Good books can bring us to faraway places and make us appreciate other people and culture. So I get excited when I am able to gather several books that will help bring a particular topic to life for my kids.
This is the case for our very fun week in the “Land of the Rising Sun.” The books we are reading are either set in Japan or feature Japanese characters. You might want to keep them in mind when your kids show interest in the country or their culture.
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1. Grandfather’s Journey
Written and Illustrated by Allen Say
Grandfather’s Journey is our main book for the week, and it is part of “Five in a Row.” It is about the author’s grandfather who left his home in Japan and went to America. The illustrations won for Allen Say the Caldecott Medal in 1994. This book is our jumping point for knowing more about Japan and its culture, World War II, and immigration.
2. Under the Cherry Blossom Tree: An Old Japanese Tale
Retold By Allen Say
A classic Japanese tale retold by Allen Say (yes, the author of Grandfather’s Journey!), Under the Cherry Blossom Tree made us giggle all the way to the end. Why not? It is the story of a wicked landlord on whose head sprouted a cherry tree after swallowing a cherry pit!
3. Japanese Children’s Favorite Stories
Retold By Florence Sakade
A classic compilation of Japanese folktales, this book will surely give a child a taste of the country’s culture. We read this book at bedtime, to tie up what we have learned during the day. A wonderful read-aloud!
4. Circus Day in Japan: Bilingual English and Japanese Text
By Eleanor Coerr and Yumi Matsunari
I found this book at a National Bookstore branch and just grabbed it! According to the book description, it’s a classic book that has now been made “accessible to a new generation of both English- and Japanese-speaking readers.” My daughter loves this so much and loves reading about the two kids who go to the circus for the first time. The charming illustrations wonderfully show the Japanese way of life.
5. The Boy of the Three-Year Nap
Written by Dianne Snyder, Illustrated by Allen Say
Allen Say won the Caldecott Honor for the illustrations of this book, which has been lauded for its accuracy in depicting Japanese landscape. This is a story about a lazy boy who tricks the richest man in town in having him marry the rich man’s daughter. Though a humorous story, a parent should point out that people must work hard in order to enjoy material rewards.
By Rosemary Wells
We love Yoko, award-winning author Rosemary Wells’ Japanese character who lives in America with her family. In this story, Yoko’s mother prepares sushi for her lunch. Her classmates find her food strange and she is made to feel different. This is a wonderful story to read and talk about cultural differences and acceptance with children.
7. Yoko Writes Her Name
By Rosemary Wells
Yoko writes her name in Japanese, and two of her classmates make fun of her. But Angelo, another classmate, saves the day and asks her to teach him how to write his name in Japanese. Soon, the whole class is interested in learning Japanese, even Yoko’s two tormentors.
8. A Pair of Red Clogs
By Masako Matsuno
Part of the “Five in a Row” booklist, we loved this book the first time we read it. Mako cracks her new geta (wooden clogs) while playing the weather-telling game with her friends. She doesn’t like it anymore and comes up with a plan to trick her mother into getting her a new one. Her struggle to do the right thing makes this book a treasure. Click here for the fun we had with this book a year or so ago.
Have a great time in Japan! Let me know in the comments of other books to add to this list!