Asian Heritage Month Blog Event:
Children’s Feature: Books on Japan
By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez
In light of Asian Heritage Month and Mother’s Day, the posts on The Bibliotaphe’s Closet will feature children’s books and stories about and originating from Asian countries every day of this week.
To not only celebrate the beauty of Asian culture, it’s also important to share cultural stories with children to broaden their understanding of the importance of cultural diversity and inclusivity.
Today’s children feature is about books and stories about and originating from Japan.
The Paper Crane
Author: Molly Bang
Format: Children’s Hardcover, 18 pages
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (imprint of HarperCollins)
Pub Date: 1985
This children’s story is based on an old Japanese folktale of the paper crane. It is a modern story of a man and his son who own a restaurant on a “busy” road that eventually loses most of its patrons because a new highway is built that deters customers from passing by the family owned restaurant.
One evening an unnamed stranger enters the restaurant, but does not have any money to pay for food. Regardless of this, the owner of the restaurant welcomes him in and served him the “best meal he could make and served him like a king.”
The stranger who could not pay with food, paid instead with a paper crane that he folded from a napkin in the restaurant.
And it was only when the owner clapped his hands that the paper crane would come to life and dance.
The news of the dancing crane spread around the community and soon people travelled to the restaurant to see this magic bird. And because of this the owner was able to host many guests at his restaurant.
The Paper Crane by Molly Bang is a story of kindness and teaches the importance of compassion and community regardless of difficult circumstances. It’s also a modern rendering of an old folktale that encourages the belief and faith in legendary magic and the result of in acting with integrity.
The illustrations are three-dimensional paper cutouts in correlation to its theme of the paper crane and is a light story to introduce children to a folktale of Japan.
Chibi: A True Story from Japan
Authors: Barbara Brenner and Julia Takaya
Illustrated by: June Otani
Format: Children’s Hardcover, 64 pages
Publisher: Clarion Books (imprint of Houghton Mifflin)
Pub Date: 1996
Chibi is a true story of the Spotbill Duck who built her nest beside a pool in an office park in downtown Tokyo and raised her duckling until she could transfer them to the moat in the Emperor’s Gardens across the Uchibori Dori.
The arrival of the ducks in the city had caused a stir of media frenzy including bird watchers and enthusiasts.
When the ducks were finally able to reach the moat, a typhoon struck killing two ducklings with one favoured duckling gone missing. A search party for the duckling ensued until the two deceased ducklings were found and the other found “balanced like a surfer on a piece of Styrofoam.”
Because of this, the Emperor who had learned of the kamo, ordered a duck house be built in the moat of the Imperial Gardens in Tokyo, which still stands there today while the Mitsui Company of Tokyo also placed a duck house on the pond of the office park for returning duck families.
The story of Chibi is a children’s historical story that documents the true events of a particular Spotbill Duck family that aroused Tokyo’s interest alongside the emperor’s. It includes illustrations and a few Japanese words with a language index at the end of the book.
Tea with Milk
Author: Allen Say
Format: Children’s Hardcover, 32 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
Pub Date: 1999
Tea with Milk is a true story of a young, Japanese girl named Masako who was born and raised in America and later returns to native Japan with her parents, but essentially feels like an outsider, having been raised in a foreign country.
Tea with Milk by Allen Say is a wonderful inversion of the cultural demise of new immigrants at the introduction of their immigration experience in a foreign country. Though the main character, Masako, is of Japanese ethnic descent, she is culturally raised as a young American girl.
Upon returning to native Japan with her parents, her acceptance and assimilation proves to be difficult as her first language is English not Japanese and her views on work and marriage more liberal than the expectations of her family and her Japanese culture.
The art illustrations in the book are beautiful and realistic paintings and portraits of Masako, her family, and her life in Osaka, Japan.
It’s an important story about culture, racism, and issues of identity and a wonderful “coming-of-age” and “identity” story of a young girl who must defy cultural traditions in order to discover self-acceptance, happiness, and love.
To read more posts for the Asian Heritage Month Blog Event, please visit here.
What’s one thing you appreciate most about Japan and the Japanese culture?
If you have children, how do you teach them about inclusivity?