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Saturday, May 4, 2013

Japan-themed Children's Books

Leading up to Kodomo no Hi, Japan's "Children's Day," our activities have been very Japan-centric this week. (See coloring sheets and koinobori.) But what good are activities without a few books, right?

We read many, many Japan-focused children's books this week. Here are our best finds from the local library:

The artwork alone makes this book! Influences of Sacramento-based, native Japanese illustrator, Sachiko Yoshikawa's dual-cultural background are evident in the bold and engaging images. More importantly, the story has an important lesson about gratitude and greed that will be appreciated even by young listeners in the target 4-7 year old range.

Please note: the little boy in the book is called "the snot-nosed boy" by the primary character. I revised that to be simply "the boy" in my reading and could get away with it having a pre-reader, but a child old enough to read will definitely notice the snot-nosed part. (The term "snot-nosed" was not thrown in for gratuitous giggles, which is sometimes the case in children's books. It did appropriately represent the attitude of the egocentric main character. Nevertheless, it is not vocabulary that I willingly introduce to my 5-year old.)

Have you ever noticed a little statue of a cat in an Asian restaurant or grocery, a cat with one paw lifted up by its head? That figurine has its basis in a Japanese folktale, retold in this storybook. What I love about this book is the opportunity for "text-to-self"-type connection (all the rage with elementary teachers, right?) that can occur after its reading. I am sure from this time forward, Mag will always notice the beckoning cat figurines. I see many future opportunities for her re-telling of this story!

The story itself is fairly simple, with no real moral or lesson, and the artwork is just average. Nonetheless, I recommend The Beckoning Cat for the exposure it offers to another culture, and for the opportunities to connect the book to a symbol that is often seen in one's dining and shopping milieus (assuming you eat and/or shop in Asian establishments from time to time).

So there you have it, our two new favorite Japanese-ish storybooks. 
How about you?

Any great books from or about Japan to recommend?

In Kürze (German = coming soon): Take Me Out to the Yakyu, our very favorite book about Japan!

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