'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Sunday 9 January 2011

Review: Fly Catcher Boy

I must admit to a long-standing infatuation with Japan, and it was therefore a delight to read this book by Canadian author Rebecca Kool, and once again re-enter the remarkably beautiful culture that makes this country so special.

Based on Kool's own Japanese husband Takeshi, it follows the tale of a young boy called Kenji who one stormy night finds an abandoned kitten at his doorway.

Kenji unofficially adopts this unusual puss, who not only keeps him warm at night but joins him for a hot bath, accompanies him to watch the sumo wrestlers practise, and even gobbles down sashimi (though he doesn't appreciate the fiery green wasabi in one particularly funny scene).

But the most unusual thing of all about this cat is its ability to observe and imitate. When Kenji - known as Fly Catcher Boy - shows his new furry friend how he can catch a buzzing fly in one single, lightning fast snatch, the young cat decides to try his own paw at catching a fly. He fails, but not for long.

When Kenji's family witness the young cat catching his very first of (I'm sure) many flies, it seems only fitting he should be called Fly Catcher Cat.

Told in the third person present tense, this is a simple storyline but one packed with lovely happenings that really showcase the magnificent culture and ways of the Japanese. From the bathing to the food and the closeness of family, Kool has certainly nailed the essence of a place she undoubtedly calls her second home.

The author has cleverly added a clutch of simple Japanese words to the storyline, peppering sentences with a vocabulary that flows well with the English text, allowing children to learn either by word association, by direct translation or by flicking to the dictionary at the back of the book.

My Japanese is very bad yet this word layout is not distracting and the story can be fully enjoyed without an incessant need to check for translation. Kool has added just enough to tempt and entrance children who may already know some Japanese, or who would like to learn. She has also added cultural elements like the shichi-go-san festival that honours seven-, five- and three-year-old children.

I adore books that educate children to the ways of other cultures and places. This book is not only highly educational, it would be ideal for children travelling to Japan, for classrooms studying Japanese culture, or just for those children fortunate enough to have parents intent on expanding their world beyond the 'norm'.

The pictures by David Namisato are rendered with those modern cartoonish elements the Japanese are renowned for, along with traditional detail, charm and humour that perfectly paints the beauty of Japan. Combined with the author's clear passion for and love of this beautiful and ancient land, Fly Catcher Boy is a production Ms Kool should be very proud of.

Title: Fly Catcher Boy
Author: Rebecca Kool
Illustrators: David Namisato
Publisher: Gumboot Books, CN$14.99RRP
Publication Date: 2009
Format: Soft cover
ISBN: 9781926691039
For ages: 5 - 10 
Type: Picture Book