I’m starting a new feature this week called Featured Book Friday as an attempt to go through Rose’s bookshelf and find some hidden gems. As you may know, toddlers get fixated on certain books, which means that I’m stuck reading Green Eggs and Ham fifteen times in a row. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t other books on our bookshelf that Rose won’t eventually love.
The first Featured book I’m taking a gander at is:
The Funny Little Woman retold by Arlene Mosel, pictures by Blair Lent. Publication date: 1972
This is a picture book that I assume is based on a Japanese folk tale, although I couldn’t find the original folk tale anywhere. The illustrations are reminiscent of classical Japanese art without worrying about getting it exactly right. On most of the pages there are both full color and black and white illustrations.
The story follows–you guessed it–a funny little woman who always laughs by saying ‘tee-he-he-he.’ The woman is busy making rice dumplings one day when one rolls away from her and into a crack in the earth. In chasing her dumpling, the woman falls down into an underground cavern. She continues to chase her dumpling, while occasionally stopping to chat with the many statues of gods, who are referred to as ‘Jizo.’ Each of the statues warns her about the ‘wicked oni,’ but the little woman just laughs and continues chasing her dumpling. Eventually she is caught by an oni, who forces her to make rice for all if the oni using a magical rice paddle that fills up a pot of rice with one grain. The woman escapes eventually and makes it home with the rice paddle, eventually becoming the richest woman in Japan because of using the magical paddle to make her rice dumplings.
This is a cute story that is a little bit above Rose’s level right now, but which she will certainly appreciate at some point. It is a Caldecott winner, but my main problem with it is that the funny little woman is illustrated in a somewhat stereotypical style. I suppose that considering the publication date this shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Aside from that, I like the illustrations, and I look forward to reading this to Rose at some point in the future.