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From The Asian Reporter, V13, #47 (November 18-24, 2003), page 20.

The unlikeliest of friends

One Stormy Night

By Yuichi Kimura

Illustrated by Hiroshi Abe, Translation by Lucy North

Kodansha, 2003, Hardcover, 48 pages, $16.00

By Josephine Bridges

One stormy night, a goat and a wolf find shelter from a storm in the same tumbledown hut. They canít see each other in the dark, and cracks of thunder drown out the fragments of their conversation that would give their identities away. The wolf has caught a cold and canít smell the goat. One Stormy Night pulses with a delicious tension that will appeal to adults as well as children.

The two animals exhibit an uncharacteristic but welcome restraint and concern for each otherís feelings. "The goat was just about to say: Your voice sounds like a wolfís, low and gruff. But he thought this might be rude, so he decided against it. The wolf was just about to say: Your laugh sounds like a goatís, high and bleating. But he thought this might offend his companion, so he stopped himself."

Again and again, as they talk about their dwelling places and favorite foods, the two narrowly miss learning the truth. Predator and prey entertain suspicions about each other early on, but as their conversation progresses, they discover how much they have in common and relax into the beginnings of friendship.

The illustrations remind me of the scratchboards I loved to make in elementary school ó a layer of black paint scraped away to make the picture reveals a layer of color crayon below, invariably a surprise. In Hiroshi Abeís hands, however, this primitive art form takes on a subtlety appropriate to Yuichi Kimuraís fable, which implies that none of us are prisoners of our genetic makeup or social conditioning, that peaceful co-existence is always possible.

"Do you want to get together again?" suggests the goat as the storm blows over and the stars begin to glimmer through the retreating clouds. "We could have lunch." The new friends agree on a meeting place and a password, then part company before they ever get a look at each other. "But what would happen when the two animals met again, in broad daylight, there at the foot of the hill?" The sequel, One Sunny Day, answers this intriguing question. Meanwhile, donít miss One Stormy Night.

* * *

In broad daylight

One Sunny Day

By Yuichi Kimura

Illustrated by Hiroshi Abe, Translation by Lucy North

Kodansha, 2003, Hardcover, 48 pages, $16.00

By Josephine Bridges

In Kimura and Abeís earlier book, One Stormy Night, a goat and a wolf spend a stormy night huddled together in a hut and, because they canít see each other, have a friendly conversation in which they discover they have a lot in common. As the first book draws to a close, the two animals have agreed to get together for lunch the following day. One Sunny Day is the story of friends discovering that they are also predator and prey, and deciding whether friendship or predation takes precedence.

Fraught with even more tension and humor than its predecessor, One Sunny Day is the prefect sequel, arguably better than the book that spawned it. "I mean, itís like Iíve made a date for lunch ó with lunch!" says the wolf, who immediately apologizes. "Thatís all right," the goat replies. "I know if you really wanted to gobble me up, youíd have done so just now, when we met in front of the hut." But when the wolf drops his lunch into a ravine, he begins to look at the goat in a whole new way.

Yuichi Kimuraís wolf has plenty of opportunities to revert to his predatory character. First, after a big lunch of grass, the goat falls asleep. Then a second storm drives the pair into a cave. Finally, as the two part company, the wolfís belly begins to rumble. "ĎI just have to. Canít help it,í he muttered." And the next moment he was off and running, heading straight toward the goat. He overtook him in a second. He opened his jaws very wide, and ó "

Hiroshi Abeís illustrations are as bright in the second book as they were dark in the first. Thereís an idyllic depiction of mountains in the clouds, a beautifully chaotic picture of the gathering storm, and an astonishing portrait of the wolf making up his mind.

One Stormy Night is a fable about making peace, but One Sunny Day teaches both children and adults ó for this book will appeal to all ages ó about sustaining peace. Itís a timeless and timely lesson. When will we ever learn?

 

To buy me, visit these retailers:

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