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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Nahoko Uehashi, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Poetry Friday ~ PaperTigers 10th Anniversary: My Top Ten Picks by Sally Ito

[Time is running out to enter our Tenth Anniversary Draw - the deadline is tomorrow - so if you haven't already, take a look here for the chance to win some fantastic prizes for you or your school or library]

Sally Ito is a poet, editor and translator living in Winnipeg, Canada, where she also teaches Creative Writing; she is currently writer.  Sally was  a book reviewer and contributor to the PaperTigers blog until earlier this year and wrote many of our contributions to Poetry Friday during that time (which is why we decided to post Sally’s selection on a Poetry Friday day!).  So we are delighted to welcome her back with her Top Ten list of favourite books, encountered through her work with PaperTigers.

As a prelude, do listen to Sally reading the title poem from her collection Alert to Glory (Turnstone Press, 2011) in the video below.

My Top Ten Picks by Sally Ito

When I joined the Paper Tigers blog contributor team in 2008, the thing I was most excited about was getting to read and review great multicultural books for kids.  What I discovered was a plethora of wonderful books that reflected who I was culturally and who my community was, culturally, as well.  From my short time with PaperTigers, these are my ten picks of multicultural books for kids.  It’s a little Japan-heavy, I realize but I hope you indulge my bias!

Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan (Allen & Unwin, 2008) – I found this quirky picture book amazing and it was an inspiration for me when I was teaching to take my creative writing students out into our immediate neighborhood (an historic district called The Exchange) in Winnipeg to see what we could make of our environment in a creative way.

Naomi’s Tree by Joy Kogawa, illustrated by Ruth Ohi (Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2008).  This book is about a cherry tree and a Japanese Canadian girl who grew up with it and was separated from it by the circumstances of the Second World War.  This book was a personal favorite since the author’s history reflects my own family’s in Canada.

Granny’s Giant Bannock by Brenda Isabel Wastasecoot, illustrated by Kimberly McKay-Fleming (Pemmican, 2008).  This is one hilarious book about a Cree-speaking grandmother and her grandson Larf who accidentally bakes a giant bannock by misunderstanding his grandmother’s instructions on how to make the doughy confection from scratch.

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi, illustrated by Yuko Shimizu, translated by Cathy Hirano (Scholastic, 2009).  This book is a translation of a popular fantasy series that was also made into a TV series.  The story is set in early imperial Japan and features a woman warrior named Balsa who protects the son of the emperor, Chagum, as he carries within him a spirit from another dimension who must lodge in a human host in order to survive.

The Song of the Cicada by Shizue Ukaji.  This is a Japanese book, yet untranslated into English, that I discovered while living in Japan in 2011.  It’s an Ainu folktale illustrated with textile creations made by Ukaji herself.  It’s the story of a woman who prophesies disaster – namely a tsunami – to her people and what becomes of her as a result.  A timely read for the year I was visiting the country.

The Fox’s Window and Other Stories by Naoko Awa, translated by Toshiya Kamei.  This is a collection of short stories spanning a career of writing by Japanese author Naoko Awa.  Magical, enchanting and absorbing are the words I’d use to describe these stories, which have also been referred to as ‘modern fairytales.’

David’s Trip to Paraguay by Miriam Rudolph.  A bilingual book with German and English text, this story is about a young Mennonite boy named David who travels to Paraguay from Canada in the late 1920s.  Rudolph, an artist, charts the arduous journey with vivid and colorful illustrations of the things David sees on the trip.

Gifts: Poems for Parents edited by Rhea Tregebov (Sumach Press, 2002).  We say we read to our children for their sake, but it’s just as true that we read to feed ourselves, too.  Poetry is a kind of bread for the soul, and this particular treasury of poems by Canadians really fed me as a poet and a parent.

Bifocal by Deborah Ellis and Eric Walters.  This is one book I read in part with my son, who later went on to have the book assigned to him for his English class in junior high school.  It’s about two teenagers – Haroon and Jay – who have to negotiate their cultural identities during a tense lockdown situation at their high school.

Aya by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie.  I started covering graphic novels for PaperTigers a few years ago as I felt this was a developing trend in books for young people.  And this book was one of my favorites!  Aya is about a young woman growing up in Cote D’Ivoire, looking to become a medical student, but whose life is inevitably shaped and influenced by those around her with less lofty goals than her.

This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Ed at Think Kid, Think – head on over.

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2. PaperTigers’ Global Voices feature with award winning author Holly Thompson (USA/Japan)~ Part 3

Children’s and YA Books in Translation from Japan ~  by Holly Thompson

Part 3 of 3 (read Part 1 here and Part 2 here)

Over the years of raising our children in Japan, I have kept my eyes out for Japanese children’s books translated into English. Sadly, far more titles go from English into Japanese than from Japanese into English. Having peaked in numbers in the 1980s, nowadays few Japanese children’s and young adult books are translated into English each year.

