March 31, 2011

Gyo Fujikawa Rocks My World

I’m so sorry. Yes, more Hello Kitty. Clearly I have some kind of problem.
Remember me talking about the Marvelousness of Gyo Fujikawa’s books the other day? She has a lot more than what I showed you! One of the best things my mom-in-law ever did for me was to introduce me to the world of Gyo Fujikawa.(Besides giving birth to my amazing husband Andrew. Did you see what I just did? Slipped that in?? Soooooo clever!)

I discovered recently that Gyo’s work (primarily done in the ‘60’s through the ‘80’s – she died in 1998) was considered socially conscious before its time as she featured multi-racial characters in her books long before others followed suit.

I thought and thought about what I could say about Gyo’s books and her art. In a nutshell, her work captures the purest essence of childhood and is the perfect realization of a child’s imagination. I’ve never seen another artist who so completely puts The World of Children on paper and brings it to life, in all of its messiness, playfulness, silliness and JOYFULNESS.

Her fairy tale book spans all ages. I began reading the simpler stories to Julia when she was 3. We now can read some of the longer ones together. There are some fairly text-heavy stories in the book as well, so we will have more to look forward to and read as she ages!

Just a few years ago, several of Gyo’s books were out of print – in the past couple of years MANY have been reissued including Oh What a Busy Day. It’s basically a collection of adorable depictions of Fun Things Children Do and a reviewer on Amazon said “In my opinion this is the best children's book ever written and illustrated. I have 3 copies of it because I am so paranoid of it getting lost or worn out. I loved it as a kid and my kids love it. Its worth what ever price it goes for.” I would agree!

One caveat, which did not bother me at all but may bother some, so I have to mention it – there is a poem in Oh What a Busy Day called “The Babes in the Woods” – it’s about two children who wander into the woods and perish. It’s sensitively done, really. Edit the wording or skip the poem until kids are older, but don’t skip the book because of it!

Come Follow Me is actually out of print but you can buy it used, like I did. Mine arrived in great condition, and I got it for a great price! It is absolutely DARLING and is probably my personal favorite out of all her books.

Are You My Friend Today is out of print as well, but can be purchased used. This one is Julia’s favorite Gyo book and the one we have read the most together. Cuteness on a stick! (Where did that phrase ever come from anyway??)

We have about four or five different nursery rhyme books and this one is by far the favorite around here. Julia loved these as a toddler and she still loves them.

What baffles me is that her newly reprinted books can be had for under $10 dollars. These are big, beautiful hardcover books! I don’t know who is handling her estate but her books are worth SO MUCH MORE. But hey, it just means that Gyo is affordable and accessible to more people.

Oh and did I mention her ABC book? I’ll let you discover that one on your own.

March 30, 2011

Japanese Treats = Awesome

The following is pretty much what was going through my mind during my trip through Uwajimaya, aka Asian Superstore of Radical Coolness:

 Yay! I am sooooo excited to be going to Uwajimaya!

OMG. The cute stuff attacks you the second you walk through the door. Cute little folders with baby seals and duckies! Japanese eraser toys! Eraser sushi! Cakes! Little teeny animals!

Plushies and pencils! Look at the pencils! Must keep walking, must keep walking – I am seeing all of this 2 feet away from the door mind you. Seeing this much cool stuff already does not bode well for me making any kind of timely progress through the rest of the store.

Hello Kitty lunchbox! I love you! But I can’t have you. Sigh. I just want you to know that I will love you forever and we will be together in the next realm of existence.

Holy cow. I now feel totally inadequate about my kid’s lunches because they do NOT look like they do in this book:

 There is no way I can achieve this level of fabulous. Maybe I can attain lunchbox coolness this way:

 Especially if I ever packed lunch in something like this:

OK, Japanese candies and treats win. Win over EVERYTHING.They have this whole packaging thing down pat. I honestly feel helpless in the face of So Much Cute Stuff:

I ate Botan Rice Candy when I was growing up in Hawaii. It is seriously yummy. There is an inner rice wrapper around the candy that you can actually eat, it dissolves in your mouth!

When I saw these candies, I started to become genuinely alarmed that I might never be able to exit the building:

The packaging is hard to read so I will tell you – strawberry jelly INSIDE a marshmallow. My first thought: my daughter must NEVER know this exists. My second thought: How many can I fit inside my basket? (I exercised tremendous restraint and only bought one bag.)

