Yuki and the One Thousand Carriers by Gloria Whelan, illustrated by Yan Nascimbene (Sleeping Bear Press, 2008) is the story of a young girl from seventeenth century Japan who travels with her family in a palanquin to the imperial palace of Edo. Little Yuki’s father is a samurai, and as such, must make the ritual visit to the shogun to pay his respects. Yuki, however, is not excited by the prospect of this long journey that will require the ‘thousand carriers’ to bear them and all their gifts and goods to the capital. Yuki’s teacher suggests she write haikus on her journey about the things she experiences.
Yuki’s first haiku is wistful about her departure, but eventually she goes on to observe exciting things that keep her attention away from her homesickness like the trail of the thousand carriers and the appearance of blossoms in the rain and fishermen at sea. The illustrations by Yan Nascimbene illustrate in a very Hiroshige-esque way the many sights Yuki witnesses. One of the other illustrated delights of the book are the colorful kimono Yuki wears.
I enjoyed reading this book to my daughter. In Japan, we traveled to sites like the castles, riverbanks and bridges that are depicted in the story. We once even took a tour of an old inn, especially used for samurai lords and their entourages. Reading Yuki and the One Thousand Carriers reminded us of that time. My daughter also mentioned not understanding the word ‘palanquin’ until I explained to her how she had one as part of her Girls’ Day doll set. Her eyes lit up in recognition when I mentioned it. Little Yuki, of course, being a young female of the nobility, rode in the palanquin with her mother.
Yuki and the One Thousand Carriers is a good picture book to share with a young girl as a bedtime read. You can read our PaperTigers review of the book here.