The reasons for so few Japanese books being sold to English-language publishers are layered and complicated ranging from cultural differences and weak English copy or sample translations used for marketing books to foreign publishers, to stagnant picture book markets in English-speaking countries and a lack of interest from markets that are focused intently on books set in their own countries.

Currently, most of the children’s books translated from Japanese into other languages are sold to other countries in Asia—particularly Korea and Taiwan, and more recently, China. The International Library of Children’s Literature in Ueno, Tokyo, held an exhibit in 2010 Children’s Books Going Overseas from Japan and much exhibit information on translated Japanese children’s books appears on their website.

Because our children are bilingual, when they were young we read most Japanese picture books in Japanese, but we searched out English translations of Japanese picture books as gifts for relatives, friends or libraries in the U.S. Some of the Japanese picture books in translation that we loved to give are Singing Shijimi Clams by Naomi Kojima, The 14 Forest Mice books and others by Kazuo Iwamura, and books illustrated by Akiko Hayashi. Our all-time family favorite Japanese picture book was the widely read Suuho no shiroi uma, published in English as Suho’s White Horse, a Mongolian tale retold by Japanese author Yuzo Otsuka, illustrated by Suekichi Akaba, and translated by Peter Howlett—featured in this PaperTigers post.

R.I.C. Publications has a number of well-known Japanese picture books and some Ainu folktales in translation. Kane/Miller Book Publishers now focuses on books set in the U.S. but used to focus on translations of books from around the world; their catalog has a section on Books from Japan including the hugely successful Minna unchi by Taro Gomi, translated by Amanda Mayer Stinchecum and published in English as Everyone Poops. And recently Komako Sakai’s books have traveled overseas including Ronpaachan to fuusen published by Chronicle Books as Emily’s Balloon and Yuki ga yandara released as The Snow Day by Arthur A. Levine Books.

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3. Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi


Things you should know about Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit:

  1. It’s purty. Seriously, the internet does not do the cover justice. In person, the cover is vibrant and gorgeous and actually depicts something that happens in the book. And the interior! Before I even sat down to read the book, I kept on oohing over how awesome the design was. Phil Falco, you rock!
  2. The writing more than lives up to the expectations the cover and design create.
  3. Or should I say the translation? Because if not for the fact that I think the central fantasy element is entirely non-Western, you would not know that this book has been translated from Japanese. Forget every stereotype of stilted or clunky translations that you may have, because Cathy Hirano’s translation is fantastic. It’s smooth, engaging, unpretentious, and very easy to read.

As a royal procession crosses a bridge, the Second Prince of New Yogo is thrown from his ox-drawn carriage into the raging river below. Balsa watches these events unfold, then jumps into the river to save the life of the Prince. She does this with no expectation of rewards. She’s a bodyguard; saving lives is what she does.

But the Second Queen, the mother of Chagum, the Second Prince, rewards Balsa, then begs her to take the Prince from Ninomiya Palace. The Mikado, the Second Queen fears, is trying to kill Chagum, and Balsa is the only person the Second Queen can turn to to protect him.

What makes Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit interesting (besides the fantastical elements described in the next paragraph) is that I would argue the main character is Balsa, a thirty-year-old woman. Among the major characters, Chagum, who is twelve, is the only young person. Yet the book is still suitable for and will appeal to tweens and teens. The action starts right away and rarely lets up, and the List of Characters and List of Places and Terms at the start of the book are useful references, especially once the central plot takes off.

Chagum was somehow chosen to deliver the egg of the Water Spirit, Nyunga Ro Im. The Mikado and his Star Readers, believing the Yogoese account of the creation of New Yogo, think Chagum is a threat to the country. Now Balsa must save Chagum, the egg-carrier and therefore a Guardian of the Spirit, from the Mikado and the deadly Hunters who do his bidding. And the more Balsa and her allies learn about Nyunga Ro Im, the more they realize the enormity of Balsa’s task. Because there is something else after the Guardian of the Spirit, something even more dangerous than the Hunters, and the knowledge of how to save the Guardian of the Spirit may have been lost forever.

If you are looking for an exciting fantasy, something different from the other fantasies currently being published, I highly recommend Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit. Besides the plentiful action, it also had a depth I was not expecting, touching on some philosophical, and occasionally rather academic, themes (somehow I was not surprised to read that the author is a cultural anthropologist), but which always felt natural and organic to the story. In her author’s note, Nahoko Uehashi mentions that this is the first book in the Moribito series. I hope we’ll be seeing the other books in English soon.

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