Tag Archives: children’s books

Happy Birthday, Shel Silverstein! 09.25.2012

 

Happy Birthday, Shel Silverstein!

09.25.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

I was nine-years-old and in grade five when I first came across the poetry of Shel Silverstein. My first book was Where the Sidewalk Ends, published by HarperCollins in 1974. And to date, it’s still a book I thoroughly enjoy if not only for its nostalgia. And now my eight-year-old son, Michael, and my three-year-old daughter, Mercedes, enjoy its poetry, too (not to mention they also enjoy colouring the illustrations!).

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And one of my favourite bookish poems comes from Shel Silverstein’s collection, A Light in the Attic called “Overdues”:

What do I do?

What do I do?

This library book is 42

Years overdue.

I admit that it’s mine

But I can’t pay the fine—

Should I turn it in

Or hide it again?

What do I do?

What do I do?

– From A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein, HarperCollins Publishers, 1981, p.   65.

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And of course, one of my all-time favourites is “Backward Bill.” Here’s a YouTube clip of Shel Silverstein reading it aloud:

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So, in honour of your birthday, we remember you, Uncle Shelby! Thanks for being a best friend to a young, introverted girl who loved words (and still does). You are missed. And wherever you are, I trust that the sidewalk never ends.

Happy birthday, Shel Silverstein!

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Which is your favourite Shel Silverstein book or poem?

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Asian Heritage Month Ends with a Winner!

Asian Heritage Month Ends with a Winner!

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

May has come and gone and the Asian Heritage Month Blog Event is now over at The Bibliotaphe’s Closet.

It was not only an honour to feature different cultural aspects and literature about Asian places such as Japan, China, and Tibet, it was also a learning experience for me (and I’m Asian!).

Special post highlights for me were features on the geisha, the Tibetan language, and the various children’s books about Japan, China, Tibet, and Korea, and learning the translations of my own name in Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Tibetan.

My chinese name: Zhenrui
My Japanese name: 清水 Shimizu (clear water) 子 Aiko (child of the morning sun).
My Korean name: Park Dae Rae
My Vietnamese name: Ai Le
My Tibetan name.

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To see the posts featured for the Asian Heritage Month Blog Event, please visit here.

And what better way to celebrate Asia then with a winner of the Asian Heritage Month Blog Event Giveaway?

I am happy to announce that a fellow vocalist and book reviewer has won the coveted prize of the book, Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin, winner of the Man Asian Literary Prize. You can read my review here.

PLEASE LOOK AFTER MOM by Kyung-Sook Shin

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I-Ching was certainly in this entrant’s favour!

Congratulations to…

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Margaret, a Literary Chanteuse!

I’m positive she’ll be “singing a great tune” when she receives the book in the mail and finishes reading it.

Thanks to all who visited my blog and entered the giveaway contest.

Just a kind reminder that the Cherry Blossom (or Asian Theme) Photo Contest is still open until the end of June. If you don’t have a photo of cherry blossoms to submit, photos portraying an Asian theme are more than welcome.

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The prizes are books related to the Cherry Blossom and will be delivered by The Book Depository.

Depending on the amount and quality of photos that are submitted, more winners and prizes may be added to the pile!

So, get your photos in!

Cherry blossoms at Kariya Park. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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For more details about the Cherry Blossom (or Asian Theme) Photo Contest, please visit here.

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And a special thanks to L.R. of Random House of Canada and Vintage Canada publishers for kindly providing the literary prize for this contest. Looking for your next great read? You can check out new titles at their website here.

 

May we all continue to work together to encourage respect, reading, and inclusivity!

Asian Heritage Month: Children’s Feature: Books about Korea

Asian Heritage Month Blog Event: Children’s Feature: Books about Korea

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 Korea.

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The Tiger and the Dried Persimmon

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Category: Children’s/Korea

Author: Janie Jaehyun Park

Format: Children’s Hardcover, 32 pages

Publisher: Douglas & McIntyre

ISBN: 0-88899-485-0

Pub Date: 2002

My Review:

The Tiger and the Dried Persimmon by Janie Jaehyun Park is a retelling of a classic Korean folktale of a tiger out of hunger wishes to hunt for food. In a nearby village, he finds an ox sleeping near a cottage, but just as he plans to pounce on the animal, he hears a mother inside the cottage trying to calm her crying baby.

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Interpreting the baby’s cries as cries of bravery, the tiger believes that the baby is not fearful of the animals that its mother names—until the baby is appeased by dried persimmon, which the tiger confuses to be the “wildest and fiercest beast in the world.”

Persimmons

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Janie Jaehyun’s illustrative paintings are thickened with texture by the impression of her brushstrokes, which allows for the tiger’s expressions to take different forms.

