cover image TANUKI'S GIFT: A Japanese Tale

TANUKI'S GIFT: A Japanese Tale

Tim Myers, , illus. by R.G. Roth. . Cavendish, $16.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-7614-5101-3

Roth's (Mama Provi and the Pot of Rice) collages lend snowy radiance to this story of kindness rewarded. A tanuki ("a raccoon-dog") looks something like a badger; in Japanese stories, they often play tricks on humans. In Myers's (Basho and the Fox) version of this traditional tale, a priest gives a tanuki shelter one winter night despite the creature's shady reputation. Paper shapes scribbled with energetic ink and crayon lines represent the priest's elegant robes, radiant smile and tiny hut; ink, golden and lavender lines detail his few possessions. The interior scenes are firelit; outdoors, the snow makes everything brilliant. The two friends grow closer, and the tanuki tells the priest that he wants to give him something. The priest asks for a few gold pieces "for prayers to be said for me so I might enter Paradise after my death." Roth makes this unfamiliar thought friendly; he imagines the smiling priest carried skyward under a big paper umbrella, while tiny villagers below wave farewell. The tanuki, knowing dishonesty will offend the priest, sets off to mine and smelt the gold himself; it takes months. The priest mourns his friend; his expression turns to a frown. "Oh, little one," he says remorsefully, when the tanuki returns, "I was wrong to ask for the gold!... I have again the gift of your friendship—which is what I wanted all along." The kindly priest enchants; the tanuki, with his sincere determination and long nose sporting such inquisitive whiskers, will win readers' hearts. Ages 5-8. (Apr.)