The Last Kappa of Old Japan: A Magical Journey of Two Friends

illus. by Sunny Seki. 32p. Tuttle. Oct. 2016. Tr $12.95. ISBN 9784805313992. BL
Gr 1–3—A gentle message of environmental stewardship runs through this tale of friendship and reciprocity told in English and Japanese. Norihei is living with his family in the pristine Japanese countryside when he comes to the aid of a kappa, a tiny folk creature with a fondness for cucumbers. Sporting webbed feet and a childlike appearance, kappas spend much of their lives underwater but like to cause mischief among humans. They are also charged with keeping the waterways safe and clean. Norihei and the kappa, Kyu, quickly bond, but their friendship is interrupted by the building of a railroad in the area. The new technology, including electricity, spells danger for Kyu and his family. They are forced to move away, but Kyu returns one last time to help his friend. Grateful Norihei creates a sushi roll, kappamaki, in honor of his friend's love for cucumbers. The story's message is leavened with stylized cartoon illustrations bursting with detail and lively action. A concluding page of "Cultural Notes" adds information on kappas and Japanese folklore; it states that in America, kappas took on another form: the Ninja Turtles, who "started eating pizza instead of cucumbers!"
VERDICT This engaging tale offers an easy-to-understand environmental lesson along with an accessible introduction to Japanese folklore and culture for young readers.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing