Although this story is a fantasy about “Little People”, it is set in Japan before, during and after the Second World War, it is narrated simply and with understatement, which serves to touch the emotions. The unspoken words are the most powerful. Yuri, the daughter, understands that her gentle father has been locked up for saying that he didn’t believe in war. Her mother refuses to let Yuri visit her father because of the awful conditions he is kept in.
The story follows Yuri’s family, and when she is evacuated during the war, we follow her to the countryside. Here she lives with an elderly aunt, and a blind grandmother. We learn about Yuri’s brothers from the letters her mother sends.
Tetsu, the thoughtful brother who helps Yuri and visits her, and Shin, who is training and can’t wait to go to fight in the war, are mentioned. We also learn that the bombing of Tokyo, where Yuri’s family home was, is imminent. When Yuri left her home for the country, it was decided that she would take the Little People with her for safety.
The British born Little People, who age at a slower rate than humans, were originally brought to Japan, by an English teacher. When she had to leave the country, suddenly, she entrusted them to her most caring, and reliable student. He had to take them home and hide them away, and fill their blue glass goblet each day with milk.
The Little People had a family life as rich and complex as the people they lived with. The two adolescent children were adventurous and exasperating, as appropriate for their age. It is through them that the family met Yahei the pigeon. They developed a firm friendship with him and eventually he took them flying to explore the area.
The stories of both families, and in particular Yuri, have been cleverly woven together. The imagination of the writer gently transports us into the willing suspension of disbelief. The Little People were amazed when they found a clock on a wall, which had another little person in it.
There are very gentle and touching romantic inferences, followed by the stark backdrop of the poverty and hardship of war. Children, who appreciate the depth of this story, will forever keep this book as a treasure, touched by the spirit in which it is written.
Pushkin Children’s Books have been published with the aim of sharing “tales from different languages and cultures with younger readers”. They choose the very best stories from around the world, both fairy tale and fantasy. Tomiko has written a multi layered story for competent readers, who are thoughtful and discerning.