Monday, January 22, 2007

Sumo Boy

Nakagawa, Hirotaka. 2006. SUMO BOY. Ill. by Yoshifumi Hasegawa. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 0786836350 [Suggested Grade Levels K-3]

In SUMO BOY, Nakagawa presents a lively, spirited, and colorful Japanese boy who is dedicated to helping those who are in need. Beginning with the line, “I am Sumo Boy. I fight for justice” we meet this new loincloth-clad superhero. Whether working out in the dojo or fighting injustice out on the streets, young readers will be captivated by the humorous dialogue and culturally authentic language. While shouting, “DOSUKOI” as he flies through the air or stopping to recharge his energy on a “sumo hot pot”, Nakagawa sprinkles Japanese words throughout, adding to the international flavor of the work.

While Nakagawa’s tale is sure to enchant its readers, it is the pairing of story and striking illustrations that make this work such a success. Vibrant colors with strong fields of black flood the pages. Heavy ink markings with thick brush strokes, shading techniques, and unusual perspectives are reminiscent of traditional Japanese art. All of these stylistic techniques, along with images of city scene, help cement the Japanese setting for the reader while making the story accessible world-wide. The strength of this clever tale is in its ability to capture the spirit of young children, and paired with artful illustrations, the two come together seamlessly to make this book an absolute delight for all young readers.

After reading SUMO BOY, allow young readers to create original superhero stories with an attention to their cultural history. As an extension activity, have them illustrate their stories, creating original books.

Other superhero stories for young readers include:
Grey, Mimi. TRACTION MAN IS HERE. ISBN 0375831916
Morimoto, Junko. THE INCH BOY. ISBN 0140506772
Tauss, Marc. SUPERHERO. ISBN 0439627346

By Rose M. Brock

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