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Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Tea Party in the Woods, written and illustrated by Akiko Miyakoshi. Kids Can Press, 2015. $18.95 ages 5 and up

"Grandma's house was on
the other side of the woods.
Kikko set out, following her
father's tracks in the fresh
snow. The woods were very
still. And so quiet. Kikko's
footsteps were the only
sound. After a while, Kikko
spied a figure up ahead in a
long coat and a hat. "Papa!"
she called ... "

It is a winter wonderland in the morning when Kikko awakens. Her father is quick to head off to clear the snow at Grandma's house. When Kikko realizes he has forgotten to take the pie her mother baked, she offers to catch up to her father with it. Off she goes!

Her father is near enough to see. So, she follows in his footsteps until she stumbles and lags behind. No matter ... she can still see him when she is back on her feet. She continues to follow his familiar form; but, when that familiar form leads her to a house she has never seen before, she is at a loss. She peeks through a window to see a large bear removing his hat and coat. Where is she?

A little lamb assumes she has come to the tea party. In they go! The animals inside, dressed like humans and very reserved at first, are able to communicate with Kikko. They make her welcome, offer her food and drink. When they learn that the pie she was taking to Grandma is ruined, they  share theirs by boxing up a variety of beautiful pieces and packaging it with a red ribbon. Excitedly they walk with her to her grandmother's house, where she is met with surprise that she has made the trek on her own. Kikko looks around for her animal friends, and sees nothing. She does have an assurance for her concerned family:

"You're never alone in the woods," Kikko answered, smiling.
She was sure her new friends were listening."

What a gorgeous new storybook that has some of the elements of the always popular Little Red Riding Hood! Magical and mysterious, it will draw young readers in with its kindness, and the way in which the animals accept and welcome a small human 'intruder' to their party - and then help to solve the dilemma of the smashed pie.

The atmospheric artwork is beautifully accomplished using charcoal, pencil, and color ink. In fact, there is little color. That just adds to the sense of mystery and mood. Color is introduced to highlight the little girl and then the growing warmth she feels in company with her new friends.

Check every lovely image and you will fall in love with this book as I did. I will be sharing it tomorrow afternoon in K-4 classrooms and can't wait to hear the children's reaction to it. Then, I will put it on your 'keepers shelf' to be shared again and again. 

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