Taro Yashima ~ The Viking Press, 1958
There are two sorts of children's book I like the most. Those that are slightly haunting/creepy and those that make the parent cry at the end. The later is what we have here. Written and illustrated by the wonderful Japanese-born Taro Yashima (do click on his little Wiki bio... a fascinating guy), the book is seemingly about a girl who receives an umbrella for her third birthday and then can hardly stand waiting for the day when the first rain will arrive. The tale is filled with the gentle lull of patience, and the language is just lovely. When I read the written words that describe the sound the rain makes on her umbrella (bon polo ponpolo ponpolo), my son makes the most mysterious face as if I am telling him a wonderous secret.
But that isn't really why I love this book. So the girl gets the umbrella and she waits and she waits and she waits until at last the rain comes and then she is so proud to use her umbrella and she cherishes it and she loves it and it is a cute story and then... we arrive at the end...
Momo is a big girl now,
and this is a story
she does not remember at all.
Does she remember or not,
it was not only the first day in her life
that she used her umbrella,
it was also the first day in her life
that she walked alone,
without holding either
her mother's or her father's hand.
OK, now I am crying again just writing the words. Anyone who can write something so powerful and lasting that 50 years later they still make a mother weep is OK in my book.