Yuko-Chan and the Daruma Doll is about an orphaned blind girl who lived at the Daruma Temple. (Daruma was the Father of Zen Buddhism.) When Yuko-Chan's village was covered with ashes from a volcano, all the crops were damaged. The village was very worried about how it would recover from this disaster.
One day during a snow storm, when Yuko-Chan was delivering food to people in need, she fell over a cliff. While she was waiting for help, she took out her tea gourd to have a drink. She dropped the gourd and when she grabbed for it she realized that it was upright. So she pushed it over several more times and every time it fell over, it would come upright again.
Remembering that she had always been motivated by the words, "If you fall seven times, you must pick yourself up eight times," she had a bright idea. Why not make a doll that would come upright whenever it fell over?
She brought her plan to the temple and suggested they paint gourds to look like dolls and sell them to make money. The villagers embraced the idea and helped to make the dolls. During the Spring Festival, people came from everywhere to buy the clever Daruma Dolls. They made enough money to save the village, and the dolls are the most famous in all of Japan.
Seki tells us not only a beautiful story, but on every page he has richly painted images of Yuko-Chan, her Daruma Dolls, and her village that bring the words—both in English and in Japanese—to life. As a grandmother, I found this story to be sweet and inspiring. I think younger readers (and the young at heart) will enjoy it also.
Sunny Seki is the award-winning author and illustrator of The Last Kappa of Old Japan, The Tale of the Lucky Cat, and Gardeners' Pioneer Story. A native of Japan, Sunny studied illustration at Pasadena Art Center of Design. Sunny, his wife Judy, and their nine children live in San Gabriel, CA. Visit his website.
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