Neighbors everybody has them. For some, a neighbor is little more than an acquaintance. For others, a neighbor is a source of contention or even worse, an enemy! For many, though, a neighbor is a friend.

In Yoshi's Feast (ages 4Ð8), the story centers around the lives of two neighbors. The setting for this story is the Japanese city of Yedo, and through Yumi Heo's lively and colorful illustrations, we see beautiful kimonos, tidy villages, exciting fan dances, and other glimpses of Japanese culture and life. The story itself, however, transcends the borders of Japan. It is an age-old theme told in a new and entertaining manner. At the start of the story, the reader is presented with Yoshi, a fan maker, and Sabu, an eel broiler. Yoshi lives next door to Sabu, but the reader can infer that these two neighbors are acquaintances and not friends. Every night, Sabu broils delicious smelling eels in hopes of enticing customers to his hibachi. Sabu's hibachi, though, is hard to find so he has few customers and many leftover eels to eat. Yoshi thinks that Sabu should share the leftover eels with him, since they are neighbors. Sabu is of the opinion that his neighbor should buy the eels. At one point, Sabu, who knows Yoshi desires his eels, demands to know when his neighbor is planning to buy some. Yoshi explains to Sabu that he will never buy any eels, because smelling them is as good as eating them. After smelling them, he is content to eat his rice, which in turn, allows him to save money. He enjoys the growing weight of his money box and the lovely sound it makes when he shakes it. This attitude infuriates Sabu, whose money box is not growing in weight. He sees Yoshi growing rich at his expense and presents him with a bill for smelling the eels. Now, Yoshi and Sabu are feuding neighbors, and the rift of discontent produces negative consequences. Are Yoshi and Sabu doomed to be feuding neighbors forever? Will Yoshi pay Sabu's preposterous bill for smelling eels? Yoshi's clever handling of the situation makes this story entertaining. The age-old dilemma of neighborly relations makes Yoshi's Feast universally appealing.

Denise Harris is a writer and children's multicultural education consultant.

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