Yarning with Mad Martha about The Birth of Kitaro! (+ a free crochet pattern)

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yarning with mad martha_Fotor (2)

I am so happy to be with you today my dears for it has fallen to me to introduce you to one of the shelf’s new heroes (and provide you with a free crochet pattern of course!).  We received today’s graphic novel, The Birth of Kitaro by Shigeru Mizuki from PanMacmillan Australia (thanks!) for review and we just fell in love with the little one-eyed yokai boy Kitaro.  Having read Mizuki’s graphic memoir, NonNonBa, a year or so ago, we knew we were likely in for a treat with this collection of short paranormal fiction stories, but we weren’t prepared for how fun and endearing Kitaro would end up being.  But enough shilly-shallying: without further ado, I present to you: The Birth of Kitaro! Here’s the blurb from Goodreads.

Meet one of Japan’s most popular characters of all time-Kitaro, the One-Eyed Monster Boy

The Birth of Kitaro collects seven of Shigeru Mizuki’s early, and beloved, Kitaro stories, making them available for the first time in English, in an all-new, kid-friendly format. These stories are from the golden era of the late 1960s, when Gegege no Kitaro truly hit its stride as an all-ages supernatural series. Mizuki’s Kitaro stories are both timelessly relevant and undeniably influential, inspiring a decades-long boom in stories about yokai, Japanese ghosts, and monsters.

“Kitaro’s Birthday” reveals the origin story of the yokai boy Kitaro and his tiny eyeball father, Medama Oyaji. “Neko Musume versus Nezumi Otoko” is the first of Mizuki’s stories to feature the popular recurring character Neko Musume, a little girl who transforms into a cat when she gets angry or hungry. Other stories in The Birth of Kitaro draw heavily from Japanese folklore, with Kitaro taking on legendary Japanese yokai like the Nopperabo and Makura Gaeshi, and fighting the monstrous recurring villain Gyuki.

With more than 150 pages of spooky and often funny comics about the titular yokai boy, The Birth of Kitaro is the perfect introduction to the award-winning author Mizuki’s most popular series, seminal comics that have won the hearts of Japanese children and adults for more than half a century.

kitaro

So although Kitaro is new to us, he has been kicking around in Japan for many a good long year and is well known there as the yokai boy who is available to assist with all your yokai-removal needs, possessing, as he does, the powers of his Ghost Tribe ancestors.  The book is presented in traditional manga format, so younger readers will no doubt find great amusement in having to read from the back of the book to the front.  Before the comics start there is a short introduction explaining Kitaro’s popularity in Japan and some background about the author.  Then we dive straight in to the story of Kitaro’s birth, in which you will meet possibly the most delightful and charming ghost/zombie/undead couple upon which one could ever lay eyes.  These darling creatures are Kitaro’s yokai parents, and their only desire is to find a safe place for Kitaro to grow up before they perish for good.

Following on from this are bite-sized chunks of adventuresome goodness, as Kitaro steps in to assist with all manner of unearthly problems.  These include, but are not limited to, giant sea-cow-crab monsters, face-stealing spirits and shape-shifting cat people.  While they didn’t particularly scare us as adult readers, the stories are full of strange beings and a mythical world that I suspect most westerners wouldn’t be familiar with, so I think younger readers will appreciate this more as “horror” or at the very least, strange ghost stories, while older readers will just revel in the fun and oddity of it all.  The stories all have a tiny bit of a moral, usually related to someone or other behaving in a way that brings misery down upon themselves.  The individual stories are easy to follow and I can picture the excitement imaginative youngsters would experience on discovering Kitaro and his adventures for the first time.

At the back of the book are a few unexpected and fun activities, including a yokai wordsearch, a drawing activity, a “spot the difference” puzzle and a run-down of all the yokai featured in the stories and their geographical origins. Overall, this is an extremely impressive package and it is clear that the creators of the book have gone to great lengths to make it kid-friendly.

We at the shelf would recommend this book most highly to young readers in the middle grade age bracket or older, who are either capable readers or fans of graphic novels (or both!) and are looking for tales that are good, clean, paranormal fun.

We just loved meeting Kitaro and will definitely be seeking out the second collection of stories (whikitaro eyeball 2ch was published a number of years back) posthaste.

Now is probably the ideal time to point out that in the first story in the collection – that involving Kitaro’s birth –  we came across a character who stole the show and quickly became our favourite little disembodied (then re-embodied) eyeball of all time.  We speak of Medama Oyaji, Kitaro’s father (pictured on the cover above – the green gentleman), who, after the decomposition of his undead body, resolves into a single, sentient and extremely active eyeball.   Recreating this charming little father-figure was just too tempting to pass up and it is for that reason that I am now able to offer you….

