Library Volunteer Read Aloud Books this semester (Me…Jane) (Piggies)


As I have previously written umpteen times, I volunteer as a reader of kids’ picture books for my son’s former elementary school.  This semester I go and read once a week, so each class will get one book read by me in English.

I always think long and hard about the book I will do for the semester.  Something not too difficult, but age appropriate.  I saw this book at the library in Japanese and fell in love with it.


For every book I read aloud, I make about eight vocabulary cards with words from the book.

It’s the story of Jane Goodall’s childhood.   So I ordered it in English (used) from the internet.

Once I received it, though, I thought more about it.   Jane Goodall is completely unknown to kids in Japan.  So this book doesn’t have the same impact as it has on kids who are already familiar with her.  (And part of me feels like:  Why should they know about Jane Goodall?  After all, typical western kids don’t know any famous Japanese scientists.)

Also, I am not happy the title in English is not the same as in Japanese.  (In Japanese the title is:  “I Like Animals.”  So I introduce it as “Me…Jane.  I Like Animals” in English, then explain in Japanese it is about a girl named Jane.

I decided to do the above book only for the upper grades (fourth through sixth).  For the lower grades and the developmentally delayed class, I chose a different book.


Don and Audrey Woods (a husband/wife team) create the most wonderful books.  Although this is actually a toddler’s bedtime book, it makes a great ESL book for little kids because the vocabulary is so very simple.  Lots of easy and important words in this book.  Lots of repetition.  And did I mention the illustrations are darling?   The details in the illustrations are small though, so after reading the books we walk around the room and let the kids see the illustrations close up.

So the “Piggies” book works well for the younger kids.  It’s a great book.  I recommend it.

You might be wondering about the flashcards shown in the photo. I make eight flashcards  (picture with English words from book, Japanese equivalent word on back) for each book. Since I use the same book several times, I make these flashcards once in a blue moon.

I actually do consider myself quite a decent artist, at least when I was a kid.  Not stellar, but decent.  However, my tactic when making these flashcards is to do them as quickly as possibly.

I am NOT a perfectionist.  This is volunteer work, not for submissions to an editor.  So what I do is, with a pencil, I go through and draw the pictures.  I don’t erase.  If I make a mistake, I keep going.  Then I go through and trace in black pen.  If I made a mistake earlier, I just correct it with the pen to how I want it.  Then I go through and (unless I forget!) erase the pencil marks.

Do the pictures look pretty good?  Yes, I think so.  In an “I did it my way, Dammit” kind of way.  Not a lovely artistic way.  Very cartoony.

I asked my son if the kids make fun of my flashcards.  He said, no, not at all.

To tell the truth, the kids are this school don’t get any special attention from foreign teachers (ALT’s) or any special English classes, so I know they really appreciate the English book reading.  It’s the little bit I can do, and I like helping these kids get a leg up in the world.


“Dried Persimmons” Book Nine of the Japanese Picture Book Battle



Today’s book is called “Hoshigaki”  “Dried Persimmons”

Kaki, of course, is persimmon.

Hosu means “To dry”

so Hoshigaki means Dried Persimmons.


Dried persimmons are quite common in rural area.  Baba (my husband’s mom) picks persimmons from their trees every fall.  The persimmons, as this book explains, are not the sweet variety.  They are bitter and must be dried in order to be eaten.  They are strung and hung up like in the photos.  During the winter, they can be eaten as a snack.

After watching Baba do this “Hoshigaki” process, I know that it is quite arduous.  These dried persimmons are expensive in city supermarkets because they require so much care.

I have heard that for Japanese people of yesteryear, these dried persimmons were the only snack that was available in the winter.  Remember, no cakes and chocolate at the grocery store!  It was a hard life back then.   So these dried persimmons were a real treat.

This book is quite interesting.  Even if you can’t read Japanese, you can follow the photos.  It is available here.

Usborne Famous Artists Sticker Book


I first started doing morning English time with my son when he was very, very young. Originally it was just me holding an American coloring book and pointing at the B and saying B B B balloon!  That sort of stuff.  And ABC practice.

Since we started it at such a young age, my son was used to it and has never balked.  I did not give him rewards or anything.  (His dad would–figuratively, not literally–whup his bottom if he did not do the morning English time, though.)

Anyway, long ago I found a sticker book that we had never used while I was cleaning up.  It was below his level, but fun to do.  Just kind of nice for him to choose a sticker.  Well, we finished it.  I knew that nowadays,  there were way way way more possibilities out there–more so than when my son was a toddler ten years ago.

I wanted a sticker book for a thirteen year old!

I searched and found several nice sticker books that were really educational and neat.  I finally chose this one.  It’s not necessarily the best, just what I liked best:



We are no longer doing our Metropolitan Museum of Art Daily Calendar (now we are doing a cat calendar–a gorgeous daily cat!), but I still wanted him to have art in his life.


