Gon, The Little Fox
by Nankichi Niimi, illustrated by Genjirou Mita
Museyon, Inc., 2015
Originally published in Japan, 1969
A beloved story of Japan, Gon, The Little Fox, is a beautifully illustrated book with a definite Japanese touch.
One day the mischief-loving Gon steals a fish basket from Hyoju, a fisherman, and throws the fish back into the stream. He is spotted by Hyoju as he holds the squirming eel. Later Gon learns the eel was meant for Hyoju’s dying mother. Out of character, Gon feels remorse for his actions and thinks, “Now, Hyoju is all alone just like me.” To befriend the villager, he steals sardines from another and secretly leaves them for Hyoju. This leads to more trouble for Hyoju. Hyoju learns too late that it was Gon’s awkward attempt at friendship.
Unlike traditional American stories written with happy endings, this endearing tale is written with a bittersweet one. The tale provides parents an opportunity to discuss with their child issues of sadness and loss, among others. Likely better for the 6-8 year old reader.
There’s magic in this story. While simply told, there’s something in it that stirs the heart and imagination.
Sunny Seki, originally from Japan, and an artist and story teller, gently tells the story of Yuko-Chan, a blind young girl. While many villagers feel sorry for her, she does not. She teases the village leaders who stop reciting scriptures when lights are blown out. ““Wow! You’re handicapped aren’t you,” she joked,” after she had continued reciting the scriptures, because she had memorized them.
As a female and someone with a disability, she was not allowed in school, but when the boys were left alone and made ‘noise’, she redirected them into producing harmony. Yuko-Chan heads out in a snow storm to deliver food and tumbles. She discovers the gourd, shaped like Daruma-san (Father of Zen Buddhism) up-righted itself. She came up with the idea that the villagers could make dolls that always stood upright and sell them to help them through a recent disaster where a volcano had ruined their crops. The dolls sold, and today people come from around the world to purchase them. The village’s success following the disaster started from a single idea from a blind girl.
The book includes text in both English and Japanese.
By Jerry Pinkney
Little Brown and Company, 2009
Caldecott Medal Winner
Award-winning illustrator Jerry Pinkney tells us the story of the lion and the mouse through his loose drawings done with pencil, watercolor, and colored pencils on paper. The masterful lion’s head fills the front cover, yet he is watching something. We turn over the book and find a mouse watching him. We already know we are in for a treat.
We open with the mouse, running for her life from her predators. She unknowingly happens upon the lion, who idly picks her up by her tail. They seem to have a discussion, and then the mouse is let go. The mouse scampers home to her babies and the lion struts around to be noticed. We then see men arrive with a large net. The net captures the lion, hoisting him up into the trees. The beast roars, fighting to get out. The mouse hears the call and knows the lion is in trouble. She runs to see if she can help. She decides she can gnaw through the rope. We can see the humiliation and gratitude on the beast’s face of being saved by a tiny mouse. The mouse works away, until at last the lion falls to the ground. The lion thanks the mouse, and she runs off with a rope knot, evidence of her encounter. Her children play with the knot as a toy, while the mother looks on, knowing they have no idea what she just experienced.
Jerry captures every emotion of the mouse and lion, telling the story on many levels. Each picture requires a study to soak in the messages shared. This wordless book invites you to study each expression, each landscape to take in Jerry’s rich story.