I’m happy to shine the spotlight today on Shen’s Books, a publisher of, as their site states, “multicultural children’s literature that emphasizes cultural diversity and tolerance, with a focus on introducing children to the cultures of Asia.” Last April, they released Susan Lendroth’s Maneki Neko: The Tale of the Beckoning Cat, illustrated by Kathryn Otoshi. It just so happens that I got a review copy of the book last year right after having stumbled and stuttered over my own words after my daughters had seen a Maneki Neko (or Welcoming Cat or Lucky Cat) in a little shop and asked me about them. I knew nothing about the story behind them, but then Susan’s book showed up to save the day.
The book tells the Japanese legend of the beckoning cat, the story behind why the cat with the raised paw is considered a symbol of good luck in many Asian countries and how it is that the little sculptures came to be sold across Japan and overseas, “thousands of cats waving on thousands of shop counters.” I won’t give away the entire story, should you want to read a copy yourselves, but the story opens with a poor monk and a cat he decides to take in for his own, which he names Tama: “And so their friendship began in a little village in old Japan. Kotoku Monastery was small and poor. Its monk was small and poor, and so too was his cat, Tama. Together, they lived a peaceful life.” A huge storm passes through the monk’s village, bringing a noble samurai to the monastery, and thus begins the legend of the beckoning cat, as Tama manages to save his life. But, again, I won’t tell the whole story here. The kidlitosphere’s own Jen Robinson gave this one a thumbs-up in November of last year, and Terry Hong of BookDragon (from the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program) wrote back in August, “illustrator Kathryn Otoshi definitely has a playful spirit about her work. Tama is one bedraggled cat, but he’s definitely got some charm. Check him out chasing moths, his limbs totally splayed out in energetic joy; he’s a stark but comical contrast to the serenely still monk facing the full moon.” Indeed. And the night-time spreads are particularly eye-catching, given the cool color palette Otoshi put to use (lots of blues and purples of the menacing storm, contrasted nicely with the pinks and reds that come in the peace afterwards).
Here are a couple more spreads from the book. Enjoy.
(Click to enlarge.)
MANEKI NEKO: THE TALE OF THE BECKONING CAT. Copyright © 2010 Susan Lendroth. Illustration © 2010 Kathryn Otoshi. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Shen’s Books, Walnut Creek, CA.
As a reminder, 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you.
1. This fabulous tiny desk concert with Ballake Sissoko on kora and Vincent Segal on cello, which can improve the quality of your day.
2. This poem of a song. That song alone—and the blogger’s words about it—are leaning me heavily toward Purchasing the Entire CD Already. It helps that lots of my friends with great taste in music rave about the CD. Also what helps: The inclusion of Gillian Welch.
3. Hey now, I know you got soul. (Sorry, this is turning into kicks all about music, but if you click the play button next to “MP3″ at that link, you will be rewarded and will find yourself up and dancing ’round the room. But not till you turn it up LOUD.)
4.I finally got They Might Be Giants’ Here Comes Science for my girls. I was reminded of the fact that I didn’t own it yet when a new friend, also a parent, was telling me this opening track from the CD made him cry (from happiness, that is):
And the CD is just as good as I’d hoped.
5. Good children’s music like that, which doesn’t treat children like little idiots.
Speaking of children’s music, if I were a public children’s librarian, I think I’d have to place a moratorium on daily renditions of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” I understand it’s a staple for toddlers, not to mention a really attention-grabbing song for that age. I don’t intend here to be snarky and surly just for the fun of it, but I do feel for my own children’s librarians, seeing them have to sing it so often. I would at least have to have several cups of coffee, most likely with a dash of Bailey’s, before having to smile so big and sing that particular song with genuine enthusiasm. Even then, I might be singing it through gritted teeth and a slightly clenched jaw. Actually, while we’re on the subject, this song, from a previous They Might Be Giants children’s CD, has always single-handedly made me want to get a public librarian position, just so I can open story times with it. Don’t you think it’s a lovely, spirited alternative to “If You’re Happy and You Know It”? This is the first time I’ve seen the video, by the way, and I’m laughing at the foot-stomping bunnies:
I guess “If You’re Happy and You Know It” would be a gentler way to open story time. Ah well. I digress anyway.
6. This wonderful video at The Guardian about author and illustrator Judith Kerr, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, and her new “jolly” book about widowhood.
7. The January 2011 issue of The Bluegrass Special is up!
Since the issue includes a tribute to director Blake Edwards, I’ll close with this video, also included in this month’s read. And tell me, what are YOUR kicks this week?