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Sunday, April 12, 2020

Natsumi's Song of Summer, written by Robert Paul Weston and illustrated by Misa Saburi. Tundra, Penguin Random House. 2020. $21.99 ages 5 and up

"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.
At the huge airport
Natsumi saw her cousin
weaving through the crowds,

grinning and anxious, her eyes
bright with curiosity."

Once again, Robert Paul Weston uses tanka poems to tell a charming tale. This one concerns two cousins meeting for the first time. Natsumi loves everything about summer in Japan. She spends her days in the sun's heat, enjoying all things she can do in the outdoors. She has a special fondness for summer's tiny creatures.

"But what she loved most
were summer's insects, gleaming,
crawling, fluttering ...

With their songs and bright bodies
the air itself came to life!"

She especially loves cicadas - their presence, their chirps, their gorgeous wings. Natsumi is also excited about her summer birthday. It will bring a special guest. Her cousin Jill is flying to Japan for a visit. The two have never met. Along with the excitement she feels, she is also a bit nervous about keeping Jill happy and entertained.

Jill is an inquisitive visitor, wanting to learn as much as she can from her cousin. Their days are spent celebrating the beauty to be found in a new culture, its beaches, and leisurely summer days. When Jill asks about the buzzing she constantly hears, Natsumi experiences some apprehension.

"Natsumi wanted
to show them to her cousin
but she was worried.

Insects frightened some people.
What if Jill was frightened, too?"

Luckily, there is no need to worry. Jill is thrilled to learn what Narsumi has to teach about the insects. Then, she is happy to share with her cousin a picture of something she knows a lot about - the luna moth. A promise is made to introduce them when Natsumi visits Jill.

This is a lovely celebration of family and friendship. It also pays particular attention to the beauty to be found in the natural world.

Misa Saburi's digital artwork adds rich detail to this lovely story, allowing readers a clear look at the Japanese setting, the wonders to be found there, and the growing friendship between the cousins.

 In back matter Mr. Weston provides information about the Japanese form of poetry he has chosen to use, adds further facts about the cicada, and explains the mimicry of sounds found in his story.

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