Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978



The Letters

The Letters

Fall 2002 Fiction
Ages: 12 & Up
Author: Kazumi Yumoto
ISBN: 0374343837
Hardcover Price: $16.00
Review:
In a delicate affecting story, this book is about loss. It's also about recovery, a slow almost unbearable miracle. Here it includes laughter, not hysteria, genuine rib tickling laughter.

A six-year old girl has lost her father and, in part, her grief stricken mother. In a first person retelling of her life at this early point Chiaki appears a matter of fact child who is growing increasingly, but never self pityingly, anxious.

The girl describes the world she sees. In it people disappear into gaping holes. She also tells about Mrs. Yanagi, the elderly landlady who lets the girl know she will deliver any letters the girl writes to her dead father. Mrs. Yanagi is toothless, laconic, ugly and one of the magical women of our children's literary heritage. She says nothing, then in a few words, everything. We never know how aware she is of Chiaki's isolation yet when a possible playmate appears she allows an ideal friendship to happen. Like all relationships in this fascinating and positive book, it disappears. Chiaki , on Mrs.Yanagi's suggestion, continues to rake the falling leaves of the garden's poplar tree and of her life.

When years later Chiaki returns to the old lady's funeral, a warming wonderful secret is revealed. An exquisite secret that is finally the key to joy.

DHG   ©2002 Parents' Choice

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