Greetings! It’s been awhile since I’ve posted largely because I made the move back to Canada this month. I had many great adventures while in Japan and especially enjoyed my discoveries of childrens’ books in the country.
One of my discoveries was the work of Tashima Seizo whose Tobe Batta or Fly High, Grasshopper (Kaiseisha, 1988) I read for the big July reading event hosted by the Tongari Boshi Mother’s Reading Group held at my daughter’s elementary school in Nishinomiya, Japan. Fly High, Grasshopper is a picture book for young children, ages 4 and up. It’s a short but brilliant little tale about a timid grasshopper who finally overcomes his fear of predators by taking a risk with his life and jumping out into the open, where he can be seen by all. Immediately, he is attacked by a praying mantis and a snake. However, the grasshopper jumps with all his might and lo, he discovers something about himself — he has wings! And with these wings, he flies off into the distant horizon, his life changed forever.
Although a simple story, Fly High, Grasshopper is about overcoming one’s fears in life and taking risks. And what better way to illustrate this deeper truth about life than to depict it with insects? Theirs is truly a fearful world — and Tashima pulls no punches in illustrating it as such. Yes, poor little grasshopper is afraid, but who wouldn’t be with little shredded up corpses of other grasshoppers half-devoured by other predatory insects lying about around you? It takes more than a little bravery to make a decision to expose oneself in this world, and yet that is exactly what this grasshopper does. I liked that this story clearly illustrated the insect world with all its dog-eat-dog proclivities in a bold and distinctive style of drawing that is uniquely Tashima’s. It is a book that I will long remember, not just because I read it aloud (in Japanese — talk about taking risks!) to a group of children in Japan, but also because of its story and perspective on the very human decisions we sometimes make in a world that might otherwise seem hostile and inhospitable to our lives.