Crow Boy

crow boy

Crow Boy

Taro Yashima
Viking, 1955, 1983

From the dust jacket, “Chibi has been an outcast since that frightening first day of school when he hid under the schoolhouse. Afraid of the teacher and unable make any friends, Chibi passes his free time along—alone at study time, alone at playtime, always a “forlorn little tag-along.” But when Mr. Isobe arrives, the teacher sees things in Chibi that no one else has ever noticed….


Chibi is a little boy who is bullied and ignored by kids his own age. He grows from the first year of school to the final 6th year and never makes a childhood friend. But he seems happy with himself and in his final school year he blossoms under the attention of a caring teacher. Even his fellow classmates admit their wrong in how they treated him.

The lessons in acceptance and tolerance of those who don’t follow the main stream is subtle but clear. It would be nice to think that, like in the book, the bullies of our lives would come to the realization that every cat and kitten are important – regardless of who they are or what they look like. The illustrations are colorful and crudely drawn. I don’t mind this type of illustration every once in a while, but I wouldn’t want a steady diet of it; it’s too abstract for my tastes. But don’t let the illustrations keep you from reading this book to yourself and your kittens. We all need a lesson in acceptance – it seems to be a skill lacking in many toms, queens and kittens of all ages.

Rating 4 out of 5 paws because the positive ending to a potentially very sad story of bullying.

For banned/challenged book information, please scroll past the illustrations!


This book was challenged by a school board member in Queens (NY) in 1994 because it “denigrates white American culture, promotes racial separation and discourages assimilation.” The rest of the school board voted to retain the book.

So…this is a book written and illustrated by a Japanese writer/artist, it’s setting an unnamed village in rural Japan, peopled only by Japanese – and it denigrates American white culture? Promotes racial separation and discourages assimilation? Really? Was the American school board member so egotistical that he (or she) felt the American white culture is so superior to anything else in the world that all other cultures pale by comparison? Thank the Lord for the other board members who voted to retain this book. Were they not more broadly minded, this precious story would’ve been consigned to the book graveyard.

I really try to stay neutral on the subject of banning/challenging books in reviewing them, but some charges are just too ludicrous not to speak up.


Jack, North Carolina Division Chief and Banned Books Librarian

Wabi Sabi


Wabi Sabi

Mark Reibstein
Art by Ed Young
Little, Brown and Company, 2008

“Wabi Sabi is a way of seeing the world that is at the heart of Japanese culture. It finds beauty and harmony in what is simple, imperfect, natural, modest and mysterious. It can be a little dark, but it is also warm and comfortable. It may be best understood as a feeling, rather than as an idea.” (from the frontispiece of the book)

This picture book is the story of a cat named Wabi Sabiwabi c who desires to learn the meaning of her name. She asks a cat named Snowball, who tells her it is a kind of beauty. wabi aShe still doesn’t understand so she asks a dog who was mean to her. Still curious, Wabi Sabi asks a bird who suggests she travel to see a wise, old monkey who lives on Mount Hiei. She undertakes the journey and learns what she desires.wabi b

What a beautifully crafted book – from the words, to the haiku, to the art work. I think the collaged artwork is my favorite. Each scene has been crafted using handmade paper, with real pine needles, leaves and bark on some of them. The book, like the cat, is, indeed, wabi sabi.wabi d

This is a subtle way of introducing Japanese culture to anyone, really, but particularly children. They learn about haiku, the Tea Ceremony, and, of course, wabi sabi.

Rating 5 paws out of 5

simon 2 loc

Reviewer: Simon