"A library book, I imagine, is a happy book." Cornelia Funke

"Everything puts me in mind of a story." Ben Franklin

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Bamboo Hats and a Rice Cake

Bamboo Hats and a Rice Cake by Ann Tompert, Illus. by Demi, 1993.

When an old couple realize that they will have no rice cakes to eat in celebration of the New Year, the old man sets off to market to sell his wife's wedding kimono. He does so with her blessing, because eating rice cakes for the first three days of the new year will bring them good fortune. As he travels he sees six statues of the Buddhist deity Jizo standing in a row in the cold. He cleans the snow off of them and promises to leave them an offering on the way back. At market the old man trades the kimono, not for rice cakes as was planned, but for fans, out of kindness for a neighbor. He makes several more exchanges, ending up with five bamboo hats, which he really does not need. But, he has yet to pass the Jizo statues. Maybe he will find a use for hats after all.

Rice Cake!
Japanese New Year Kagami Mochi from Feel and Share Culture

The text of the story uses Japanese characters throughout, like a rebus. Readers will learn to recognize the characters for "rice cake", "fan", "kimono", etc. if only while they read this book.

Bamboo Hats and a Rice Cake is illustrated by the prolific Demi, who is also an author, and has published more than 130 books in her career. In her Illustrator's Note, she says that she has followed an Oriental law of placement and design, ten chi jin, with Heaven above, Earth below and Man in between. Most of the pictures give us a broad view of each scene, only when the old man interacts with the Jizo statues is there a close up drawing (on the cover). The scenes at the market place convey the bustle of the day, with children walking on stilts, people herding animals, a bear dancing and flashes of colorful parasols, kites and lanterns. The New Year's celebration features dancing dragons, pink tree blossoms and a double layer rice cake. Kids will enjoy looking at each detail in the crowded scenes.