Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Picture Book Comparisons: Bloody Cats and Goblin Rats

This year our focus while Reading Around the World in Picture Books is Asia. We've recently started exploring Japan. We read The Boy Who Drew Cats retold by Anushka Ravishankar, illustrated by Christine Kastl (Japan), the tale of a young boy who only draws cats, the most remarkable cats. One night, his drawings come to life and rid a temple of a horrible goblin. I love the look of the ink on rice paper in the illustrations, though the huge rat goblin is a bit disturbing (for me, not the kids). I also loved how the priest sends the boy away from the first temple. Exasperated by the boy's incessant drawing, not least on beautiful screens, he remains calm and kind. The boy asks for any final advice.
The priest did not know what to say. Suddenly the words came out of his mouth, straight from his heart, without passing through his mind: 'Stay away from large places. Sleep only in small spaces.'
Akiro was puzzled. It was strange sort of advice for a priest to give his student when he was sending him away into the world. But a teacher's advice has to be taken with gratitude, even when it sounds odd and meaningless. So Akiro bowed low and left.
What a good attitude Akiro has!

Our library has a few different versions of this folktale so I also checked out The Boy who Drew Cats adapted by Margaret Hodges and illustrated by Aki Sogabe. These illustrations are also well-done, though I prefer those in the first. I hesitate to write anything against Margaret Hodges's story-telling skills, but the priest's advice in this tale is "Avoid large places at night; keep to small," which seems less lyrical to me though it obviously means the same thing.

Very young children might be a little disturbed by the drawings of cats spotted with red (blood from the goblin).  The illustration of the goblin rat in the second book includes only the tail, but the text was a little more frightening than the book above. Not that Second Daughter or Second Son (ages seven and five) found either bothersome. Dead goblin rats and bloody cat drawings are apparently run-of-the-mill around here.

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