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Book review: 'Taro-San the Fisherman and the Weeping Willow Tree' by local author looks at Japanese magic trick

"TARO-SAN THE FISHERMAN AND THE WEEPING WILLOW TREE," by Richard Hatch, illustrated by Andras Balogh, translated by Yukishige Kadoya, The Hatch Academy of Magic and Music, $14.95, 48 pages (ages 8-11)

Logan-based magician Richard Hatch likes working with the Japanese tamasudare mat, turning and twisting the simple bamboo sticks into boats and hoops and rainbows as part of his magic act.

He even designed a story about to go along with the things he could create but he was frustrated without a published storybook that matched his illusions.

So he wrote his own, one that blended with his wife's violin transcription of Michio Miyagi's "Haru no Umi" ("The Sea of Spring").

"Taro-San the Fisherman and the Weeping Willow Tree" is the result, a children's book that not only tells Hatch's story about the struggles and triumph of a young Japanese fishman in picture and word but in Japanese characters as well.

Hungarian artist Andras Balogh drew the pictures while Yukishige Kadoya translated.

The ancient Japanese feat known as "Nankin Tamasudare" — of a performer manipulating a bamboo screen while reciting a kind of folktale — becomes Hatch's story of a fisherman who struggles to catch fish until he realizes the secret.

The story evolved over more than a decade after Hatch saw Martin Lewis work with a tamasudare mat in Houston's Magic Island nightclub in 1986. It became part of his own magic show in 2010.

It's a simple story, one that will appeal to youngsters old enough to read — even if the Japanese is way out of their depth.

The book has been nominated for a Utah Book Award for 2012 in the Children's Literature category.

"Taro-San the Fisherman and the Weeping Willow Tree" is available through and at Barnes and Noble bookstores.

If you go ...

What: Richard Hatch Valentine performances

When: Thursday, Feb. 14, and Friday, Feb. 15, seating begins at 6 p.m. and performance starts at 7:30 p.m.

Where: American West Heritage Center, 4025 S. Highway 89, Wellsville


Note: Cost is $55 for dinner and show; $25 for show only

Also ...

What: Richard Hatch performing at Weber State Storytelling Festival

When: Tuesday, Feb. 26, 11:30 a.m.

Where: Eccles Conference Center, Davis Room, 5005 Old Main Hill, Logan


Also ...

What: Richard Hatch book signing and performance

When: Saturday, March 9, 10 a.m.

Where: The Book Table, 29 S. Main, Logan


Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at