Natsumi’s Song of Summer by Robert Paul Weston, Illus. by Misa Saburi

Review by Logaine Navascués        

Tundra Books, Penguin Random House, 12 May 2020

40 pages, hardcover, $21.99 CAD, 978-0-73526-541-7

Ages 3-7, Grades Pre K-2

Picture Book, Non-Fiction

Friends share a common language. Sometimes it’s in the words they speak or in the games they play. Others, in the small details of daily life, those instants when magic reveals itself, such as when cicada bugs leave the underground world and emerge into the sunlight. Natsumi’s Song of Summer is about the delicate, intimate moments shared by two little girls who are getting to know each other during the summer vacation. Natsumi is excited about her cousin Jill’s visit to Japan, but also worried about the possibility she may not like insects as much as Natsumi does. Or worse, Jill may be scared by the cicadas’ loud singing during the few weeks they come to the surface.

The evocative and highly sensorial text is written in simple prose following the traditional Japanese Tanka form. This kind of poem is composed of thirty-one syllables organized in 5 lines, following a 5 – 7- 5 – 7 -7 pattern. At the end of the book, author Robert Paul Weston explains how to write this form of poetry and invites children to do so, while giving more details about cicadas and their chants. Weston’s onomatopoeic descriptions of the different types of cicada sounds are one of the book’s most noteworthy and witty surprises.

Misa Saburi’s colourful watercolour illustrations create an ethereal atmosphere for Weston’s visual descriptions. There is an interesting use of contrast, alternating pastel spreads with very dark pages depicting the cicadas. The thick dark line that outlines the characters make them stand out, highlighting the dual nature of the work: its representation of darkness and brightness, of nature and friendship’s revelations.

This tender tale about two friends bonding and discovering the wonders of nature is an engaging introduction to creative writing, as well as a valuable information book for young readers.

Logaine Navascués is a Peruvian artist, writer, creative director, teacher and book maker, currently living in Vancouver. She is the proud mother of a beautiful daughter and two artist’s books. You can find her reading, collecting picturebooks and eating chocolate while pursuing her MA in Children’s Literature at UBC.

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