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Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko Hardcover – September 13, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 3–7—This sensitively crafted picture book offers a glimpse into the life and work of Japanese poet Kaneko (1903–30). Accompanied by colorful, soft illustrations, the first half recounts Kaneko's short life along with a selection of her poems that thematically complement the text. The second half is a larger (also illustrated) collection of her poems in English and Japanese. Young Misuzu is described as a sensitive, inquisitive child; her family encouraged her love of reading and education. When she was 20, her first poems were published and were well received. She would go on to write more than 500 poems. The narrative covers the many challenges Kaneko faced. (She committed suicide at the age of 26.) Framing Kaneko's life story is the account of Setsuo Yazaki, who worked tirelessly to track down and preserve her poetry after it fell into obscurity. Kaneko's brief poems express kinship with the world: sleepy telephone poles, fish, grieving orphaned whale calves, and more. Poems like "The Cicada's Clothes" and "Dewdrop" convey a childlike sense of wonder: "Let's not tell anyone./In the corner of the garden this morning,/a flower shed a tear." Even in translation, her work has an elegant simplicity and clarity. VERDICT This wonderfully illustrated book stresses the positive legacy of Kaneko's tragic life. A recommended purchase for all collections, especially those with an interest in international poetry.—Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA
"This wonderfully illustrated book stresses the positive legacy of Kaneko’s tragic life. A recommended purchase for all collections, especially those with an interest in international poetry."Marilyn Taniguchi, School Library Journal
"Ito and Tsuboi render Misuzu’s plainspoken poems into graceful English (The fish in the sea/ no one looks after them;/ they do no harm./ And yet, here I am about to eat one”) and Jacobson provides the tragic biography of an artist whose life blazed and ended early...Hajiri’s warmhearted illustrations of turn-of-the-century Japanese life recall the work of Allan Say; they dwell on the closeness between Misuzu, her mother, and her daughter."Publisher's Weekly
"Each brief poem addresses nature, children's observations, or both, in language that will be both accessible to the youngest readers and thought-provoking for adult caregivers. Striking, memorable imagerya lost hat enjoying a new life as a bird's nest, the mystery of a cicada's molted huskguarantees fruitful rereadings for readers of all ages."Kirkus Reviews
The poems themselves will appeal to children, while the book as a whole will speak to readers who are interested in Japanese literature and culture, in poetry and translation, and anyone who finds inspiration in poetry’s immortal nature.”Kerry Clare, Quill & Quire
"Not since Hana’s Suitcase has such an exciting contribution to children’s literature emerged. Are You an Echo? has something for every reader: a compelling story and beautiful poems for children, factual accuracy and rich content for teachers and librarians, a respectful look at one woman poet’s experiences for feminists, and a glimpse into another time and place for parents and educators committed to multiculturalism, a fascinating genre mash-up for scholars, and a just-plain-gorgeous-in-the-hand book for everybody. Are You an Echo? will enrich the lives of every reader."Michelle Superle, CM Magazine: Canadian Review of Materials
"Astonishingly beautiful and soulful, it hit the mark in every way. It was a reminder that softness and sensitivity have enormous value despite (and actually because of) all the harshness in the world."Eve Kushner, Joy o'Kanji
"Are You an Echo? is a wonderful little book, both for the story and the poems (not to mention the illustrations), bringing a talented voice to the Anglophone world, one that reflects on matters most people gloss over.”Tony Malone, Tony's Reading List
"Beautifully translated, written, and drawn, this graphic bookfor children and adults alikelinks two stories: that of a people faced with natural disaster, and that of the life of Misuzu Kaneko, revered Japanese poet of the early 20th century, whose works for children evince a cosmology of kindness we can all embrace. It’s almost a companion book to St. Exupery’s Little Prince! Here stars, snow, echoes, silkworms, tomatoes, dewdrops and fish, among others, cohabit our world and give us hope together. Children will love Misuzu’s inquiring mind and her questions of the world, and will learn very gently as well about tragedy and difficulty, about the lives of women before feminism gave them a legal voice, and about the life-force of poetry.”
Erín Moure, poet and translator
"Are You An Echo? transcends the genre of picture book biography. Beyond tracing the outline of the poet’s life, it tells a larger story about the search for Misuzu Kaneko’s personal history and the collaborative nature of biography, translation, and bookmaking. David Jacobson artfully blends Kaneko’s poems into his narrative, which is at once gentle and unflinching. The sweetness of Hajiri’s illustrations soften the harsher details of Kaneko’s short life, and just when you think the story is coming to a close, a generous selection of poetry follows."
Matthew Burgess, poet and author of Enormous Smallness: a Story of e e cummings
"Are You An Echo? is brimming with compassion, empathy and love for all things on this planet and beyond. The translations are truly superb the illustrations, truly lovely. This is a book presented with all the beauty of an exquisite Japanese meal!"
Roger Pulvers, winner of the Noma Award for the Translation of Japanese Literature
A true miracle can be found in this book of wonders: amid exquisite artwork and lovely and compelling poems, Kaneko's magnificent spirit the spirit of poetry lives on despite her heartbreaking real-life story. An utterly original book of immense beauty and importance.”
Brenda Shaughnessy, poet
A mystery, a quest, a mother and a child, an earthquake and a discovery: Are You An Echo? folds poetry and history into recent events, resurrecting the work of Misuku Kaneko and bringing the gentle grace of her poems to a new generation.”
Lauren Redniss, author of Radioactive, finalist for the National Book Award
"David Jacobson weaves poetry and tragic history into the poignant biography of an iconic Japanese children’s author. Leavened by gentle, expressive illustrations and a generous selection of translated poems ranging from observational to inspirational, Are You an Echo? confronts unlikely subjects for a picture book and will leave parents and children with much to discuss."
Bruno Navasky, poet, translator and former editor of American Poet, the journal of The Academy of American Poets
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