Review: Maneki Neko: The Tale of the Beckoning Cat by Susan Lendroth
by Susan Lendroth (Author), Kathryn Otoshi (Illustrator)
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Shen’s Books (July 19, 2010)
The ceramic statue of Maneki Neko, that plump white and black cat with one raised paw, is a well known symbol of luck and prosperity in Japanese culture. Susan Lendroth’s picture book Maneki Neko tells a tale of the origin of this lucky charm. In beautifully descriptive prose seasoned with a handful of familiar Japanese words, Lendroth takes us to another time and culture.
Kathryn Otoshi’s exquisite illustrations depict feudal Japan and a tiny hilltop monastery where a poor monk takes in a scrawny cat. The two survive on companionship and alms from the village below. One night during a terrible storm, the cat’s beckoning paw guides a samurai to the safety of the monastery and saves his life. In gratitude, the noble samurai transforms the monastery into a well endowed temple. The cat fattens, the tale travels, and a legend is born. Even the villagers benefit as they craft and sell ceramic charms to welcome good fortune.
Otoshi’s beautifully hued drawings are evocative of Japanese wood block prints. Her choice of color to establish a time, a season and place is perfect. Shades of magenta and lavender bring across the serenity of the temple. The lively village scenes are painted in vibrant tints and the violence of the tempest is colored in deep indigos and grays.
Maneki Neko is published by Shen’s Books, a publishing house with a focus on books that celebrate diversity and promote tolerance while introducing children to the cultures of Asia.
Not a cat lover? Check out Lendroth’s other recently released book Calico Dorsey, Mail Dog of the Mining Camps illustrated by the talented Adam Gustavson. Don’t miss Kathryn Otoshi’s deceptively simple award-winning book One—her fine talent has been noted. If you’re already a fan, you’ll be pleased to know Zero has just been released.
Add this book to your collection: Maneki Neko: The Tale of the Beckoning Cat
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