Mr. Reaper by Tatsuya Miyanishi, translated by Vertical, Inc.
Out in the forest, the Reaper points out a little pink piglet to unsuspecting readers, and warns, “‘The poor thing will be dying / in a few days.’” A hungry wolf decides he can’t eat the sick little piggy in such a state, and takes him home to nurse back to health … and then he’ll have his tasty meal. The Reaper watches, warning us that the wolf, too, is not long for this world, oh well.
No matter how diligently – and so sweetly – the wolf tries to make the little piglet better, nothing seems to work. But then the wolf remembers that his grandpa once told him about a certain plant that has the power to cure any illness. Day after day he searches, but the piglet’s condition only worsens. Through rain and wind, the tenacious wolf keeps seeking the magical red plant …
Not to spoil the ending (really!), but I have to confess that it’s happy. Because even when all hope seems to be lost, the Reaper can change his mind and a miracle or two can happen even for the most unlikely pair.
Japanese children’s book author Tatsuya Miyanishi makes his English-language debut with Mr. Reaper, although translations of some of his many titles into French, Chinese, and Korean have already established him internationally. His boldly colored, simplified drawings have clever, unexpected details, especially the watchful eyes of the Reaper as he witnesses the transformation of the relationship between pig and wolf – between prey and predator – develop into something else entirely. The book jacket/book cover, by the way, is ingeniously well-designed, as well.
The message for children – and their various adults – is certainly clear: in spite of (deathly) challenging circumstances, a little bit of heartfelt caring can make delightful dancing partners of even the worst-imagined foes – “‘[b]odies twisting, butts wriggling / to that silly ditty they’re happily singing.’”
Published: 2012 (United States)