It’s a modern retelling of one of Korea’s folktales that speaks to the outcome of foolish decisions that stem from pride, fear, and vanity and includes a note about persimmon at the end of the book.

Zara’s Rating

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The Firekeeper’s Son

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Category: Children’s/Korea

Author Linda Sue Park

Illustrator Julie Downing

Format Children’s Hardcover, 38 pages

Publisher: Clarion Books (imprint of Houghton Mifflin)

ISBN: 0-618-13337-2

Pub Date: 2004

My Review

The Firekeeper’s Son by Linda Sue Park is a children’s historical fiction of the early bonfire signal system used in Korea in the early 1800’s. The mountains faced the king’s palace and each fire had to “halves” and together the eight halves represented the country’s eight provinces. When lit, the king and his court would be assured of the country’s safety. When unlit, the king and his court would be alarmed to potential danger.

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This story is about Sang-hee, a young boy who must light the fire in lieu of his father’s injury in order to deter an onslaught of the king’s army to arise for battle towards an imaginary, non-existent foe.

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The art illustrations are realistic watercolour paintings that make a believable backdrop to the story.

It is a story that shares a little about Korea’s early bonfire signal system, the honour in inheriting long-standing traditions within a family and bloodline, and the importance of choosing to do the right thing in the name of the greater good rather than meeting one’s own personal desires.

Zara’s Rating

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The Royal Bee

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Category: Children’s/Korea

Authors: Frances Park and Ginger Park

Illustrated by Christopher Zhong-Yuan Zhang 

Format: Children’s Hardcover, 32 pages

Publisher: Boyds Mills Press

ISBN: 1-56397-614-5

Pub Date: 2000

My Review

The Royal Bee by Frances Park and Ginger Park is based on a true story of the author’s grandfather, Hong Seung Han, an illiterate boy who was too poor to be allowed to attend school in the late 19th century, which is what makes this story even more compelling.

The story is about a young boy named Song-ho who was considered a sangmin boy, too poor to be allowed to attend school like the privileged yangban children, but dreamed “when he could read books and write poetry.”

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Even so, he asked Master Min, if he could be his pupil, but was rejected due to the rules of the education ministry. This, however, did not deter the young boy from hiding outside the school’s door to listen in on daily lessons—even in the cold of winter!

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While Song-ho was unaware of it, Master Min was well aware of his presence on a daily basis and finally asked him to enter the classroom to be tested by the students in his knowledge. Once passing the test, he was welcomed to attend the school regardless of the ministry rules.

Eventually, Song-ho was chosen to be the representative of his school at the school to compete in the Royal Bee held at the Governor’s Palace. Students are tested in their knowledge until a wrong answer removes them from the contest.

Song-ho was of the last remaining two people standing to be judged at the prestigious Royal Bee competition. And though he and his competitor were intellectually equal in their academic knowledge, it was Song-Ho’s personal and honest answer that deemed him the reigning champion.

The artist’s painted illustrations are just as tender as the story itself and a beautiful rendition of Korean dress and custom in the early 19th century.

The Royal Bee is an excellent cultural story that shares the historical dichotomy between the rich and the poor and its educational divide. But, most importantly, it also shares the lesson learned from opportunity gained through compassion, a willingness to learn, drive, and perseverance that far exceeds the limitations of poverty.

Zara’s Rating

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My Name Is Yoon

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Category: Children’s/Korea

Author: Helen Recorvits

Illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska

Format: Children’s Hardcover, 32 pages

Publisher: Frances Foster Books (Imprint of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)

ISBN: 978-0-374-35114-4

Pub Date: 2003

My Review

My Name Is Yoon by Helen Recorvits is about a young girl who migrates from Korea to America and feels anxious about using and writing out her name in English. As written in Korean, Yoon means “Shining Wisdom.” In English, she does not like how her name looks with “lines, circles, each standing alone.”

 윤

So, at school when her teacher asks her to write out her name “Yoon” on the empty lines of a piece of paper, Yoon rebels and writes out different English words instead like “cat,” “bird,” and “cupcake.”

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Yoon’s imagination recreates her identity as the animals and objects that she writes until an American girl finally befriends her from her class.

It is then, that she becomes ready to identify herself in the English written form of her name.

The illustrative paintings in this children’s book are gorgeous, depicting a very real main character.

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The story is one that speaks to the anxiety of the new immigrant experience and the time it takes to feel acknowledged, accepted, and ready to integrate or assimilate into a new culture without losing the identity of your native country. It’s a story of inclusion and empowerment of a young girl who comes to terms with who she is as a Korean and as an American.

Zara’s Rating

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To read more posts for the Asian Heritage Month Blog Event, please visit here.

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What’s one thing you appreciate most about Korea and the Korean culture?

Were you ever a new immigrant to a foreign country? If so, what was your experience like for the first time?

