This story about a lovely Japanese tradition is told by five-year-old Keiko, a fictional girl who is excited over the start of Tanabata Matsuri, or the Star Festival.
This celebration takes place on the seventh day of the seventh month. According to Japanese folklore, this is the only day of the year when the two stars, Altair and Vega, can meet. (In Japanese the stars are known as Orihime and Hikoboshi.)
[Note: The holiday varies among different regions in Japan. According to the formerly used lunar calendar, the seventh month is August rather than July. Thus in some places, they celebrate on August 7, alhough the official date is July 7.]
Colorful Tanabata festivals are held across Japan in early July and August. It is traditional to write wishes on colorful strips of paper and hang them on special holiday trees made from bamboo branches. People also decorate their houses and public spaces.
Keiko and her family tie paper wishes to their bamboo tree and dress in traditional kimonos. Keiko’s grandmother, Oba, reminds Keiko of the charming story behind the holiday, about the two stars that fell in love, but were forbidden to meet except for once a year.
Then the family goes into town for the celebration. In the dense crowds, Oba gets separated from them. Keiko and her mother imagine they are back in the story of the stars trying to find each other across the galaxy.
Finally they locate Oba just in time for the fireworks celebration.
At the end of the story, backmatter provides further explanation of the holiday along with a description of traditional foods and decorations. There are also instructions on how to make a Tanabata Matsuri tree on which to hang wishes.
Illustrations by Mizuho Fujisawa capture the bright colors and excitement of the crowds.
Evaluation: Children aged four and up of all backgrounds will be enchanted by the traditions of this festival, and may want to create their own version of a wishing tree.
Published by Albert Whitman & Company, 2021