Friday, May 31, 2013
Basho and the Fox
Basho and the Fox by Tim Myers, Illus. by Oki S. Han, 2000.
Basho and the Fox is not a folktale, but an original story by Tim Myers about the great Japanese poet Basho. As the tale begins, Basho lives in a hut in Fukagawa, writing haiku and enjoying the late-summer wild cherries until he has a run in with a fox who is also visiting the cheery tree. They disagree over who is more deserving of the sweet fruit. Basho may be a poet, but the kitsune announces that foxes are much better poets than people are. Basho might be a great poet, but the haughty fox will discuss it in springtime. When the cherry blossoms come out again, the two strike a bargain: if Basho can write one good haiku, he can have the fruit all for himself. He may have three tries, but if he fails, he'll lose his claim. Through this challenge, Basho learns a lesson about poetry and the foxes of Fukagawa. Three of the poet's actual haiku are included.
Oki Han's watercolors well support the story, with long views giving readers an eyeful of nature. The same treescape is shown during different seasons and times of day. Contrast in light and shadow add interest to the pictures. Especially lovely are the illustrations of the madly blooming cheery tree spreading its pink and white flowered branches over Basho and the kitsune, and the pictures accompanying the haiku: a frog pond with koi, dragonflies and intricate lilies, and the sun rising behind the jeweled plum trees. The foxes in their kimonos add a whimsical touch.