JQ Magazine: Book Review â€” â€˜Kuma-Kuma Chan, the Little Bearâ€™
ByÂ Heather Wilson TomoyasuÂ (Ibaraki-ken, 2004-06) forÂ JQÂ magazine. Heather is aÂ blogger on her siteÂ US-Japan Fam, owner ofÂ Miny MoeÂ (multi-brand variety packs that allow parents to find the best brand for their baby), founder ofÂ Tunes 4 Bay Ridge Tots, and mommy to her yummy toddler, Kenzo! You can follow and connect with her onÂ Twitter,Â Facebook,Â Pinterest, andÂ Instagram.
Iâ€™m a sucker for the wordÂ chan. Seriously. I donâ€™t know what it is;Â chanÂ is just so endearing and cute and, well,Â Japanese!! If youâ€™re aÂ chan-aholic like me, get excited, because there is a new childrenâ€™s book coming your way that is all about theÂ chan!
The beloved childrenâ€™s book,Â Kuma-Kuma Chan, the Little Bear, originally written byÂ Kazue TakahashiÂ and published in Japan in 2001, has just been translated into English, republished byÂ Museyon, and will be available in stores andÂ onlineÂ Dec. 1 (just in time for those stocking stuffer purchasesâ€”hoorah!!). This hardcover book is small, about 5â€ x 7â€, with 52 pages of simple-yet-adorable illustrations and minimal text. The story is short and sweet, with Takahashi describing what she imagines Kuma-Kuma Chan to do every day. With each turn of the page, you are greeted with an illustration and a single sentence describing a different chore or activity, such as shopping, gardening (and sometimes hurting his back), and personal hygiene such as, â€œHe trims the nails of his paws. Then he lines up the cut nails and gazes at them.â€ I mean, come on, that is kind of hilarious.
The simplicity of the storyline and illustrations makes it easy for young readers, and also invites parents and children to dive deeper and create their own dialogue and inquisitions. When Kuma-Kuma Chan stares into a mirror and â€œwonders where to go with his new shoulder bag,â€ I ask my son what he thinks is in the bag and where Kuma-Kuma Chan might go. I think maybe heâ€™ll go take out some books at the library and stop by for some kaitenzushi. Or perhaps heâ€™ll go play pachinko!
Takahashi also dedicates a set of pages to each of the four seasons, lest we can ever forget that Japan has four distinctive seasons, am I right?Â In winter, he doesnâ€™t sit lazily under thekotatsudrinking hotsakeand eatingnabe,but ratherâ€œrolls across the room to stay in the sunlight.â€ Yep, that sounds like something a cute little bear, or my toddler, might do in winter!
While the book is written and illustrated by a Japanese native, it does not depict Japanese life or culture per se. As you read the story, you can imagine Kuma-Kuma Chan living anywhere in the world, really. Personally, I like to imagine him somewhere in the mountains near Nagano. If imagining isnâ€™t quite enough and youâ€™re feeling especially ambitious in wanting to brush up on your Japanese, you can translate it yourself or even buy the Japanese version and read them side by side. You can also check out Takahashiâ€™s other Japanese childrenâ€™s books, includingÂ Kuma Chan on a Rainy DayÂ andÂ Nyaako Chan, though none of her other books have been translated into English yet.
Kuma-Kuma Chan, the Little BearÂ is recommended for children ages three to five, and is expected to soon become a beloved classic likeÂ Winnie the PoohÂ andÂ A Bear CalledÂ Paddington. You can find more information about the book, the author, and the publisherÂ here!
For moreÂ JQÂ magazine book reviews,Â click here.