The Old Man Mad about Drawing: A Tale of Hokusai


Book: The Old Man Mad about Drawing: A Tale of Hokusai

Author and Illustrator: Francois Place

Publisher: David R. Godine Publisher, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-1567922608

ISBN-10: 1567922600

Website(s): (publisher)

Language level:  1

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Ages‎ 9 – 12

Rating: ***** 5 stars

(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)

Category: Historical fiction

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

Disclosure:  Many publishers, literary agents, and/or authors provide free copies of their books in exchange for an honest review without requiring a positive opinion.  Any books donated to Home School Book Review for review purposes are in turn donated.  No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.

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     Place, Francois.  The Old Man Mad about Drawing: A Tale of Hokusai (Originally published in French in by Editions Gallimard Jeunesse, Paris, France; republished in English in 2003 by David R. Godine Publisher, P. O. Box 450, Jaffrey, NH  03452).  Gakyorojin Hokusai was a real Japanese painter who lived from 1760 to 1849 in Edo, the old name for Tokyo, Japan, during what is known as the Edo period.  In this story, Tojiro, a nine-year-old orphan boy who lives with his uncle and aunt, sells his uncle’s rice cakes on the streets of Edo.  One of his customers is a grumpy, strange, old man named Hokusai who draws. The old man takes a liking to Tojiro, whom he affectionately refers to as “Sparrow,” and soon engages him as his assistant.   Can the artist overcome the boy’s ignorance and teach him how to draw?  Is Tojiro even willing to learn?  What kind of life will he choose?

     This heart warming book, originally written in French and translated into English by William Rodarmor, is lavishly illustrated on every page with both author Francois Place’s charming water color artwork and reproductions of Hokusai’s own drawings.  It is a pleasant read that would make an excellent literary complement to a homeschool study of Japan, with lots of information about Hokusai, as well as the technique of woodblock printing and the Japanese social customs of the period.  Hokusai’s sketchbooks, called manga, have had a big influence on modern Japanese cartoons.  To make the book more useful, an illustrated glossary is found in the back.

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