Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
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Autumn 2008, vol 6 no 3

Haiku Picturebook for Children
text by Keisuke Nishimoto, illustrations by Kozo Shimizu, translated by Dianne Ooka
A Review by Johnye Strickland


The purpose of this book, according to the authors, is "to introduce children to the world of the Japanese poem known as haiku", anticipating that "this introduction will inspire and encourage children to try to express their thoughts and feelings in this simple–yet ultimately complex–poetic format." (Foreword)

The haiku included were selected from "some of Japan's most famous masters": Kobayashi Issa (1763-1783), Yosano Buson (1716-1783), Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694), Kaga Chiyojo (1703-1775), Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902), Takahama Kyoshi (1874-1959), Matsumoto Takashi (1906-1956), and Hattori Ransetsu (1654-1707).

Each poem is given a two page spread, with the English translation, the Japanese original in both hiragana and rōmaji, and a short commentary in English, worked in around the images in the illustration, whose colors match the mood or season of the poem.

Old favorites, such as Bashō's old pond and Milky Way over Sado Island are included, along with poems I was not familiar with by Kyoshi and Takashi. The illustrations should make them memorable to children, even if the poems are not recognized by their parents or grandparents.

The one I find most appealing is by Buson:

In the wooden bucket
The cucumber and the eggplant
Are nodding and chatting.


One of the reasons it attracted my attention, no doubt, was the accompanying illustration, showing two bald headed men dressed in kimonos–one green, one purple–looking so much like the vegetables they were paired with, floating in a nearby bucket. When I saw the picture, I thought of Buson's own approach to haiku, from the perspective of an artist.

It will make a great gift for a family with a young child.


Haiku Picturebook for Children
Text by Keisuke Nishimoto
Illustrations by Kozo Shimizu
Translated by Dianne Ooka
1998 in Japan
First American Edition 1999
Heian International, Inc.
400 West Artesia Blvd.
Compton, CA 90220
ISBN 0-89346-916-5