a haiku-like poem with two additional lines of seven syllables each. Natsumi’s summer pleasures include “sun, the heat, the cool bursts/ of plum rain, heavy and sweet.” This summer, her cousin Jill, whom she has never met, comes to Japan to share in those enjoyments. They become fast friends, but Natsumi hesitates before showing Jill the cicadas whose calls fill the air: “Insects frightened some people./ What if Jill was frightened, too?” In Saburi’s digital art, the two cousins are wide-eyed, doll-like figures; Jill, with dark brown skin and black hair, peers into the tree branches as pink-skinned Natsumi worries. Fortunately, Jill loves the cicadas, and when she learns that the insects wait for years before emerging “to meet their friends,” she spots the parallel: “Just like us,” she tells Natsumi. Saburi’s thick black lines recall traditional Japanese woodblock prints, and she portrays the creatures and summer flowers that Natsumi treasures in rich detail. In the collaborators’ (Sakura’s Cherry Blossoms) handling, Natsumi’s cross-cultural friendship with Jill centers on a shared love of natural life and models openness to new experiences. Ages 3–7. [em](May) [/em]