Peach Girl by Raymond Nakamura, illustrated by Rebecca Bender
Lest you’re tempted to dismiss this as just another gender-bender version of a familiar tale, banish that thought immediately! Yes, our hero bursts forth from a peach to become the child of an until-then childless older couple, and yes, her name is Momoko – literally ‘peach girl’ in Japanese – but any resemblance to the original Momotarō folktale is overshadowed by her inspiring girl power talents.
Here, our Momoko appears fully formed, with a clear, enviable life goal: “‘I’m here to make the world a better place.'” Clothed in a dress made of peach skin, sporting a hat created from the peach pit, nourished with dumplings made of cut-up peach, Momoko thanks Mom and Dad for all their help, and sets out to find the legendary ogre rumored to eat small children. On her world-improvement quest, she meets unafraid Monkey, Dog who’s no scaredy-cat, and Pheasant who’s no chicken. Each new friend confirms the ogre’s kiddie-eating proclivities, but each also agrees to help track him down in hopes of reaping a peachy dumpling reward.
Momoko is determined to meet the ogre for herself, and figure out just who this childish threat might be. Together, the foursome set out for the ogre’s island … and manage to have quite the friendly, peachy adventure.
Vancouver-based educator and science blogger Raymond Nakamura’s feisty Momoko is a truth-seeking explorer who doesn’t let gossip about overbearing size, sharp teeth, burning eyes, much less cannibalistic tendencies, deter her from having fabulous experiences. Artist Rebecca Bender celebrates Momoko’s girl power, and makes sure to imbue our intrepid hero with energetic charm and never-flagging spirit. Clearly, we should all be so tenaciously broad-minded as we face the ever-changing wide world. That said, global improvement also includes paying attention to what’s closer to home. Momoko might be a fearless explorer, but she also doesn’t forget her daughterly duties: she’s quick to acknowledge and appreciate her parents’ enabling support by planning on bringing the oldsters along her next time out. A family that seeks together … has a much better time all around!
Oh, such courage and devotion both! Momoko is surely a 21st-century original hero with epic potential. Move over Momotarō … Momoko is here to inspire a new generation of exuberant heroes indeed! Go, girl, go!