Children’s Book Reviews

Children's Book Reviews: Strange Light Afar

Publish January 7, 2016

Drawing on his Japanese heritage, Rui Umezana, author of The Truth About Death and Dying and Aiko’s Flowers, brings insight and depth to a collection of eight stories entitled Strange Light Afar: Tales of the Supernatural from Old Japan. Varying from “Honor,” the story of two samurai with an unbreakable bond, to “Vanity,” the tale of a Buddhist monk whose favourite activity is patting himself on the back, Umezana lays bare the true motivations of each of his characters, whether they are admirable or not. In doing so, readers are confronted with both the admirable and horrific qualities of human nature. Mixed in is a touch of the mystical – vengeful spirits, an undersea world, and a mysterious dog with a nose for poetic justice. Umezana seamlessly incorporates these fantastical elements of Japanese folklore with aspects of Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle and the Scottish/Irish myth of Selkies with characters so real they could step off the page. Perspectives alternate between first and third person, creating engaging narratives backed by stories exploring the vast range of emotion. Each tale is also skillfully prefaced by an eerie yet stunning black and white illustration drawn by Mikiko Fujita, inviting readers to imagine what the story that follows is going to be about. A highly enjoyable read by a talented storyteller, Strange Light Afar gives a glimpse into the stories that are part of Japanese culture, combining the frightful and magical and offering to a new audience fables for readers to savor and cherish.

Strange Light Afar

Rui Umezawa
Illustration EN: Mikiko Fujita
Grounded Books, House of Anansi Press
ISBN 13: 978-155-498-723-8