The Picture Book Buzz

When the Sakura Bloom - Pefect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

I love when my cherry trees bloom. It always brightens my day to look up into the cloud of pink blooms or watch as a soft pink light spreads through my windows.

That's probably one of the things that first drew me to this cover - that soft pink light and clouds of flowers. I was excited and intrigued to learn this beautiful book about the Japanese connection with the cherry trees was created by a Japanese author/illustrator. It is a loving ode to nature, its cycles, and especially the Sakura trees.

When the Sakura Bloom


Author/Illustrator: Narisa Togo


Publisher: Berbay Publishing (2022)


Ages: 3-7


Informational Fiction:


Themes:

Nature, celebrating moments, slowing down, and change.


Synopsis:

When the Sakura Bloom by Narisa Togo sheds light on the cultural significance of cherry blossom season in Japan, and an insight into the unique mindset of its people. Through subtle text and gentle imagery readers will see the importance of slowing down to appreciate the moment. That comfort, not despair, can be found in the inevitable cycles of the seasons. How change can usher in opportunities and rejuvenation.


Moreover, When the Sakura Bloom is an understated illustration of the importance of celebrating the fleeting, delicate beauty of nature and the metaphor this represents for life itself.


Opening Lines:

Hustle, bustle; hurry, dash.

It's a mid-March morning and people are making their usual rush to the station.

"I need to take an earlier train today," thinks a young lady as she quickens her pace.


"Not looking forward to the Maths test," says a girl to herself, dragging her feet.

"Why am I always late," thinks a boy, as he sprints past.


What I LOVED about this book:

This is such a gorgeous book! Day after day, people pass the Sakura trees starting at their phones, lost in their thoughts, always dashing by in a hurry. While this is set in a Japanese town, it could be anywhere in the world. The morning rush to work and school is pretty universal (well at least it had been).

Text & Image © Narisa Togo, 2020.


Wrapped against the frigid wind and focused on what's coming next in their day, they miss the subtle lengthening and slow warming of the days. I love how Narisa Togo uses lyrical text and a quadriptych to show the Sakura's response to these changes as they prepare for spring.; the soft grey background behind the tree limb slowly shifting and brightening into a soft pink glow.

Text & Image © Narisa Togo, 2020.


As a bird lover, I thoroughly enjoyed the close-up illustration and descriptions of the local birds (some I've never seen before) - the warbling white-eyes, brown-eared bulbul, and the tree sparrow - who notice the Sakura bloosoms first. Ater the repetition of the fun-to-say refrain, "Hustle, bustle; hurry, dash" and the image of harried commuters, when a sparrow drops a blossom "something a little different [happens] this morning."


Following the calendar and focusing on their tasks, the town begins preparations for the Sakura Festival. As the trees erupt with a riot of blossoms and the booths and lanterns are set up, people begin to slow. To take pictures, gaze in wonder, and pause on their way to and from work. While the scenes of the festival beautifully portray the Japanese setting, they are also universal with families spending time together, enjoying picnics and time outdoors with nature.

Text & Image © Narisa Togo, 2020.


After a storm ends the festival, changing the clouds of pink to a "pink carpet," and with another beautiful quadriptych Narisa shows the trees progression from blossoms to leaves, life returns to normal with the repeat of the refrain, "Hustle, bustle; hurry, dash..." Or does it?


Craft note: In demonstrating the change in the main character or the premise of the book, often a picture book circles back with a slightly altered mirror or reflection of the beginning, specifically guiding the reader through the change. Sometimes, the alteration is subtle, leaving the reader to discover the change, perhaps after multiple reads. For instance, slight changes made to the image (Sam and Dave Dig a Hole) or maybe a change captured within the wordless end pages (Faraway Things). Besides showing a change of seasons through the trees and clothing of the people dashing through their day, Narisa made one small change in the mirrored text and image from the beginning which shows a change in at least one person's appreciation of nature.


Gorgeously illustrated, with a soft pastel palette, this book encourages and celebrates the joy and peace which nature can provide when we pause and take a moment to look around us and watch the beautiful cycle of the Sakura trees in particular. It's a wonderful peek at a Japanese tradition and a gentle reminder that everything changes with the passage of time.


Resources:

- make your own cherry tree using bubble wrap (https://www.gluedtomycraftsblog.com/2015/03/bubble-wrap-print-cherry-blossom-tree-wfree-printable.html), broccoli, or some of these other ideas (http://frogsandsnailsandpuppydogtail.com/creative-cherry-blossom-tree-crafts-for-kids/).

- if there are cherry trees near you, draw your own series of pictures of the tree as the buds form, open a little, open all the way, and the leaves start to emerge. (Or perhaps take pictures as the tree changes or write a poem to or about your tree.).

- visit a cherry blossom festival if there is one near you (https://japanobjects.com/features/cherry-blossoms-usa).


If you missed it, be sure to check out Monday's interview with Narisa Togo (here).


This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.


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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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