A Free Medama Oyaji Amigurumi Crochet Pattern!

As ever, the pattern is written using American terminology, because that’s how I learned first.

You will need:

4mm crochet hook

A large amount of white yarn and smaller amounts of black yarn and the colour you would like to use for the iris (I used green).

A small amount of stuffing

A yarn needle

Scissors

Special stitches:

3dc cluster: make 3 dc in the same st.  Before completing the final dc, remove the hook, place it from back to front in the first dc you made.  Pass the hook through the last dc of the cluster, yo and pull through the first and last double crochet stitches.  This will create a little bobble.

Eyeball (Head)

Using white yarn, make a magic ring and crochet six sc in the ring

  1. inc (2sc in each sc) around (12)
  2. *sc in next sc, inc* x 6 (18)
  3. *sc in the next 2sc, inc* x 6 (24)
  4. *sc in the next 3sc, inc* x 6 (30)
  5. *sc in the next 4sc. inc* x 6 (36)
  6. *sc in the next 5 sc, inc* x 6 (42)
  7. *sc in the next 5sc, sc2tog* x 6 (36)
  8. *sc in the next 4sc, sc2tog* x 6 (30)
  9. *sc in next 3sc, sc2tog* x 6 (24)
  10. *sc in the next 2sc, sc2tog* x 6 (18) Turn eyeball right side out and stuff
  11. *sc, sc2tog* x 6 (12)
  12. sc2tog x 6 (6).  FO.  Thread yarn needle and weave end in and out of final six sc.  Pull tight to close the hole, FO and weave in the yarn end.

Body and Legs

Using white yarn, ch12 and sl st into the first ch to form a circle (12)

1-3. sc in each stitch (12)

4. sc in the next 3sc, 2sc in the next 6sc, sc in the next 3sc (18)

5-6 sc in each sc (18)

Sc in the next 4 sc, to move the beginning st to the centre of the figure’s back

Beginning of first leg:

7. sc in the next 9sc, skip 9sc and sl st into the initial sc to join

8-11  sc in each sc of the first leg (9)

12. *sc, sc2tog* x 3 (6)

13-14. sc in each sc (6)

15. sc2tog x 3 (3)   kitaro eyeball 3

FO.  Cut yarn and pull tight.  Using yarn needle, weave in ends.

Join new yarn in the next unworked sc of round 7.

Repeat rounds 8 to 15 to create the second leg. FO, weave in ends.

Stuff the body and legs lightly and attach to the bottom of the eyeball/head.

Arms (make 2)

Using white yarn make a magic ring and sc 6 into the ring.

1 – 5. Sc in each sc (6)

6. sc in next sc, 3dc cluster in the next sc, sc in next 2sc, 3dc cluster in the next sc, sc in the next sc (6)

7. Sc2tog x 3 (3)

FO, weave in end.  Attach arm to body.

Pupil

Using black yarn, make a magic ring and sc 6 into the ring.  Sl st into the first sc.  Pull the ring to close, but leave a small hole.

Change to white yarn.

  1. Ch 1, 2sc in each sc.  Sl St in the first sc to join (12)
  2. Ch1, *sc in the next sc, inc* x 6, sl st in the first sc to join (18)

Change to black yarn

3. Sl st in each sc around (18)

FO.

Using the colour of your choice, embroider colour lines onto your pupil, adding a small white square in the original black magic ring.

Attach your pupil to your eyeball/head.

Display your work proudly!

kitaro eyeball 1

So there you have it my dears!  A fantastic paranormal adventure tome and a cute, cuddly eyeball for your very own.  You can thank me later when all  your friends are begging you to make them a charming eyeball companion.

Cheerio my dears,

Mad Martha

 

 

A Little Ripper Read-it-if Review and GIVEAWAY: The Girl from the Well…

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It is not often that I get to bring you a book that is a hands-down, five-star, should’ve-got-it-in-print read.  Don’t get me wrong, I do bring you lots of wonderful, interesting, original and exciting books on this here shelf, but today I’ve got one of those special ones.  It’s a keeper. The kind you buy in hardback and keep on the “special” shelf (wherein lie the oldest knick knacks with the most sentimental value).  Basically, this one is a guaranteed re-re-re-re-read.  (NB: that last bit wasn’t a hitherto unencountered stutter that I’m developing, just a fancy way of saying “book that you will read multiple times”).

