________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 2 . . . . September 14, 2007


The Sakura Tree.

Carolyn McTighe. Illustrated by Karen Brownlee.
Calgary, AB: Red Deer Press, 2007.
32 pp., hc., $19.95.
ISBN 978-0-88995-354-3.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Helen Norrie.

*** /4


One day a strong wind began to blow, and the tiny pink blossoms were gently picked from their boughs and carried high into the air. They swirled and soared across the countryside like a springtime snowfall. A handful of blossoms landed on the doorsteps of Aki and Fuyu. They recognized the delicate shape and fragrant perfume of the sakura petals and were reminded on the tiny seeds their little sister had brought to Canada from Japan.

     The Sakura Tree is a gentle, pleasant picture book about three Japanese sisters who are sent to Canada in the early years of the 20th century to become "picture brides" of Japanese men in British Columbia. At that time, unmarried Japanese men would choose their brides from pictures which were sent by members of the young women's families who hoped to offer their daughters a better life in Canada.

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     Each daughter brings with her something to remind her of her former life: the eldest, Aki, brings a beautiful silk kimono; the second eldest, Fuyu, brings her red violin, while the youngest, Haruko, brings three seeds from the sakura cherry tree. Each daughter finds happiness and a good husband in British Columbia, but they become separated and are only reunited when blossoms from Haruko's cherry trees bring them together again.

     This story is based on actual reminiscences of Japanese "picture brides" as recognized by the author, Carolyn McTighe of Kamloops, BC. The book could be used in a multicultural study with preschool or early years' students. It could spark discussion on how difficult it must have been for young women, like these three, to leave behind their home and families and face a whole new life in Canada. The difficulties are downplayed in this picture book, however, and only the positive aspects of the daughters' new lives are emphasized.

     Artwork by Karen Brownlee of Lethbridge, AB, is done in delicate watercolors which suit the mild atmosphere of the story. Her watercolor series, Rural Prairie Communities, has been exhibited throughout Alberta galleries. This book might also be used in an art lesson to demonstrate Japanese fabrics and patterns.


Helen Norrie is a former teacher-librarian who has taught children's literature in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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