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Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Two Tengu Tales from Japan

Two Tengu Tales from Japan retold by Duncan Ball, illustrated by David Allan  (Christmas Press)  HB RRP  $19.99 ISBN 9780992283865                             
Reviewed by Dianne Bates                                          

Thank goodness for Christmas Press which works hard to introduce young Australian readers to legends, myths and folklore from other countries! Here is its latest offering, a lively retelling by a well-known children’s author of stories about tengu, magical beings from Japan who grant wishes to those who ask them. However, tengu are tricksters…

In the first story, ‘Kenji’s Magic Sandals’, a small boy cares for his sick, bed-bound mother. When the money runs out, Mum tells Kenji to go to Uncle Gozo to ask for medicine; she will repay him when spring comes and Kenji and his mother can sell their crops. However, after Gozo refuses, Kenji is visited by a tengu who gives him gold – but with a condition attached. Happily, it is a condition that exacts revenge – against the selfish uncle!

In the second story, ‘The Invisible Cloak’, we are introduced to Hikoichi, a sneaky and lazy fellow who meets with a tengu who has the ability to make himself invisible. Hikoichi tricks the magical being – but meets with mischief himself after he commits crimes against others. A humorous – and embarrassing -- ending to a man who deserves it!

This is a gorgeously presented book, well-designed with illustrations in the Japanese tradition which are so attractive they make you want to pour over them. In keeping with other Christmas Press folklore titles (go to http://christmaspresspicturebooks.com) the cover is presented like a series of woodblock shapes with illustrations from inside the book. These beautifully rendered illustrations are contained within blocks with fine line and wash realistic pictures. Occasionally, such as when the tengu appears – an ordinary, bearded man wearing wings and sandals – a double spread is employed. Even the fly pages in this wonderful book are interesting, with black, white and grey Japanese masks.

This is a book which will be enjoyed by all ages. Duncan Ball, David Allan and the production team at Christmas Press have done a splendid job!

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