English-language Asia-set Children’s and YA Fiction ~ by Holly Thompson
Part 2 of 3 (read Part 1 here)
Some years back as we settled into our bicultural family life with young children here in Japan, although we were surrounded by books in Japanese and took full advantage of Japan’s healthy picture book and middle-grade market, we discovered that finding English-language reading material to support our bilingual children was no easy task. Because our children attended Japanese schools, English education happened in our home, and we needed a steady supply of English-language books. But libraries in Japan stock few English-language books, and bookstores here carry very few and at hefty mark-ups, so whenever friends or family visited from the U.S. they brought books to us. Returning from a trip back to the States, our luggage was always heavy with books. We book-swapped with families in Japan, we ordered from Scholastic with our English-after school group, and we pounced on book sale tables at international school fairs. At last, Amazon Japan with free and quick delivery of affordable overseas books came to the rescue.
Always on the lookout for books relating to our lives while raising our bilingual children, we soon became aware of a lack of English-language children’s books that reflect Japan. English-language picture books set in Japan were rare, and those that existed, we discovered, tended toward folktales and nonfiction. Where were the day-to-day stories that reflected the landscapes and people and value systems surrounding us? Where was Japan?
We read and reread the bilingual Grandpa’s Town by Takaaki Nomura. We enjoyed folktale retellings like The Seven Gods of Luck by David Kudler and Yoshi’s Feast by Kimiko Kajikawa. and biographical works like Cool Melons—Turn to Frogs by Matthew Gollub. All excellent, but we were discouraged that such English-language titles set in Japan were few and far between.
Searching for other Asian cultures in English-language picture books yielded similar results—folktales, nonfiction and concept books, but few fictional stories set in Asia.
As the children grew older, we came to realize that even less common than English-language picture books set in Asia were English-language middle-grade and YA novels set in Japan and Asia. What we found was mostly historical fiction. Of course we read and loved Korea-set historical novels by Linda Sue Park, Japan-set novels by 0 Comments on PaperTigers’ Global Voices feature with award winning author Holly Thompson (USA/Japan)~ Part 2 as of 5/23/2012 10:49:00 AM