In what ways can we help make the transition easier for new immigrants in schools?

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My Korean name: Park Dae Rae

Asian Heritage Month: Children’s Feature: Books about Tibet

Asian Heritage Month Blog Event: Children’s Feature: Books about Tibet

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez/@ZaraAlexis

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 Tibet.

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All the Way to Lhasa: A Tale from Tibet

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Category: Children’s/Tibet

Author: Barbara Helen Berger

Format: Children’s Hardcover, 32 pages

Publisher: Philomel Books (imprint of Penguin Putnam Books)

ISBN: 0-399-23387-3

Pub Date: 2002

My Review :

All the Way to Lhasa is a retelling of a parable from Tibet as heard by the author and artist, Barbara Helen Berger from Lama Tharchin Rinpoche.

It is a quiet, meditative, and encouraging story of a young boy who would like to know how far it is to travel to the holy city of Lhasa.

The first boy is told that it is very far and so he rushes off into the distance, running towards the city of Lhasa with his horse.

The second boy is told that it is close enough to reach before night fall and so he takes one step and then another, plodding slowly with his yak.

The boy who took his time towards his goal was the one who was able to reach the city.

The book is exquisitely illustrated indicative of Asian art, Tibetan colours and symbols, the majesty of Lhasa as a holy city, and hints of the Tibetan prayer and meditation: Om mani padme hum.

It’s a beautiful and peaceful narrative that encourages young readers to continue faithfully and perseveringly towards their path.

Zara’s Rating

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The Mountains of Tibet

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Category: Children’s/Tibet

Authors: Mordicai Gerstein

Format: Children’s Hardcover, 32 pages

Publisher: Harper & Row Publishers

ISBN: 0-06-022144-5

Pub Date: 1987

My Review:

The Mountains of Tibet by Mordecai Gerstein was the winner of the New York Times Best Illustrated Book in 1987.

It’s a story of reincarnation told in a step-by-step process by a conversation between a boy who grows into a man, dies, and then hears “a voice speaking to him.”

At each turn of the page, the man in given a choice to “become part” of something. First the universe, the galaxy, the planet, the species, the ethnicity, the place to live, to his choice of parents, and then whether or not he wants to be a boy or girl.

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It’s a wonderful story of inclusion as the man is given the freedom of choice at every turn and each choice displayed to him as equally good and valuable.

The illustrations, too, help to share the theme of inclusivity as the drawings are enclosed in a circle with pictures closely swirling and almost entwined in a theme of “togetherness.”

The Mountains of Tibet is kind introduction to children about the simple process of reincarnation, the cycle of life and death, and the beauty, gift, and value of all living things, living and working together in cooperative harmony.

Zara’s Rating

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To read more posts for the Asian Heritage Month Blog Event, please visit here.

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What’s one thing you appreciate most about Tibet and the Tibetan culture?

Do you believe in reincarnation? Why or why not?

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My chinese name: Zhenrui

Asian Heritage Month: Children’s Feature: Books about China

Asian Heritage Month:

Children’s Feature: Books about China

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez/@ZaraAlexis

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 China.

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Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats

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Category: Children’s/China

Authors: Nina Simonds, Leslie Swartz, The Children’s Museum, Boston

llustrated by: Meilo So

Format: Children’s Hardcover, 74 pages

Publisher: Gulliver Books, Harcourt Inc.

ISBN: 0-15-201983-9

Pub Date: 2002

My Review:

Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats is an extensive collection of Chinese holiday folktales, fun activities for kids, and easy-to-learn recipes.

It’s broken into four parts:

  1. Chinese New Year and the Lantern Festival
  2. Qing Ming and the Cold Foods Festival
  3. The Dragon Boat Festival
  4. Mid-Autumn Moon Festival

And has a wonderful variety of Chinese folktales and information on the meaning of Chinese practices, traditions, and significant Chinese symbols that children can easily understand.

The Do-It-Yourself (DIY) crafts are creative and fun and include craft ideas for New Year prints, good luck characters, Chinese shuttlecocks, paper lanterns, kites, dragon boats, pinwheels, fragrant bags, and shadow puppets.

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And though it’s children’s treasury, an adult could easily find the content readable, interesting, and a fun instructional guide for the children in his or her life. It’s also an excellent resource for teachers and those in need of an Asian educational tool.

I especially enjoyed learning about the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival also known as the Harvest Moon Festival that honours the female goddess of the moon. I also enjoyed learning about the history of the moon cake (which is one of my favourite Asian pastries) and how to make the Five-Treasure Moon Cakes, which I may just try before the month ends in celebration of Asian Heritage Month.

Moon cake

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This book would be an excellent addition to the culturally appreciative reader and an excellent resource for families.