This book is great. He picks a sticker (all fabulous) and puts it in place and we learn about the artist and the paintings.  It’s a nice change from the MET calendar, which ONLY has MET artwork, and furthermore was starting to repeat itself.  This sticker book has THE major art of the western world.

Food Festival


Department stores in Japan frequently have food festivals on their top floor.  Gourmet food sellers from different parts of Japan have stalls where you can sample (for a price!) food from different regions of Japan.  My husband is a gourmet and loves these food festivals



This is the sign for the food fair.  “Zenkoku umai mono matsuri.”

“All of Japan Delicious Food Festival”


We got this very expensive crab for lunch.   There goes the budget.


Dessert delicacies from Hokkaido.  I noticed that most food sellers were from Hokkaido.   Not suprising–Hokkaido has an excellent reputation for food.


Oh gosh, I don’t know what this is!  I am not a foodie and don’t know much about Japanese food.  Wish I knew more!

“The Kid from Fukushima” (Book Eight of the Japanese Picture Book Battle)


Today’s very special book is not in the guidebook of recommendations that I have been following.  But I’ll do this book as a substitition for the “Frog and Toad” book.

It’s called “Fukushima Kara Kita Ko”  “The Kid from Fukushima”



The story is set way down south in Hiroshima Prefecture.  A child has come to her mother’s hometown to live after the earthquake.

The book is partly written in Hiroshima dialect–very difficult for me, and I am sure that is the intent.  When that Fukushima kid goes to school in Hiroshima, she hears a totally new and foreign dialect.


This story could be my son’s story.  We departed Fukushima and settled in his papa’s hometown of Sakata City in Yamagata Prefecture.  Not easy for him.  The whole time he wanted to come back to Fukushima, and eventually we did.

The amazon link is here.

A Sign of the Times


A couple of weeks ago on Facebook, I saw an article about how Japan was changing its symbol signifying a Buddhist temple.  (For example, the temple’s location on a map.)  It is this symbol:  卍 It looks like Hitler’s swastiska symbol, but it is backwards, and of course predates Hitler.  I can’t find the news story now, but it focused on that symbol alone and implied that was the only symbol Japan is changing.

(For a history of that symbol, see here.)

Anyway, I was reading the kids’ newspaper and there was an article discussing the matter.  Not only that symbol will change, but anything deemed confusing to a foreigner.


The above headline reads:  Gaikokujin Muke Chizu Kigou  (Map Symbols Geared to Foreigners)

I had heard about this before.  It’s in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.   Other things will change, not just symbols.  For example, if a sign says 動物園, currently the romaji (Roman letters) will likely say Doubutsuen.  But if you don’t know Japanese, that is still confusing to you.  So they will change these signs to English. The new sign will say “Zoo.”


The above photo shows things that will change on the left.  Gone is the old postal zip code mark for “post office”, replaced by a handy dandy envelope symbol.  And so on.


How do I feel about this?  Honestly, I don’t care.  Yeah, it will be sad to see the old symbols go.  But Japanese people can do what they want with their own country.

Regarding the Romaji versus English, I do feel that discontinuing romaji may make things confusing.  If I see the sign for “Zoo” and say to a Japanese person:  “Zoo?”  He or she may not understand because many do not understand English.  (Still.)  However if I say Doubutsuen, he or she is more likely to understand.

I think the government thinks that by switching the signs to English, it will push the Japanese people to learn English more, something they really need to do quite desperately.  (Although it’s hard for them, I know that.  It’s just as hard for them to learn English as it is for me to learn Japanese.)

But changing the signs will make it harder for foreigners to learn Japanese, since the romaji word is no longer there.  So that’s a bad thing, especially if the foreigner lives in Japan  (permanently or temporarily).

So hopefully that clears up the matter a bit.  The symbol and sign renovation is NOT only a swastika thing.  It’s a “making things more understandable” thing.


(free image from this site)

“Journey of a Water Drop” (Book Seven of the Japanese Picture Book Battle)



Today’s book is originally a Polish book which was translated in Japanese.  The Japanese title is “Shizuku no Bouken”  Literally “Adventures of a Drop”  I would probably translate it as “Adventures of a Water Drop”


His journey begins when he sloshes out of a bucket.  And then evaporates into a cloud.   And falls down as rain.   And turns into ice.  You get the idea.  This is science masquerading as a fun story.

Where does it all end?  Well, you know, it’s the water cycle.  It NEVER ends.

This is the amazon link for the book.

As you can see from the first photo, the next book is a Frog and Toad book, which I don’t really want to do.  I have done them in English a million times.  (First as a kid, then with my son.)  I don’t really want to learn about Toad’s button collection again.

So next time I’ll bring you a very special substitution book.  Wait and see!