While walking around Tokyo yesterday, I stopped in at Kinokuniya, which has the largest selection of foreign books. My friend and I had been walking around for hours, so we decided to stop in and sit for a bit in the tiny reading area and I picked up some picture books to read while we rested our feet.
Although there are usually a few scattered chairs in bookstores around here – big ones, anyway; the little ones in and around train stations, not so much – their hard wooden bottoms make my bottom yearn for the good ol’ days of the big Barnes & Noble across the street from the University Mall in S. Burlington, VT. They had these great big squashy chairs and delicious Italian sodas.
But we got as comfy as we could and I paged through some picture books.
The first one to catch my eye was A Sister More Like Me, a Frozen tie-in picture book, told in rhymes, about how Anna and Elsa both wish their sister was more outgoing/introverted, playful/serious, etc., like them, but they learn to like each other for who they are. Was it an award winner? No, probably not. Would my students adore it? Definitely – except that we don’t buy tie-in books.
It’s not that it’s a bad book, but I don’t think the budget allows us to get stuff like this and I feel like we should focus on better quality books? My student population can probably afford to buy this book if they want it, but it’s earmarked to ask my boss about it when we get back to clarify the policy, because now I’m curious.
I think it says something about the over all quality of children’s books these days, especially picture books, that even a cheap tie-in picture book had really pretty illustrations and a bit of meta, when Anna and Elsa introduce their text: pink for Anna, purple-blue for Elsa, so you know who’s speaking.
The next up was Help! We Need a Title!, by Hervé Tullet. I love Tullet’s Press Here, and unlike A Sister More Like Me, I’m on the edge of my seat, waiting to get back and put in a requisition form to buy this book. It’s a great mentor text for writing stories, about characters, plots, drafting and editing, setting, where to get ideas, and it’s fun.
Remember what I was saying, about meta picture books? This one takes it to a whole new level, with photos of the author himself collaged in when his characters come to him and demand he tell a story about them so the reader has something to read.
The last but not least before we had to go eat dinner was The Pilot and the Little Prince.
Now, I love The Little Prince. I’ve loved it ever since my fourth grade teacher read it to me and I loved reading it to my fourth graders this year. (Even if they didn’t love it, themselves. Kids these days.) I visited The Museum of The Little Prince in Hakone when I was up there in 2012 and learned a lot about Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, but this book… It was so beautiful. My big regret about reading it in the bookstore was that I didn’t feel like I could really sit there and absorb all of the details, in the “sidebar” text scattered over some pages, and even in the illustrations themselves. The tone of the book really fit my mental image of Saint-Exupéry, and I loved it.
This is another one that I want for my library in the fall, because it’s beautiful.
If you had told me, back when I went to the B&N in S. Burlington, VT and bought $10 manga and Italian sodas with my mom and curled up in those squashy chairs by the window, that I would someday, basically, get paid to read books in Tokyo, I would never have believed you, and yet… here we are, reading books in Tokyo, as part of my job.