Friday, August 3, 2012

Japanese Folktales for Children

Japanese Folktales for Children by Ty Hulse is a book I was asked to review.  I'm glad I was, for I enjoyed reading Hulse's work and I'm not very well versed in Japanese legend or mythology (and the mythology plays a large role in this book).

The basics of the book is that it is paperback, 37 pages long, has eight stories, and is illustrated in color.  In size, it is about the size of a magazine.

To start with some of the positives, the book provides eight stories of various lengths.  Included are:

  • The Laughing Dumpling
  • Crane Feathers
  • The Badger and the Snail
  • The Yokai
  • The Mountain Kami and the Ugly Fish
  • The Fox, the Puppy, and the Rat
  • Two Frogs
  • The Witch of the Mountain
The stories are well written and I enjoyed reading them.  They are especially effective in getting a foundation in Japanese lore without having to pour through a thicker anthology.  There is also a dictionary of terms that could be useful when browsing through.  

The book is illustrated by the author, who is a talented artist.  The art is pencil and watercolor and, while good, does not have a crisp, clean look as is common in many books.  It does have a nice mange-esque quality to it that doesn't go over the top.

The weakness of the book is the title.  The title specifically denotes this book to be for children, and while the author certainly delivers on a story-teller tone, the length of the stories are a little long for younger kids to self read (but would be good to read aloud).  I think the age group for this type of writing is more along the lines of middle school and up.  The word "Children" in the title effectively eliminates that audience.  I will provide this book in my class, but I'm going to have to find a way past the title.  

I also would have liked a more detailed glossary of terms.  The author includes "Kami," "Yokai," and "Juro-Jin" only.  I wish he had given more.  He mentions Oni in the book and Juro-Jin is mentioned as one of the seven lucky deities.  I wish he had mentioned the other six even though they don't make an appearance in the book.  But that is a small point.  

The author clearly has a desire to tell folktales.  It comes through in his writing.  I hope that he is able to grab the attention of a publishing company (the book is currently self published), which would have set the book in a smoother way, cleaned up the illustrations, and would have provided a better title.  I will certainly keep my eyes open for more of Ty Hulse's work.  I have a copy of a book of fairies by him that I am looking forward to reading.

With all this in mind, I give it a total of 3 lightning bolts out of five.

The book can be purchased at Amazon and the publisher's (Zeluna) website.