From School Library Journal
Grade 1-6. Basho, the most revered of Japanese haiku poets, walked through many parts of the country recording his travels in diaries of prose and poetry. This picture book offers Western children a glimpse of the 17th-century poet's classic work. Each double-page spread describes, in art and text, a notable event from one of his trips, and includes one relevant haiku and one kanji, or ideograph borrowed from written Chinese. Demi's richly colored paintings, executed with Asian brushes on textured rice paper, are freer than those found in much of her previous work, with the figures larger and more expressive. Readers familiar with Basho and his haiku will find a romanticized and tidied-up portrait of the stark, austere poet who was more interested in inanimate objects than the animals that surround him in Demi's pictures. That said, the author and artist accurately convey the sensibility of a man who was famous for seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary, for maintaining his individuality while prizing community. They have created an inviting introduction to his life and language. The widespread interest in haiku and in Japanese culture make Basho's story a valuable addition to any collection.?Margaret A. Chang, North Adams State College, MA
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 3^-5. This unusual picture book follows the seventeenth-century poet Basho on a journey across Japan. Based on his journal of prose and poetry, this is no travelogue, but a reflection on what the poet saw, what he did, and who he met as he traveled. With the exception of a verse by Issa, the haiku that appear in the book are Basho's own. While the text is agreeable enough, the book's page design and artwork are exceptional in their refreshing sense of freedom and spontaneity. An illustration note identifies the medium as colored ink applied with brushes, evidently on rice paper, but this doesn't begin to suggest the pictures' exquisite clarity of line and purity of color. Though surely inspired by Japanese art, the paintings are suffused with Demi's own sense of page design, decorative art, and good humor. Each double-page spread includes a segment of the story, a painting of Basho on his journey, a haiku reflecting some aspect of the text, and a word that appears in three forms: a painted Japanese character, its transliteration, and its translation into English. The Japanese characters are cogent visual expressions of concepts such as river, fire, or world. The same word appears in the haiku on that spread. A beautiful book and a fine resource for children studying haiku. Carolyn Phelan