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The Invisible Seam by Andy William Frew, Jun Matsuoka (Illustrator)

Jacket: Hardcover
Pages: 32
Publisher:Moon Mountain Publishing; (March 1, 2003)
Genre:Children's Books

Comments about the author and illustrator:

Andy William Frew, author of The Invisible Seam, has a wide range of experience in the field of childhood education. He has taught in the Detroit and East Providence (RI) public school systems, in Swan's Island (ME), and on the tiny Massachusetts island of Cuttyhunk. He has also been a mental health worker and research assistant at a psychiatric hospital. He currently teaches at the private Community Preparatory School in Providence and lives in nearby West Warwick, Rhode Island. His wife of many years is of Japanese descent, and he maintains a close relationship with his Japanese mother-in-law, providing Frew with considerable insight and sensitivity into Japanese culture. He is the compiler of a delightfully eccentric book of days, Frew's Daily Archive. The Invisible Seam is his first children's book. Email

Jun Matsuoka was born in Yokahama and received much of her early education in the United Arab Emirates, where she began painting under the tutelage of a Scottish art teacher. After receiving her degree in Fine Arts at York University, Toronto (where she also painted signs and murals), she returned to Japan, where she has worked in advertising and photo retouching while pursuing her profession as a painter of exquisite watercolors. Her work has been the subject of small exhibitions and has appeared in European magazines. The Invisible Seam is her first book. Email

Review: When an earthquake damages her house and injures her aunt, Michi is forced to leave home to work for and live with an ageing kimono maker in the House of Shinyo. At their parting, Michi’s aunt Tsuru, noting Michi’s sadness, imparts a seed of wisdom that grows and blossoms in Michi’s heart in the course of the story: “Anger will turn your heart bitter”. With this, aunt Tsuru binds Michi to a promise for the girl to do her best in her new home and sends her on her way.

Throughout the rest of the book we watch as Michi explores her new surroundings, learns about her own abilities and struggles with the complexities of her new life. As an outsider in a group whose folkways and mores are deeply ingrained, there are a multitude of difficult choices for Michi to make along her way. Her work ethic and skill outshine her peers, which bring on pressure from the group. While she is in ascendance, her peers struggle to undermine her in the eyes of their employer. Through it all, Michi takes the high road – making difficult decisions, holding fast against peer pressure and eventually winning over the group and restoring harmony to the house.

All the way through The Invisible Seam, author Andy William Frew and illustrator Jun Matsuoka work together like hand and glove. The story’s narrative style and illustrations work exceptionally well in maintaining the flavor of the story’s Japanese origins. Japanese names and terms are used all through the work and, in a nice touch, are defined at the end of the book. Matsuoka’s illustrations are simply exquisite. Michi’s isolation is frequently highlighted by different techniques. Michi is often juxtaposed with the other house residents standing apart from her as they exchange glances or with illustrations of Michi as a solitary figure immersed in shadow. The use of shadow is well done and truly helps to place the reader in what must be a dark place where Michi is uncomfortable, alone and terribly out of place.

In terms of its place in children’s literature, The Invisible Seam holds its value in the exposure of the child reader to many of the dark and painful emotions of growing up. Jealousy, insecurity, and loneliness are but a few of the difficult topics this book brings life. However, there are also bright and equally important things like inner strength, fealty, commitment and success that are also focal points. In The Invisible Seam, Frew and Matsuoka have woven a compelling visual and textual tapestry of light and dark that dovetail in an exceptionally well-crafted manner to put flesh on the bones of this wonderful work.

— Reviewed by: Timothy E. McMahon and Maggie Jane McMahon


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