Let’s Read!
Let’s Read! New and Noteworthy Books for Children – Winter 2004

Karen Wada is a Los Angeles-based writer and journalist. She reviewed these children books for the Winter 2004 issue of the Museum Magazine.

How The Years Were Named Retold by Chizuko Kamichi. Illustrated by Yuko Kanazawa. Translated by Donna Tamaki.

This folktale explaining the creation of the East Asian “zodiac” is presented in the style of kamishibai, or “paper drama,” a form of Japanese street storytelling popular in the first half of the twentieth century. In this version the narrator reads from the text while displaying a large series of illustrated cards. Whimsical paintings show the Emperor of China overseeing a race among the tiger, the ox, the mouse, and other animals to determine who will win the honor of having parts of the 12-year calendar named after them. A charging change of pace from the usual format of kids’ books, kamishibai encourages both children and adults to join in improvisation, discussion, and acting out the story. (One caveat: Be sure to practice handling the cards before the first performance.) Published by Kamishibai for Kids (New York) with permission of Doshinsha Co. Ltd. (Tokyo)

A Hawai‘i Japanese New Year with Yuki-chan written by Tokie Ching. Illustrated by Kerina Salazar.

When Yuki comes to live with her adoptive family in Hawai‘i, she embraces the chance to welcome the new year Japanese American-style. Her mother, Tokie Ching, writes about her daughter’s experiences: Yuki-Chan makes mochi with her aunt and helps to clean the house (“osoji”) to wipe away bad luck. With her parents and brother she goes to a Buddhist temple to hear the midnight bells toll, and a few hours later she gets up to watch the sunrise. She also enjoys learning the stories behind such traditional dishes as ozoni, nishime, and hoshi gaki (several recipes are included. Told in simple language with homespun illustrations, this picture book is a good guide for children preparing to participate in the holiday celebration.

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