Ghosts for Breakfast

By Publishers Weekly

In their first children’s book, Terasaki and Shinjo freshen up a familiar story line—the spooky thing that really isn’t—by placing their tale in the backyard of Japanese immigrant farmers in 19th-century California. When three anxious neighbors, Mr. Omi, Mr. Omaye and Mr. Ono (known as the “Troublesome Triplets”), visit the boy narrator’s house one night, they insist that Farmer Tanaka’s field is haunted. The boy and his skeptical father (“Let’s get to the bottom of this. Take me to see the ghosts”) go out to investigate. Shinjo’s acrylics play up the murky blue-green darkness with tendrils of ocean fog; these surroundings, coupled with the howling wind, (“Woo-o-o-o!”) prove too much for the boy and he flees. But the ghosts turn out to be harmless daikon—spindly white radishes with hair-like green tops—drying in the night air in preparation for pickling by Mrs. Tanaka. The next morning, the Troublesome Triplets express their gratitude with a bowl of the pickled delicacy: “Best ghost I ever ate,” Papa says with a laugh. Terasaki takes a matter-of-fact approach to a bygone era with descriptions that deliver cultural details (e.g., “Soon the fog became very thick, thick as bean paste soup”), while Shinjo’s acrylic paintings balance the humor of the hapless trio’s assertions as well as the boy’s emotional tenor. With flattened perspectives and almost architectural characterizations, the artwork conveys the lovingly worn texture of a generations-old family story, and the comfort that parents offer fearful children of any time and place.