Today’s pick for Perfect Picture Book Friday is Maneki Neko: the Tale of the Beckoning Cat
Written by: Susan Lendroth
Illustrated by: Kathryn Otoshi
Publisher: Shen’s Books (July 2010)
Suitable for ages: 5 and up
Themes/Topics: Japan, legend of Maneki Neko, folk tale, gratitude
Brief Synopsis: A cat named Tama lives in a small Japanese village with a poor monk at the Kotoku Monastery. During a great storm a samurai takes cover under a tree not far from the temple. Tama is also stranded outside. When Tama is cleaning her face with her paw, the samurai sees the cat beckoning him. He moves toward the cat and the tree is hit by lightning. He believes the cat saved his life.
In his gratitude, the samurai shared his wealth with the monk who then shared the riches with his village. When the cat died, the monk created the legend of Maneki Neko “beckoning cat” or “lucky cat” to honor Tama.
This is one of many versions of the Japanese legend of Maneki Neko, the beckoning cat.
Opening page: You have come to the wrong place, little one, for I am as poor as you with few scraps to share,” said the monk when he first saw the cat sunning herself outside his door. Still, he smiled, scratching the thin fur behind her ears and the spot on her back, round as a child’s ball.
The cat rolled, rubbing her head between the monk’s hand and the hard-packed earth, then immediately sat up to polish the dust from her face. One curled paw dipped and rose, beckoning to the monk like an old friend.
Why I like this book: The artwork by Kathryn Otoshi captures the peacefulness and serenity of the landscape in many rural areas in Japan.
The story is a beautiful memory of my years living and working there. These small figurines are found all over Japan and throughout Asia. Homes and businesses have Maneki Neko statues displayed with either its left or right paw raised. Businesses display cats with the left paw raised to bring in customers. A raised right paw is said to bring luck and money. The figurines come in a variety of colors that symbolize a different kind of luck. White is for happiness, gold brings money, black is for good health, and red is for love and relationships.
The book introduces readers to Japanese culture and folklore.
Photo : Sarah on Flickr
See Sushi Cat for concentration and memory games.
See DLTK for directions for making a Maneki Neko craft Education.com and Coloring Castle for a coloring pages.
See Mr. Dunn‘s site for links, PowerPoint presentations, maps, and lesson plans about Japan for students of all ages.
For more reviews of today’s picks, visit author Susanna Hill’s blog here.
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