Sometimes, for various reasons, people lose hope. That’s when someone — anyone — must step forward and bring hope back, if they can. That’s the premise of author/illustrator Aiko Ikegami’s newest picture book, The Seed Man.
The book opens to a mysterious man standing on a hill and looking at the sad little houses in the lovely but subdued little town below. Underneath the mysterious man are the simple words, “One day Seed Man came to town” — which is really like saying, “One day Hope came to town.”
For some reason, hope has left this town, and has taken with it the hustle and bustle and joy of life. But when Seed Man comes, he plants a curious seed, then calls the fairies to help care for it. Soon a seedling springs up, bringing with it amazing fruit. It produces bunnies and toys and musical instruments — and even a puppy.
As readers turn the pages, they watch as the fruit is distributed all over town: books are gifted to thirsty readers; musical instruments go to those born to play; young children get cuddly companion toys; and a rambunctious puppy goes to a lonely old man who misses his family, and who has no idea he even needs a gift such as this.
The old man and the young puppy get along well enough…until the puppy topples the man’s table and breaks the frame that holds the picture of his far-away family. The angry man scolds the dog and sends it outside into exile. But then he realizes that he misses the dog, and that everyone — even dogs — makes mistakes. Now if he can only find him…
This is a lovely book about loneliness, lack, and the fact that no two people need the same thing to experience happiness. Everyone’s need and/or desire is different, and sometimes people do not even recognize that they need someone (or something) in their life until someone else points it out.
In this book, the Seed Man could be anyone: a neighbor, a teacher, a family member…or even God. Simply put, he is the astute observer who watches others, discerns what they need to make them smile, and then attempts to give it to them.
Ms. Ikegami’s prose is sweet, brief and to the point, and her illustrations are soft and cuddly, just like some of the stuffed animals that grow on Seed Man’s tree. Use this book to talk about understanding feelings, personal needs, and helping others to be happy.