I put this picture book to the toughest test of all: I read it to my 3-year-old. Though the text was a bit over her head, she stared transfixed at the illustrations. Truth be told, so did I. They are delicious: a rustic Japanese village rendered in rich color and packed with food, flowers, humor and cats. Setsu Broderick’s memories of her childhood are recreated in loving detail, and she and her (apparently numerous) siblings and family members appear here in feline form.

The book travels through the 12 months, from the giddiness of the New Year’s celebration through the hard labor of the spring, following the joy of free summer months and coming full circle with preparations for winter. Each month is treated to two double-page spreads. One is an intricate illustration full of drama and occurrences accompanied by Broderick’s reminiscences, and the second looks at various traditions in more detail, including tidbits of history as well as the proper Japanese words for many of the items illustrated in the previous spread.

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