Golden Threads by Suzanne Del Rizzo, illustrated by Miki Sato

   Golden Threads by Suzanne Del Rizzo, illustrated by Miki Sato, Owlkids, 9781771473606, 2020 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format: Picture book

What did you like about the book?  Sometimes metaphorical picture books have to strain to communicate meaning, but here author and illustrator combine forces to effortlessly convey the Japanese art of kintsugi, translated as “gold joinery.” Emi loses her beloved stuffed fox, who is found, battered with stuffing oozing from its seams, by a grandpa (ojiisan). He gathers up the sad toy and brings it home to his granddaughter Kiko, who is shown seated in a wheelchair. Kiko cleans and repairs the little fox, using golden thread to mend him. Days pass and Kiko heals, progressing to crutches and then a walking boot. Once she’s up and around, Kiko and Grandfather return the fox to Emi. Clear, simple text and a matter-of-fact tone tell the little toy’s story from its point of view and the language is evocative and lyrical. Although Del Rizzo does not explicitly say the book is set in Japan, the style of the houses, the use of Japanese words and the appearance of the characters all reinforce that assumption.

Sato’s illustrations use cut paper to tell this delicate story and they are truly remarkable. In fact, they’re so gorgeous and life-like that you don’t even notice their complexity unless you slow down and linger on each page. Hundreds of tiny fringed shingles cover the roof of Emi’s house, precious, cascading pink flowers spill out of the frame of Kiko’s window, and a trail of golden ginkgo leaves scattered across the water lead Fox back home. The color palette is a collection of soft, muted hues, often with gold undertones to reinforce the connection to kintsugi. This is a gentle but insistent lesson on the value of reuse and wabi-sabi: that we can find beauty in things others have labeled as imperfect.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No. To appreciate the intricate artwork, you need to see it up close, but you could still use it as a group read aloud (the pictures would be clear, even from a distance) and then afterwards, let children examine it one-to-one.

To whom would you recommend this book?  This would also be a good conversation starter for discussing the life cycle of objects or people, and the beauty to be found in what some may see as deficits. As a modern version of the Velveteen Rabbit, it could also be comforting to those with much-loved and shabby toys (in fact, according to an endnote, was inspired by the author’s son and his worn “Puppy”.  Perfect for families or libraries looking for stories with Asian characters. It could even find use in a bibliotherapy collection.

Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: February 9, 2021

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