Books by Rafe Martin

Mysterious Tales of Japan

Illustrated by Tatsuro Kiuchi
G. P. Putnam
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A collection of ten of Rafe’s favorite Japanese folktales draws readers into an eerie, beautiful world that is not so different from our own with such stories as the romantic Green Willow and the suspenseful Ho-ichi the Earless. An excellent alternative to the many horror books now marketed to children. While often eerie and mysterious, these tales are beautiful, elegant, and touch the imagination deeply. With introduction, sources, notes.

“Some of these ten stories, such as The Boy Who Drew Cats, will be familiar to readers; others will not. But all the tales are characterized by an eerie beauty. In his introduction, Martin explains this quality as peculiarly Japanese, with roots in the Shinto and Buddhist views of life. Most of the tales focus on the spiritual powers within nature. A woman falls in love with a pine tree; a man marries a dangerous snow maiden; a priest is granted a wish to live three days as a carp. The theme of kindness repaid occurs frequently but with a twist of bittersweet loss unusual in Western folklore. Several stories are ghost tales, but even those are haunting rather than horrifying. Every tale is headed with a haiku and illustrated with one black-and-white drawing and one color plate. As with his earlier work The Rough-Face Girl (1992), Martin’s interpretations linger long in the mind.”

“This lyrically written collection is a wondrous introduction to tales that may be unfamiliar to children.”
               —Kirkus Reviews Pointer Review

“Influenced to a large extent by American writer Lafcadio Hearn, the author has brought together ten tales, of which seven are based on Hearn’s versions. Though replete with ghosts and spirits, the tales are gently told where possible so that the collection assumes a quietly eerie tone. The harsh consequences of broken promises are not forgotten, however, and several of the lead characters are dead by tale’s end. The softly hued paintings, glowing with blues and golds, focus on the key figure of each tale. The sources for the tales are carefully documented, and additional comments by the author relate personal experiences that affected his retellings.”
                                        —The Horn Book