Kellyn's Reviews > The Master Puppeteer

The Master Puppeteer by Katherine Paterson
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's review
Mar 20, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: gepl, historical-fiction-juvenile, japanese-culture, young-adult
Read in January, 2000

AR: 5.4
Grades: 5-8
This is Susan's Review:

Despised by his mother, and he thinks, a burden to his puppet-maker father, young Jiro becomes an apprentice at the Hanaza puppet theater. The master puppeteer, Yoshida, is cruel to his son, Kinshi, but everyone else he treats fairly, if strictly. Most important, there is always enough food at Hanaza, though many others are starving in Osaka. Kinshi and the blind old chanter, Okada, are kind to Jiro, but the boy worries about his ill father and his hungry mother, especially when he realizes that she is in one of the roving bands rioting in the streets. Jiro also wonders at odd little details he notices around the Hanaza, speculating that perhaps they are clues to the identity of the people’s hero, Saburo, a kind of Japanese Robin Hood. The mystery is duly solved, Jiro’s mother is mellowed by her rescue, and Kinshi is assigned to Okada to become a chanter, escaping his father’s cruel teaching methods.

This short book offers considerable information on Japanese history and culture as well as a very respectable mystery. Like The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn, it is likely to be a hard sell due to period and place, but is worth a try. It won a National Book Award for Children’s Literature in 1977 and an Edgar Allen Poe Special Award and was an ALA Notable Children’s Book.


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