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Zara’s Rating

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Maples in the Mist: Children’s Poems and the Tang Dynasty

 

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Category: Children’s/China

Authors: Minfong Ho

Illustrated By: Jean & Mou-sien Tseng

Format: Children’s Hardcover, 32 pages

Publisher: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books

ISBN: 0-688-12044-X

Pub Date: 1996

My Review:

The Tang Dynasty from 618-907 A.D. was a time when arts and poetry flourished and Tang poems were widely accepted as the best classical poems in China’s literary history. The poems in the Maples in the Mist collection are translations of a few of the well-known Three Hundred Tang poems of the 18th century.

These are exceptionally important to honour as Chinese children have always learned how to read by reading poetry and has been an important literary fabric in the Chinese tradition.

A beautifully translated poem, which is one of my favourites of the collection, is:

Moon

When I was little

I thought the moon was a white jade plate,

Or maybe a mirror in heaven

Flying through the blue clouds.

–        Li Bai

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The illustrative paintings by Jean & Mou-sien Tseng are exquisite and as a collection, heightens the value of this children’s book of classical poetry. The art on its own is sufficient enough reason to purchase this book and add to a personal library, but the poetry is a testament to China’s long-standing literary tradition and easily bridges the old generation with the new, reaching the children, both Chinese and non-Chinese, of today.

Zara’s Rating

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Kites: Magic Wishes that Fly Up to the Sky

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Category: Children’s/China

Author: Demi

Format: Children’s Hardcover, 35 pages

Publisher: Crown Publishers (imprint of Random House)

ISBN: 0-517-80049-7

Pub Date: 1999

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My Review:

Kites by Demi is a wonderfully illustrated children’s book about the history, origins, and symbolism found on Chinese kites and the art of kite flying.

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It includes a detailed description of the various animals and symbols that are found on Asian kites and what they mean in Chinese culture.

Do you know that the Mandarin Duck means nobility, faithfulness, and happiness? Or the Thin Swallow for female loveliness? The Wasp for industry and thrift and the Carp for abundance?

A tree swallow

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These are just a few explanations of the symbolism of animals on Chinese kites.

The book is prettily illustrated and includes a step-by-step instruction guide on how to make your own Chinese kite.

Children of any culture will enjoy learning about the beauty and history of the Asian kite and how to make one on their own. It’s also a great resource for parents and teachers.

Zara’s Rating

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The Empty Pot

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Category: Children’s/China

Author: Demi

Format: Children’s Hardcover, 32 pages

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company

ISBN: 0-8050-1217-6

Pub Date: 1990

My Review:

The Empty Pot by Demi is a quiet and lovely story based on Chinese folktale of a boy named Ping who loved to plant flowers. When it was time for the Emperor to choose an heir he decided to give each child in the kingdom a seed to plant and grow and instructed the children that “Whoever can show [him] their best in a year’s time, shall succeed [him] to the throne!”

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It’s a beautifully illustrated and classic story that teaches the importance of hard work and honesty and how doing the right thing can be abundantly repaid.

Zara’s Rating

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To read more posts for the Asian Heritage Month Blog Event, please visit here.

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What’s one thing you appreciate most about China and the Chinese culture?

If you have children, what’s your favourite DIY project with them?

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My chinese name: Zhenrui

Asian Heritage Month: Children’s Feature: Books about Japan

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.

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The Paper Crane

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Category: Children’s/Japan

Author: Molly Bang

Format: Children’s Hardcover, 18 pages

Publisher: Greenwillow Books (imprint of HarperCollins)

ISBN: 978-0-688-04108-3

Pub Date: 1985

Summary:

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.

My Review:

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.

Crane made by origami.

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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.

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Zara’s Rating

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Chibi: A True Story from Japan

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Category: Children’s/Japan

Authors: Barbara Brenner and Julia Takaya

Illustrated by: June Otani

Format: Children’s Hardcover, 64 pages

Publisher: Clarion Books (imprint of Houghton Mifflin)

ISBN: 0-395-69623-2

Pub Date: 1996

Summary:

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.

Imperial Gardens, Tokyo

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The arrival of the ducks in the city had caused a stir of media frenzy including bird watchers and enthusiasts.

Spotbill Duck like “Chibi.”

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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.

My Review:

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.

Zara’s Rating

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Tea with Milk

Category: Children’s/Japan

Author: Allen Say

Format: Children’s Hardcover, 32 pages

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company

ISBN: 0-395-90495-1

Pub Date: 1999

Summary:

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.

My review:

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.

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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.

Zara’s Rating

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To read more posts for the Asian Heritage Month Blog Event, please visit here.

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What’s one thing you appreciate most about Japan and the Japanese culture?

If you have children, how do you teach them about inclusivity?

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My Japanese name: 清水 Shimizu (clear water) 子 Aiko (child of the morning sun).