Thursday, February 21, 2013
The Silver Charm by Robert San Souci
The Silver Charm: A Folktale from Japan by Robert D. San Souci, Illus. by Yoriko Ito, 2002.
This folktale comes from north Japan's indigenous Ainu people who live on Hokkaido island . A fisherman and his wife have a little son called Satsu, who they warn to stay away from the wood's edge and protect with a silver ship charm. Satsu has young animals for pets, a puppy and a fox cub. One day they are playing and of course Satsu, busily eating berries, wanders too near the woods. A huge hairy ogre appears, grabs him and forces him to give up his precious charm. Immediately after, Satsu becomes too sick to walk home. His pets must take action to save him. He must have his charm back or die. So, the puppy and the fox, with the help of a mouse and some magical transformations, outsmart the Ogre and rescue their master.
Ito's watercolor illustrations are tender and attractive. The characters show their love for each other with simple but heartfelt poses, such as the fox and puppy curled up asleep together, the parents carrying their sick son home and the young animals playing chase with their their master while the adults look on, smiling. The art also has a dreamy quality: Satsu's charm glows with a halo like a dandelion puff, the transformed animals kneel at the ogre's hut as three ravens look down on them, the puppy-girl dances the Crane Dance in a whirl of white smoke. The scene stealer is the ogre. He is shaggy and horned, with claw like nails and dangling beaded bracelets.