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Shibumi and the Kitemaker Hardcover – September 1, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

After a decade-long absence, Mayer returns to picture books, using computer-generated graphics to illustrate an original tale set in long-ago Japan. When the emperor's daughter, Shibumi, discovers the poverty-stricken world beyond her garden walls, she longs to resolve the inequity. Tying herself to an enormous kite fashioned for her by the royal kite-maker, she takes flight, telling her father that she will not come down until the city below "is as beautiful as the palace, or the palace is as squalid as the city." Wealthy noblemen who wish to preserve the status quo mount an attack, and the kite carries off both Shibumi and the kite-maker. The bereaved emperor spends his years trying to make amends, and in the end a young samurai sets out to find the princess and restore her to her father and the transformed city. Mayer grounds his message in familiar fairy tale elements, and proceeds at a leisurely pace. His computer art approaches the brooding style of his paintings in East of the Sun & West of the Moon (as opposed to his Little Critter books, for example). Compositions using traditional Japanese images, from cherry blossoms and cranes to paper lanterns, lavish kimonos and bonsai trees, are set off against a series of slightly surreal backdrops. Some will associate this art with the souped-up visuals of CD-ROM action games; others will find the mix of elements haunting. All ages. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 1-3 In a faraway kingdom, Princess Shibumi, the emperor's only daughter, grows up in a walled garden, innocent of the evils of the world. One day, she climbs the high wall and sees squalor and poverty in the city below. Shocked and saddened, Shibumi devises a plan to fight the injustice she knows her father has condoned. She persuades the royal kitemaker to construct a kite large enough to carry her into the sky, where she vows to stay until her father makes the city as beautiful as the palace. Years later, a young samurai embarks on a quest to find the lost princess, bringing the tale to its bittersweet conclusion. The book's artistic style and design resemble Jay Williams's original fantasy set in China, Everyone Knows What a Dragon Looks Like (Macmillan, 1984), illustrated by Mayer. Like that book, the overall artistic sensibility is far more Western than Asian. The art, created by various computer programs, influenced by comic books and the visual look of samurai films, contains both accurate and inaccurate images. The artistic style is massive and full of details, both relevant and irrelevant, where Japanese art is delicate and suggestive. On some pages, the features of the main characters, particularly the old kitemaker, are modeled by line and soft shading, in contrast to the flat background, a style that becomes melodramatic, almost grotesque. While the colors are dark, verging on muddy, and the composition is overly complicated, the story line is good. Margaret A. Chang, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 590L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Cavendish Square Publishing; 1st edition (September 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0761450548
  • ISBN-13: 978-0761450542
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 11.3 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #510,826 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

MERCER MAYER began writing and illustrating children's books in 1966, and since that time, he has published over 300 titles. Open almost any of the award-winning author/illustrator's books, and out may pop dragons, cuddly monsters, wonderful creatures, and endearing critters.

"Most of my books are about things that happened to me when I was a little kid," says Mercer. "Now that I'm a big kid, I write about things that happen now, especially with my own children. They always help remind me of what it was like."

Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Mercer Mayer spent his childhood hunting lizards and snakes in the swamps near his home. During his teenage years, he attended the Honolulu Academy of Arts. He later received additional training at the Art Students League in New York City. Upon completion of his studies, he set out with pen and ink to write and illustrate a collection of children's books, reflecting many of the adventures he experienced as a child.

In 2007, Mr. Mayer was commissioned by Laura Bush to create the artwork used for the National Book Festival held on September 29 on the National Mall. He was an honored guest to the event, giving a demonstration and autographing hundreds of books for fans who attended.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By vel on November 11, 1999
Format: Hardcover
A gorgeous book with glorious illustration. If this is based on a traditional story, it's not one that I've heard before. It kept me entirely engrossed while I read it. There is more than fairy-tale depth here, particularly as obstacles to the traditional happy ending keep showing themselves. Very satisfying.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
While I loved this Japanese fairy tale, what struck me most about this book is the beautiful illustrations. The author is known for his Little Critter series, but this book is so elegant and classic, you would never guess they are written by the same person. Though this is a picture book, the story is longer than most picture books. Thus, it is appropriate even for older children. I also think this book is a great way to introduce children to other cultures. Check it out- you'll love it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
My 8 year old and I read it together and it was a moving experience for both of us. She is reading chapter books now and we both miss the kind of picture book stories that we had enjoyed so much. At any age, it's nice to sit down with a good story. The combination of the gorgeous illustrations and the thoughts about family and devotion in this story was magic.
As a bonus, Mercer Mayer talks about his childhood growing up in Honolulu, Hawaii and how he learned about race and "melting pots" as a child. Congratulations on a wonderful book, Mr. Mayer!
Get the book and read it with a child.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Debbie Young on July 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Even though I love the Little Critter series, my favorite book of Mercer Mayer's has always been East of the Sun, West of the Moon with it's colorful and detialed illustrations. With this new book, Mercer Mayer worked with a Mac computer and I am AMAZED with the rich textures and warm realistic quality. No cool technical stuff here...this story too is from the heart and magical!
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