Review: Yuki and the One Thousand Carriers by Gloria Whelan


Title: Yuki and the One Thousand Carriers

Author: Gloria Whelan

Illustrator: Yan Nascimbene

Publisher:  Sleeping Bear Press

ISBN: 9781585363520


May Contain Spoilers

Yuki and the One Thousand Carriers is another random find from the library.  I was drawn to the book by the cover illustration, featuring Yuki, dressed in a colorful kimono, and her dog, Kita.  Since it is set in Japan, I thought it would be fun to take it home and give it a once over.  This really is a very clever and charming book, and I am so glad that I checked it out of the library.

Yuki’s father is a governor in Japan, and during the 17th and 18th centuries, they were required to spend half of the year in Kyoto, and the rest of the year in Edo.  When the shogun calls for her father, he has no choice but to heed it and travel the 300 mile journey along the Tokaido Road.  Yuki doesn’t want to go, but she also has no choice.  To argue would be disrespectful, so she dutifully packs up her belongs, gathers up her puppy Kita, and resigns herself to the long trip.  Before she leaves, her tutor instructs her to write a haiku every day during the long journey.

The bold art and engaging prose instantly draw you into Yuki’s journey.  Haiku is tucked seamlessly into the narration, as Yuki obediently records her thoughts along the Tokaido Road.  At first her poems mirror her reluctance to leave home, but as new wonders and sights greet her, she slowly has an attitude change.  As their journey continues, her outlook on it noticeably brightens. 

The trip is quite an endeavor; it takes weeks to travel that far, and her family had to engage the service of one thousand carriers to haul their belongings with them.  Yuki and her mother must travel in a palanquin, so strangers can’t see them on the road.  Nights are spent at inns of varying quality, where they attempt to rest after the long, tedious days spent in what is basically a wooden box.  Making it even more unpleasant for Yuki is the homesickness that accompanies her at the start of the journey.  As her adventure unfolds, however, she begins to find enjoyment in her new surroundings.

Yuki and the One Thousand Carriers is an entertaining and engaging picture book.  Rich in detail and lyrical in language, this is definitely one to add to your wishlist.

Grade: A-

Review copy obtained at my local library