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The Crane Wife


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About the Author

ODDS BODKIN is an acclaimed storyteller, composer, and teacher of the art of storytelling. He lives in New Hampshire. GENNADY SPIRIN has illustrated numerous books, which have been published in both his native Europe and the United States. He lives in New Jersey.


K-Gr 4-In ancient Japan, a lonely sail maker, Osamu, opens his door during a storm to find a wounded crane. He cares for it, then sets it free. Another storm brings him a beautiful young woman seeking shelter. She becomes his wife. Seeing his poverty, Yukiko offers to weave a magic sail, but warns him not to look at her while she works. When Osamu sells the sail, he realizes that she has woven the wind into it. He becomes greedy and demands more. As Yukiko reluctantly works on a third sail, he runs behind her concealing screen to find a crane weaving its feathers into the loom. Her secret revealed, the crane wife flies away, and Osamu waits in vain for her return. The illustrations in this opulent picture book depicts the world of Japanese block prints in an idiom reminiscent of Russian lacquer art. The paintings, executed in muted rusts and greens, are strong in composition but weaker in illuminating emotion. The double-page spreads vary in layout, consisting of a blending of text and picture, all text set against the same border of clouds and a loom, or all artwork. Katherine Paterson's translation of Sumiko Yagawa's The Crane Wife (Morrow, 1981; o.p.) offers a more dramatic and economical narrative, with watercolors by Suekichi Akaba that portray setting and character with more authority. Libraries owning that version might want this new one for comparison; others may buy it to fill a need for Japanese folktales.-Margaret A. Chang, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams

[star]"Abounds with drama and emotion . . . Gorgeous."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[star]"Vivid. . . . The illustrations . . . place the human drama against a background of nature which is changeable, mysterious, and hauntingly beautiful."--Booklist (starred review)
"A poetic gem . . . Exquisite and memorable."--Kirkus Reviews

Bodkin (The Banshee Train) and Spirin (The Sea King's Daughter) turn to medieval Japan for this vivid retelling of a Japanese folktale. Osamu, a lonely sail maker, nurses an injured crane back to health. Not long afterward, a beautiful and mysterious woman arrives at his home and Osamu takes her in as well. As their love blossoms, she offers to weave Osamu a magic sail to sell at market, though she stipulates that he must not watch her work. Adults will anticipate the tragic outcome of this well-known tale. Bodkin's finely tuned version abounds with drama and emotion in its rich presentation of morals, and near-perfect pacing sets the stage for the pathos of the ending. Spirin's watercolor-and-gouache compositions, filled with Japanese motifs and period details, cast an otherworldly mood. Expanses of sky and clouds provide a sense of airiness, appropriate for a bird-inspired tale. Several gorgeous scenes showing trees in autumn and snowy winter and people draped in the elegant costumes of historical Japan are particularly memorable. Ages 5-up. (Oct.)

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