'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Friday 23 October 2015

Review: Once Upon a Time in Japan

Fairytales and folk stories are popular with children and adults alike. Most of us growing up in Western households would be familiar with Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin, Beauty and the Beast — and many more. And through these stories, we've absorbed lessons in honesty, love, courage and ingenuity.

But the Western world is not the entire world, not even close. So, what kinds of stories shape the childhoods of Japanese children, for example?

This beautifully illustrated picture book features eight classic Japanese folk tales, that are among that country's oldest and most beloved stories. Created in conjunction with the NHK Japanese Broadcasting Corporation's popular radio series of the same name, Once Upon a Time in Japan features a trickster fox, a wicked witch, a crafty monkey, a man who sleeps for three years, and a beautiful princess, to name just a few of the elements that might seem strangely familiar to Western readers!

But there are differences too. As introductory notes by the book's translators explain, Japanese stories place more emphasis on selflessness and acting for the good of the community than those of the West. Happy endings are also not guaranteed.

This is a lovely way to explore another culture. Kids and adults will enjoy the stories and pictures, and perhaps a new tale or two will be added to the family repertoire.

Title: Once Upon a Time in Japan
Authors/Translators: Roger Pulvers and Juliet Winters Carpenter
Illustrators: Manami Yamada, Tomonori Taniguchi, Nao Takabatake and Takumi Nishio
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing, $19.99 RRP
Publication Date: September 2015
Format: Hardcover with jacket
ISBN: 9784805313596
For ages: 6+
Type: Picture Book