From School Library Journal
Grade 2-5. An original fantasy set in Japan during the Tokugawa period (1603-1868). Hideo the fool, a mute birdcatcher living in the forested mountains above a remote village, meets a beautiful fairy, a phoenix/woman who Lattimore repeatedly refers to as a maiden. She tells Hideo that an evil bandit has killed her husband. (The confusion between widow and maiden is puzzling, especially in a feudal Japanese context, where such distinctions defined a woman.) Hideo stays with her for a month until she sends him off to fight the bandit and save the village, giving him one of her glowing feathers as a parting gift. Eventually, the story cuts to the chase, and Hideo triumphs, winning the respect of the villagers. The writing style is occasionally awkward, while the plot suffers from choppiness and incoherence. The text seems to be a vehicle for the richly colored paintings, Lattimore's homage to the art of the period. While the illustrations bear a superficial resemblance to Japanese paintings, the busy compositions, cluttered with clouds and gnarled pine trees, lack the emotional resonance that connects story and reader. An author's note outlines the history and economic conditions of the time and explains the importance of the phoenix to that dynasty. An enthusiastic, but flawed, foray into Japanese history.?Margaret A. Chang, North Adams State College, MA
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 3^-6, younger for reading aloud. This original tale, with the feel of folklore, features Hideo, considered a fool by the villagers because he cannot speak, who falls in love with the legendary phoenix bird of Japan. Hunting birds to trade for food, Hideo throws his net over the phoenix, who reveals herself in human form. The young man realizes he could never keep her and releases her but finds he has fallen in love with her. Armed with a single golden feather given to him by the phoenix, Hideo acts courageously to save a nearby village from the misdeeds of an infamous bandit and the wrath of a shogun's army. The story blends romance with enough suspense, danger, and adventure to appeal broadly. Lattimore's richly detailed illustrations capture the feel of the almost mythical, ancient Japanese setting as well as the story's drama. Listeners will enjoy both text and illustrations; older readers will appreciate Lattimore's notes on Japanese mythology regarding the phoenix and the accompanying historical information. Karen Morgan