cover image The Samurai's Daughter: 9

The Samurai's Daughter: 9

Robert D. San Souci. Dial Books, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1135-8

Illustrations of shimmering delicacy highlight this imagistic retelling of a Japanese legend. Tokoyo is the teenage daughter of a samurai in medieval Japan. When her beloved father is banished to a distant island by a deranged ruler, the resolute girl sets out to find him. San Souci's ( The Talking Eggs ) account of her arduous pilgrimage is told in the lilting, often haunting, style of ancient oral narrative and is filled with such potent images as the caged cricket that sustains Tokoyo in her travels and the ghostly warship that washes over her as she rows on the open sea. But the telling, which consists almost entirely of exposition, ultimately has a somewhat flat quality. In discrete scenes, the brave heroine climbs mountains, crosses the ocean and--in the tale's rather abrupt ending--battles a writhing sea serpent to save her father, but she nonetheless fails to become a deep or involving character. Johnson's pastel paintings, in jewel-like tones of sea green and violet, create considerable atmosphere. Readers watch Tokoyo come fully to life in her underwater world, whether she is swimming happily amid a school of iridescent fish or savaging the coiled white serpent, dagger poised, her lush black hair swirling around her. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)