Saturday, April 11, 2020

Review - Natsumi's Song of Summer

Natsumi's Song of Summer
by Robert Paul Weston
illustrated by Misa Saburi
Date: 2020
Publisher: Tundra Books (NY)
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

This sweet and gentle picture book celebrates summer in Japan, as one little girl shares her love for bugs with her cousin who is visiting from America.

Two young cousins who are separated by language, continent and culture meet for the first time when Jill's family travels from America to Japan to stay with Natsumi's family during the summer holidays. Natsumi's nervousness about meeting her cousin from across the sea quickly disappears when she discovers that her cousin is a lot like her: they both love summertime's hot sandy beaches, cool refreshing watermelon, festivals and fireworks. Then Jill asks Natsumi about the strange buzzing sound that comes from the nearby trees, and Natsumi is nervous once again. What if Jill is frightened of Natsumi's cherished cicadas, the insects that sing the music of summertime?

This is a tender, evocative story that celebrates the special pleasures of summertime and of reunions with faraway family and friends.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is kind of an interesting picture book. I noticed as I was reading it that the lines were arranged in specific groupings. I figured it was some sort of poetry, and it is. A note at the back explains that the whole book is written in a series of tanka poems, which are similar to haiku but have two more lines of seven syllables each. This doesn't really affect the story one way or the other; it's just kind of a neat way of doing things.

The story is about a little girl named Natsumi who loves insects, especially the cicadas that sing in the summer. One year, her cousin Jill comes to visit from across the sea. Natsumi is worried that Jill won't like the cicadas, or that she might fear them. But Jill surprises her by embracing the insects and even offering to teach Natsumi about an insect from her own home country.

The illustrations are cute, but they're a little simple for my taste. There's a sort of flatness about them that doesn't seem to capture the magical way that Natsumi sees the insect kingdom. The pictures aren't terrible by any means, but they didn't really make me feel anything one way or the other.

Overall, this is kind of a cute book about family, passions, and insects. The unique poetic format and the supplemental information about cicadas at the back add a little more interest.

Thank you to NetGalley and Tundra Books (NY) for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.5 out of 5

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