The Star Festival

Albert Whitman. Apr. 2021. 32p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807575956.
K-Gr 2–Keiko is excited to attend her fifth Japanese Tanabata Matsuri, the Star Festival, with her Oba and Mama. They prepare by tying tanzaku to their bamboo tree, hoping the paper wishes come true, and dressing up in their summer kimonos. Oba shares the story of Tanabata, which Hadley and Fujisawa have interspersed with the family’s festival preparations. When Oba is separated from Keiko and her mama at the festival, their search for her coincides with the festival reenactment of Orihime and Hikoboshi’s search for each other. Keiko’s clever use of the story’s elements to find her Oba will have readers imagining along with her. Hadley has created a remarkable debut that flows elegantly, interweaving the two tales in a way that is readable and fun. Fujisawa complements the text with her vibrant digital artwork. The lighter colors used for Keiko and her family in the beginning complement the darker, bolder colors used to tell the story of the stars and the evening festival. The use of shadows and softer lines in the Tanabata retelling contrasting with crisper lines for Keiko and her family enhance the folkloric quality of the story. Hadley and Fujisawa adeptly incorporate food, decorations, and festival elements without getting bogged down in descriptions or definitions. Back matter includes the history of Tanabata Matsuri, information about festival food and decorations, and a tanzaku tutorial.
VERDICT An exquisite choice for all collections.

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