Though I didn’t plan it this way, today’s review is rather timely. Last week, a major typhoon barreled its way across Japan. Though somehow – and looking at the radar images, I still can’t figure out how – the typhoon dumped no more than a handful of drops on Kumamoto, poor Okinawa got a bit drenched by the slow-moving storm. It only seems fitting to share a book about a similar storm on Japan’s subtropical isles.
Takako is a shisa, part of a protective duo that sits atop an old tile roof in a rural Okinawan village. While Takako’s brother Nobu is content to stay at his post and guard their house, Takako is tempted away from her duties one day by a beautiful butterfly. Freed from her responsibilities, she enjoys a romp across the island. She chases the farmers’ trucks, plays gateball with the island’s seniors and even joins the local drummers in an eisa dance. She gets so caught up in her adventure that she doesn’t notice the weather changing and a great typhoon heading for the island. Knowing her brother can’t protect the house by himself, she races back to the roof … but will she make it in time? It’s a kids’ book, so you can imagine that the ending is a satisfactory one but I won’t spoil it for you.
Takako and the Great Typhoon was written and illustrated by two military spouses, both of whom spent several years stationed on the island. As a result, there’s a real sense of the island in the pictures and the text that residents will pick up on and casual visitors might miss. Okinawa is more than the sum of its resorts (beautiful as those are!) and as a former island resident, it made me smile to see the book highlight workaday things like sugarcane fields, rural vending machines, gateball and eisa dancers. If you’ve ever lived on the island or had kids who were born there (as mine was), this is a cute book to add to your collection.
You can preview Takako and the Great Typhoon here and order it from the website or even through Amazon.