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The Man Who Sang to Ghosts

A Japanese Legend
Retold from the Story of Hoichi and
Based on The Tale of the Heike

Book illustration

By Aaron Shepard

A young, blind bard counts himself lucky when invited to live with the monks at a prominent Buddhist temple—and more lucky still when asked to perform his epic verses at the court of a high-ranking lord. But why is his noble audience so violently moved by his tales of long-dead heroes?

Chapter book • Ages 10 & up

Aaron Shepard is the award-winning author of The Baker’s Dozen, The Sea King’s Daughter, The Monkey King, and many more children’s books, while his Web site is known internationally as a prime resource for folktales, storytelling, and reader’s theater. Once a professional storyteller, Aaron specializes in lively retellings of folktales and other traditional literature, which have won him honors from the American Library Association, the New York Public Library, the Bank Street College of Education, the National Council for the Social Studies, and the American Folklore Society.

Cover art: “Uesugi Kenshin and the Blind Biwa Player,” woodblock print by Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (1839–1892)


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The Man Who Sang to Ghosts ARC
(PDF, 1 MB)

Skyhook Press

Ebook ~ 2014

Paperback ~ 2017

Hardcover ~ 2018

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Book cover

Sample Text

Hearing something, Hoichi stopped his playing and listened. Through the night came footsteps, measured by a steady clank, clank—the sound of armor.

A samurai coming to the temple, thought Hoichi. What could he want at this hour?

The footsteps moved through the back gate of the temple and across the garden. Clank, clank. They were coming straight toward him! As the young man’s heart beat faster, the footsteps halted before the veranda.


“Sir!” replied the young man. Then he added, “Please, sir, I am blind. I cannot see who you are.”

“You have nothing to fear,” said the voice. “My master, a lord of high rank, is lodging nearby. He came to visit Dan‑no‑ura, the scene of the famous battle. Now he hears of your talent in reciting the tale of the Heike. He wishes you to come at once to perform for himself and his attendants.”

“I am most honored,” said Hoichi.

The young man slung his biwa on his back and slipped into his straw sandals. Then his arm was clasped in a grip of iron, and he was led rapidly away.

Sample text copyright © 1997, 2014 Aaron Shepard.

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