Natsumi’s Song of Summer
Author: Robert Paul Weston
Illustrator: Misa Saburi
There is nothing quite like being young in the summertime. The endless possibilities, the sweet stickiness of a youth misspent and enjoyed. This is a beautifully gentle book, set in Japan, about a little Japanese girl and her magical summer. Natsumi, our intrepid heroine – born in the lotus season, and whose name means “the sea in summer,” is truly a summer baby. She loves everything about it: “the sun, the heat, the cool bursts / of plum rain, heavy and sweet.” Most of all, she loves summer’s insects. Especially the cicadas that she chases down, catches, and lets crawl over her skin before they flit away.
This summer is different and special for Natsumi. Her cousin is coming to visit, and while this is very exciting, Natsumi is filled with worry that they won’t like the same thing.
What would Jill be like?
What would they have in common?
Would they become friends?
Or perhaps they would quarrel?
There was no way of knowing.
Her worries are unfounded as her brown skinned, curly haired cousin arrives and they find they are quite alike. Their friendship grows as together they take unfettered delight in watermelon at the beach, attending a Japanese festival, and watching fireworks.
Natsumi is still scared to tell Jill about the cicadas whose song fills the summer. What if she doesn’t like them, sometimes people are afraid of bugs. Hesitatingly, Natsumi shares her love of cicadas with her cousin on her birthday. Once again, her fears are unfounded as Jill shares her love of insects and promises to show Natsumi the luna moth when she visits her the following summer.
This book is really a marriage of two incredible artists. The book is written in the sweet lyricism of tanka, a form of traditional Japanese poetry that is a haiku plus a couplet comprising 2 lines with 7 syllables each that is a great medium for this sweet tale. The illustrations are just as captivating. The rich landscapes, the vibrant colors, the impossibly sweet images of these cousins bonding over a summer of memories. The illustrations are a great introduction to Japanese art forms especially traditional Japanese woodblock prints.
I was especially delighted that the book does not address the notion that these cousins so obviously don’t look alike at all. Jill may be a surprise to the adults who read this, but I am so delighted that my kids get to grow up where we don’t have to explicitly talk about this (all the time).
I highly recommend.
More books for this Age Group can be found here.
My thanks to Tundra Books for providing a Review Copy of this book. All opinions provided herein are my own.
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