Kajikawa, Kimiko. Tsunami! New York: Philomel Books, 2009.
“A wealthy man in a Japanese village, who everyone calls Ojiisan, which means grandfather, sets fire to his rice fields to warn the innocent people of an approaching tsunami.” – CIP Extraordinarily powerful illustrations.
Kadohata, Cynthia. A Place to Belong. New York: Atheneum, 2019.
Twelve-year-old Hanako, her younger brother, and her parents have been incarcerated in internment camps ever since the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1942. Although the war is now over, her family is still not wanted in America, so her parents give up their American citizenship and move to Japan. Her grandparents are overjoyed to see them, but Hanako doesn’t feel at home. She is too American to blend into Japanese life. And the poverty is overwhelming.
This 399-page novel is an outstanding addition to the historical fiction genre. The facts of post-war Japanese life are smoothly embedded in an emotionally powerful story – with an unerring sense of voice – highly recommended for competent readers 11 years old and up.
P.S. This is a superb novel for a small group study. Numerous thought-provoking sentences will promote connections between the story and readers’ own lives…
“‘When I walked away last time…I never looked back….I was scared it would make me change my mind'” (90).
“‘…you must forgive….I see and hear many bad in world, many bad….but there is also many good. So we move forward in life, neh? When we can, we move forward'” (105).
“This was the thing about being spoiled: you had to rise above it” (136).
“There was not enough; this was a fact. The world was filled with facts that could not be changed. She had learned this during their camp days. There were many, many, many facts” (158).
“‘Maybe same thing make you sad, make Japanese children happy'” (189).
“‘You did the right thing….You may cry. But don’t forget that you did the right thing'” (204).
Paterson, Katherine. The Master Puppeteer. New York: Harper Collins, 1975.
A thirteen-year-old boy lives in lonely poverty, learning how to take pride in his own skills, in eighteenth century Japan. [Historical fiction; Japan; Poverty]
Reibstein, Mark. Wabi Sabi. New York : Little, Brown, 2008.“Wabi Sabi, a cat living in the city of Kyoto, learns about the Japanese concept of beauty through simplicity as she asks various animals she meets about the meaning of her name.” – CIP Beautifully collaged illustrations!
Say, Allen. The Boy in the Garden. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2010.
A quietly beautiful picture book for reflective inquisitive readers 8 to 14 years old. [Cranes (Birds); Dreams; Japan; Winter]
Say, Allen. Drawing from Memory. New York : Scholastic Press, 2011.
An autobiographical account of the author and artist’s childhood. Highly recommended.
Drawing From Memory (Scholastic Press, 2011) by Caldecott medal winner Allen Say is an inspiring story about Allen Say’s life. His life was very eventful and also very interesting. This book starts with Allen telling what he did as a kid. All he did as a kid was read and draw. Their family had to escape the war and move quickly. But during that chaos, all Allen wanted to do was draw, and his parents and grandparents hated him for it. His Grandmother finally told him hat if he got into this very well known private middle school, she would rent an apartment for him at the age of 12. Allen of course studied everyday hoping to pass the entrance exam. Once he passed the exam, his Grandmother rented him a place in an apartment. This only reason his Grandmother sent him to the apartment was so he could study for his new school, but the only thing on Allen’s mind was to draw, and draw, and draw. After going out to dinner, Allen picks up the local newspaper at the restaurant. He starts to read about another kid who ran away from home just to draw. He soon got taken in by Allen’s favorite artist, Noro Shinpei. Noro gave him a test just as bad as the middle school exam. Allen passed and became the second apprentice of Noro Shinpei.
This book was creatively coloured. But this book was also very inspiring and interesting. I loved this book, because Allen’s life is very like mine. I often feel like Allen. (Kelvin in grade eight)
Say, Allen. Erika-san. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2008.
A little girl, seeing a picture of a teahouse in her grandmother’s home, becomes curious about Japan. She reads books about Japan, learns how to speak Japanese, and – after she grows up and finishes college – moves to Japan to become a schoolteacher. But busy Tokyo doesn’t appeal to her. She longs for the countryside. She finally finds it, a little village that reminds her of the picture from long ago, a place where she makes a friend, marries him, and creates her new home.
Some reviewers have criticized this picture book for depicting a character that dislikes a foreign city, for writing about a character appropriating another culture as her own. But this quietly beautiful picture book isn’t about displaying political correctness or conveying moral messages. It is a story about someone who admires a way of life and goes out to find it. It is a story for everyone who has had a dream and then set out to find it. Recommended for reflective readers 9 to 12 years old.
Say, Allen. Grandfather’s Journey. Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1993.
“A Japanese American man recounts his grandfather’s journey to America which he later also undertakes, and the feelings of being torn by a love for two different countries.” CIP
Stelson, Caren. A Bowl Full of Peace: A True Story. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, 2020.
Sachiko was six years old on August 9, 1945 when an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. War had already come to Japan. People were already going hungry from lack of food and hiding in air raid shelters built into the hillsides. When the bomb dropped, one of Sachiko’s brothers was killed, and the rest of the family became ill and slowly started dying of radiation sickness. Sachiko’s remaining family members continued to gather around grandmother’s bowl every evening – just as they had before the war – to offer thanks for their food. But once a year, they instead filled the bowl with ice and – as it melted – also prayed for peace. This quietly heart-breaking story of courage, poignantly illustrated by Akira Kusaka, is highly recommended for readers seven years old and up.
Turner, Pamela S. Hachiko: The True Story of a Loyal Dog. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2004.
Do animals feel emotions? Anyone who has ever lived with a dog knows that they feel many emotions: fear, joy, loneliness…. And of course, loyalty. This short story, presented as a picture book illustrated by the award-winning Yan Nascimbene, describes the history behind a statue at a famous Tokyo train station. While the main character – a young boy – has been invented, the story of Hachiko – a dog who for almost ten years faithfully went to the station every day, hoping to once again meet his master who had died – is true. This touching story set in the 1920s is appended with two pages of historical information and is recommended for dog lovers of all ages.
Yashima, Taro. Crow Boy. Puffin, 1976.
A classic story of courage about a little boy who is treated like an outsider. Caldecott Honor Book. Highly recommended.
Click HERE to learn more about Allen Say.