cover image The Boy Who Drew Cats: 2a Japanese Folktale

The Boy Who Drew Cats: 2a Japanese Folktale

Arthur A. Levine. Dial Books, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1172-3

A Japanese legend celebrating the importance of art and spirit receives worthy treatment in this stunning volume. Too frail to work the family farm, young Kenji is sent to a monastery to train as an acolyte, but he can't resist his passion for painting. Expelled, he must find his own way in a forbidding world where, one terrifying night, his very real cat paintings rescue him from the Goblin Rat. Levine's precise and evocative language packs graceful surprises (``His steps crumbled ash-white leaves at the threshold'') and is ably complemented by Clement's delicate, haunting watercolors. A sense of veiled mystery, of the surreal, permeates his art, as if it has been painted in layers of meaning for the reader to interpret. Pastel colors have a gossamer quality; as Kenji follows winding paths through mists and blowing leaves, he seems to enter a dreamscape. The effect is both beautiful and unnerving. Children will love the cats who hover everywhere, finely etched, eyes gleaming. The book's exquisite design includes decorative borders, a parchment look and a Japanese character, explained in a glossary, heading each page. Ages 5-up. (Jan.)