My husband Mike is flying to Japan in December, and when Tuttle Publishing heard that I wanted to learn more about this fascinating island country with my kids, they generously sent us these wonderful books to read! I knew a bit about this country because three of my cousins grew up there, one of my sisters used to live there, and I have friends who are from there themselves as well as friends whose parents or grandparents are from Japan. There is always more to learn, and the kids and I are really enjoying these books. Traveling on planes to faraway countries is exciting, but not always realistic! Books have the ability to take you there – for free, if you use your local public library!
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Picture Books About Japan
All About Japan: Stories, Songs, Crafts and More is a wonderful introduction to Japan! It includes an astonishing amount of information considering it is a fairly thin book, including holidays for every month of the year! If you want to teach your children a unit about Japan, either as a homeschooler or an afterschooler, this book is an excellent place to start. The illustrations are very engaging and the book is full of interesting activities to accompany all of the information in the book.
My First Book of Japanese Words really captured nine-year-old Emma’s attention. My academically-inclined daughter loved the detailed pronunciation guide, and the cute illustrations definitely helped! This book has a Japanese word for every letter of the alphabet. All four of my kids (aged 3, 6, 7, and 9 years old) love the illustrations and text in this ABC rhyming book!
Here are some of the notes that Emma created when she first read the book. She still picks it up several times a week, and I keep finding little papers with Japanese characters around the house!
Once Upon a Time in Japan is a collection of traditional Japanese stories that was published with NHK Japan Broadcasting Corporation. This book has four different illustrators who divided the various stories, and it is really fun to see their unique styles throughout the book. Like many older stories, these are not happily ever after stories. They will engage your child and get them thinking. I recommend these books for upper elementary – third grade and older, or even fourth grade and older. Nine-year-old Emma really enjoyed this book.
If you want a gentler telling of traditional Japanese Tales for younger children (or all ages, really), I recommend Japanese Children’s Favorite Stories and More Japanese Children’s Favorite Stories, which we were also sent. These stories do not always end happily, but they have a softer, gentler tone. Six-year-old Lily and seven-year-old Johnny both like these books, and even three-year-old Anna will sit for a few stories. Anna also enjoys looking at the illustrations.
The Peace Tree from Hiroshima: The Little Bonsai with a Big Story is an incredible true story of forgiveness and generosity. It was my favorite book that I read this summer, and one that I think belongs in every home library.
Have you read any of these books? Do you have any recipes or activities from Japan that my kids and I should try?
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