I give you….The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco.  This book has loose ties to the Japanese film The Ring, that was later remade in English and if you know anything about that film, you will immediately gain the understanding that this book is not all flowers and sunshine.  If you don’t know anything about that film, it is apparently spectacularly terrifying and psychologically scarring.  I haven’t seen it, because I am far too sensitive to expose myself to horror films of this ilk.  Having said that, I am SO GLAD I requested this book to review because it is fan-fugu-tastic (as they say in the Simpsons).  Allow me to synopsise synopsisise tell you about the plot.  And if you live in the US or Canada, stay tuned for a chance to win a copy at the end of this post.

Tarquin is a teen who has trouble fitting in.  His mother has recently been sectioned in a psychiatric hospital for (among other things) attempting to kill her son, he and his father have just moved interstate to try to start a new life and, oddest of all, Tarquin has to try and fit in to this new life while attempting to hide his tattoos.  The tattoos that his mother put on him when he was a little boy.  Callie is Tarquin’s older cousin, who works as a teaching assistant at the junior section of Tarquin’s new school.  When she’s not dealing with kids who have decidedly odd abilities, she attempts to watch over Tark and try to help him fit in.  Okiku is dead.  But she’s still here.  After a long, long, long time, she’s still here.  And she knows that there’s something weird going on with Tarquin and his tattoos.  As the story unfolds, the reader is treated to a tale filled with kidnap and murder, ancient evil, creepy dolls, ghosts hell-bent on revenge and happenings that lead Tark back to his native Japan.  But unless he and Cassie can find the right people to help them overcome a lurking, malevolent presence that is desperate to escape into the world, they may find that their lives will suddenly become a lot shorter than they expected.

the girl from the well

Read it if:

*you like a scary story that has the potential to be terrifying and psychologically scarring, but also has a few elements thrown in to ensure you won’t be dragged screaming and ranting to the loony bin after reading it

*you’ve always been creeped out by Granny’s collection of hideous porcelain dolls staring with their blank, dead eyes from behind their glass cases

*you’ve ever had (or seen, or been told about) a tattoo that you later thought was a spectacularly poor idea…and that’s before it starts bubbling and moving under your skin

*you’re looking for a lesson on Japanese culture, history and legend that is not the kind you’ll find in history classes at school

The first and best thing I can tell you about this book is that it is compelling.  Compelling is the word that I use to describe books that I either (a) can’t put down or (b) keep thinking about and being drawn back to whenever I’m not reading it.  This was definitely the latter.  The Girl from the Well is a chunky read that took me a number of reasonably long sittings to get through, but whenever I took a break I was thinking about the story, the characters and how the book was going to end.  That, in my opinion, is the mark of great writing.

There is so much going on in this book, and I think that’s one of the reasons I was so drawn into the narrative.  We start off meeting Okiku, a spirit who is on a mission to hunt down and murder those who have threatened or killed children.  Now, while this might seem immediately off-putting (or fantastic, depending on where you sit on the love-of-horror-o-meter), there’s a real vulnerability about Okiku that had me sympathising with her and her situation right from the start.  Then we meet Tarquin and his weird tattoos, Cassie and her kids that appear to have ESP, and a sinister man who one can only conclude is up to some serious mischief involving helpless children.  We meet Tarquin’s mother, and discover that Okiku is not the only murderous spirit getting around.  And when that part of the story gets resolved, the narrative shifts everyone to Japan where the action kicks off again with ancient evil aplenty and the aforementioned creepy dolls and slashing and hacking and terrifying action.  I can’t say much more because it would be a definite spoiler, but there is plenty to keep you awake at night in this book – and not just from abject terror, either.

Because really, the story isn’t that terrifying.  Sure, there’s horror-type stuff going down and a number of scenes of violence and murder, but I never felt like it was over the top or too scary that I had to put the book down – and that’s saying something, coming from Mr Scaredy Pants extraordinaire.  I think that because most of the book is narrated by Okiku, and even though she’s a vengeful, murderous spirit, there’s something comforting about her ethical. justice -driven approach, and the posthumous journey of personal growth that unfolds for her over the course of the book.

And finally, I loved the Japanese elements of the story.  It was thoroughly refreshing to experience a contemporary YA novel with such an integrated focus on an Eastern culture and their legends and history.

In short, get this book. Get it now! If you live outside the US or Canada,  preorder it now, because it’s not released until August 5th.  If you happen to live in the US or Canada, enter this giveaway and possibly WIN a copy now!  Simply click on the rafflecopter link below and cross your fingers:

click to enter button

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Many thanks to SourcebooksFire for providing a copy of the book for this giveaway.

I, as an outside-the-US-and-Canada-dweller will just have to acquire it myself in print, as I received it as a digital copy from the publisher via Netgalley.

Until next time horror-lovers,

Bruce

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