I am Tama, lucky cat A Japanese legend

Wendy Henrichs

Book - 2011

A retelling of the traditional Japanese tale, the lucky cat legend, describing the origins of the beckoning cat and how it came to be a symbol of good luck.

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Subjects
Genres
Picture books
Published
Atlanta : Peachtree 2011.
Language
English
Physical Description
unpaged : ill
ISBN
9781561455898
156145589X
Main Author
Wendy Henrichs (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Anyone who has seen Lucky Cat ceramic figurines in Japanese stores and restaurants will recognize Tama's beckoning posture. Based on a version of the Lucky Cat legend from Japan's Edo period, this folktale features a stray cat who comes to live with a poor monk and ends up saving the life of a traveling samurai warlord by beckoning him out of the way of a falling cherry tree branch. In true folkloric tradition, this good deed results in rewards for Tama and the monk, enabling them both to live in comfort while the monk provides for the worshipers who pray at his temple. Beautiful pale watercolors in cool shades of brown, icy gray, moss green, and steel blue portray the mountainous Japanese setting. Especially exquisite are the pale pink cherry blossoms, all the more alluring for their potential danger. Although there are a few other picture-book versions of this tale, it isn't one of the most commonly retold ones, and Jaeggi's art makes it a worthwhile purchase. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Ceramic cats with one upraised paw, said to bring good luck and prosperity, are fixtures in Japanese storefronts. In her debut, Henrichs retells the traditional story of the cat's origin, in which a lordly stray befriends a monk in a temple, the monk shares his meager provisions with the cat, and the cat's beckoning gesture saves the life of a samurai warrior whose grateful reward relieves the temple's poverty. Henrichs allows the cat to narrate, a device that can feel clunky ("Without warning, I ran out of the temple and into the mighty storm, startling my master"), but does better when explaining unfamiliar elements ("In Japan, it is believed that when a cat washes its face, a guest will arrive"). Jaeggi (Monsoon Afternoon) lavishes care on the watercolor illustrations, in which everyday features of Japanese life—altar statuary, ragged-edged paper umbrellas, and bamboo fencing—add historical and architectural interest. She paints them in subdued, wintry whites and blues, with lively pink cherry blossoms signaling spring as the story moves toward its happy ending. Ages 5–9. (Aug.) [Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC

Review by School Library Journal Reviews

PreS-Gr 2—Evocative watercolor illustrations capture ancient Japan in this picture-book retelling of the lucky-cat legend. Cat Tama narrates how she came to live with a poor monk in his rundown temple and her habit of sitting with her right paw upheld in the traditional Japanese greeting, "Come to me." Food is scarce, but the monk and feline live contentedly. One spring day during a raging storm, the animal dashes out to the temple gate. There she meets a traveling warlord, and through her beckoning gesture saves his life and changes the temple's fortune. An author's note explains the origin of the story and includes photos of beckoning cat figurines and the temple where the legendary Tama lived. The story's tone is formal but not stilted, as when the cat says, "I smiled at him with my pale green eyes, for I was not hurt." The artist studied in Osaka and her traditional training comes through, blending formal composition with light comic touches, such as Tama mimicking the monk's lotus pose. The images alternate between full-page paintings and panels reminiscent of Japanese screen paintings. With its compelling story and stunning art, this is a worthy addition.—Suzanne Myers Harold, Multnomah County Library System, Portland, OR [Page 99]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Under the shadow of the white-capped mountains of Japan, a kind and gentle monk takes in a white cat with unusual markings and names him Tama, Lucky Cat.Tama watches as his new master teaches Buddha’s ways to poor farmers, caring for their welfare while ignoring his own empty stomach. Tama truly earns his nickname—“Lucky Cat,’ when during a powerful thunderstorm, he sees a towering warlord on a white horse. The cat beckons the warrior forward just as a large branch crashes to the ground and lands right where the warlord had previously stood. In gratitude to Tama, the warlord lavishes gifts on the monk’s poor temple.In a marriage of graceful text based on one of the legends of Maneki Neko—“beckoning cat,” in early Edo-period Japan—and breathtaking watercolor illustrations, debut author Wendy Henrichs and award-winning illustrator Yoshiko Jaeggi offer a beautiful story of friendship, generosity, and kindness.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A retelling of the traditional Japanese tale describing the origins of the beckoning cat and how it came to be a symbol of good luck.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Many years ago, a cat went in search of food and shelter. After a long and difficult journey, she came upon a rundown temple at the foot of a majestic, snow-capped mountain. She sat in the doorway and waited with her right hand upheld, as was her custom. A monk with little more than a few grains of rice to share welcomed his feline visitor into his humble home and place of worship. Little did he know that the hungry, shivering animal he named Tama would bring him both friendship and good fortune beyond his dreams… In a marriage of graceful text based on one of the legends of Maneki Neko—“beckoning cat,” in early Edo Period Japan—and breathtaking watercolor illustrations, debut author Wendy Henrichs and award-winning illustrator Yoshiko Jaeggi offer a beautiful story of friendship, generosity, and kindness.