BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

On the Seesaw Bridge by Yuichi Kimura, illustrated by Kowshiro Hata, translated by Vertical, Inc.

On the Seesaw BridgeOn the Seesaw BridgeHere’s the initial scene: an orange fox chases a grey rabbit, both heading toward an almost-washed out wooden bridge perched over a fast-moving river swollen from heavy rains.

The rabbit sees the bridge as an escape route, while the fox is convinced he’s about to get a tasty meal … but their collective weight on the single log (which is all that’s left of the bridge) dislodges it from both sides of the bank and now the pair must remain perfectly balanced to stay alive. Calling their respective friends for help brings nothing but crows who cause the single log to precariously teeter-totter, so that being alone with just each other proves to be the better, safer alternative.

Keeping the log as still as possible, the adversaries talk through the night, easing one another’s fears in the darkness. Come dawn, their combined efforts finally save them both … until once again, the chase is on …

Seesaw is writer Yuichi Kimura’s third book in English translation; he’s published dozens of stories in his native Japan. Interestingly enough, each of these three translated titles delightfully turn natural enemies into thoughtful friends … at least for awhile. In addition to Seesaw, Yuichi’s engaging 2003 adventures, One Stormy Night … and its sequel One Story Day, both feature the frenemy pair of wolf and goat.

As slyly entertaining as the writing is, both book designer and illustrator also deserve noted praise. As the log sees-and-saws, so does the print on the page – such a simple yet effective layout choice – as if the story, too, just might slide off along with one of the frenemies. And goodness, you can’t help but giggle over the ever-changing expressions, especially of the fox! Check out his blue eyeball floating in a shocked socket, his tail puffed to three times his body size as he attempts to navigate the falling, lurching log … on the other end, the rabbit remains plastered flat, even his long ears gripping with frozen intensity … meanwhile, down below, a curious catfish jumps out of the water for quite the spectacular view!

In a few short, vibrant pages, Seesaw offers a memorable lesson on perspective and cooperation, cleverly (and strikingly) packaged as a playful adventure. Looks like Japanese-titles-in-translation-boutique press Vertical, Inc. chose their first-ever children’s title just right!

Readers: Children

Published: 2011 (United States)


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