When the Sakura Bloom

Berbay. Mar. 2021. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780648953319.
PreS-Gr 2–This wondrously illustrated picture book is weighed down by stilted text, lacking focus and engaging story. The story begins with people rushing to the train station. Some days later, as the weather warms, “The sakura [Japanese cherry] trees know what to do.” They bloom, birds come, a festival takes place, a storm knocks down the blossoms, the tree makes leaves and fruit, and the story comes full circle with people rushing to the train station. Togo’s painterly, luminous illustrations depict the bare trees, the phases of the flowers growing, and the festival itself beautifully. Certain characters reappear each time a morning trip to the station occurs. The delicate blooms of the tree, the contrast of the pink against the dark sky, and the lovely, colorful birds perching in a close-up on the tree are eye-catching and captivating. Unfortunately, the disjointed text is not engaging and does the illustrations a disservice. The information about the phases of the tree and the festival itself are interesting and effective. However, the narrative of the people rushing to the train and celebrating the festival is stilted, and doesn’t integrate well with the nonfiction element.
VERDICT Despite the lovely artwork, this doesn’t hold together. Pass on this one, but be on the lookout for more from Togo.

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