At some point, I will whip out these little beauties and say, "Here is a treat from your mommy, The Coolest Lady Who Ever Lived." At which point she will grab the bag out of my hand, shove some in her mouth and promptly forget that I ever brought home anything so fantastically amazing.

(You can find out more about how to contribute towards Uwajimaya’s earthquake and tsunami relief efforts here and you can order various Japanese candies and snacks here.)

March 29, 2011

Tiny Tot Tuesday – Japan Style

Remember our trip to the stationary store? I had the realization that this trend:

has become this phenomenon:

This of course leads to the inevitable backlash:

Which do you prefer? (I think freaking out is more in line with my personality.)

Andrew just asked me what these posters were all about. He wants to know who made them and What they are for? I was like, How do I know? They are just very popular right now. Then he said, What do you do with them? And I said, People put them in their homes and hang them on the wall. And then he said, That’s dumb.

I think that maybe Andrew does not want to be a part of this trend. Oh. Correction: “I don’t want to be a part of trends that are stupid.” Okey dokey artichokey.

Want to see the cutest toddler books of ALL TIME? Don’t believe? Believe! I do not exaggerate, my friends. (Embellish maybe. Oh snap. They mean the same thing.)

Ok maybe with this one cute isn’t exactly the right word, but it’s hilarious and a classic and if you have not read this book, WHY THE HECK NOT??? My sis-in-law and bro-in-law gave this to us not long after Julia was born. When I used to teach preschool, this book was battered and tattered from all the use it got in the school where I worked.

It is VERY instructional. Did you know that poop comes in:

Ok THIS one really is cute. Pinky swear.

Both of these books were written by Taro Gomi. They have a fun, colorful art style that is instantly attractive to children, as well as a simple, direct story that is just perfect for toddlers. When Julia was potty training, we read Everyone Poops about 20 gamillion times a week. That’s a real number by the way. When your eyes cross and your tongue gets numb, you’ll know you have reached gamillion.

These books, by Japanese-American illustrator and writer Gyo Fujukawa, are so adorable I run out of words for how cute they are –

I had to look up other words for cute and came up with: charming, delightful, engaging, lovable, sweet, winning, winsome – these words ALL describe Gyo’s art. We’re going to talk a lot more about Gyo later in the week!

Playing and pooping. Isn’t that what toddlerhood is all about?

March 28, 2011

International Week: Japan

Hello friends, did you have a fantastic weekend? We were busy getting ready for Japan Week! Japan is Julia’s favorite foreign country. I am so saddened by the situation in Japan right now, but we decided that we could show our support by discussing all of our favorite Japanese books, toys and treats.

Julia and I went to Paper-Source to find beautiful paper to make our annual Spring Japanese Lanterns. Sooooooo many gorgeous choices!

You can find Japanese paper at Right now 10% of their Japanese paper sales will be donated to relief efforts. We’ll show you the lanterns later in the week!

Julia is crazed for these little Japanese eraser toys; most toy stores and various places like Paper-Source seem to carry them. She doesn’t use them as erasers, she uses them as actual toys in pretend play or in her dollhouse.

We’ve been reading a darling book (renewed twice from the library!) by Rosemary Wells (of Max & Ruby fame), called Yoko’s Paper Cranes.

“This is a story about making paper cranes and letting them fly with your heart to those you love, even if they are thousands of miles away.”--from Yoko’s Paper Cranes

Inside the book are instructions on how to fold a paper crane, as well as pages of incredible art and patterns seen on traditional origami paper.

This sweet story describes how Yoko, after moving away from Japan to the United States, continues the traditions taught to her by her Obaasan (grandmother) and Ojiisan (grandfather). Unable to be in Japan for her grandmother’s birthday, Yoko makes her own paper cranes and sends them as a present and a reminder of her love for her grandparents.

We read a lot from Japanese Children’s Favorite Stories, compiled by Florence Sakade. I’ve read bits and pieces of this book to Julia since she was one. She didn’t understand a word, but loved the pictures. Now she loves the stories as well! This book can easily span from age 3-4 to age 8-9.

Our favorites stories are Peach Boy, Little One Inch, and The Long-Nosed Goblins.

This book, which has since been reissued, is one of mine that I’ve had since I was 9 years old:

Definitely for older kids, I would say ages 9 or 10+. These aren’t sweet and fuzzy stories, there are quite a few stories that have a lot of man-eating, teeth-gnashing ogres and the language and vocab is pretty sophisticated. This was one of my very favorite books from my childhood, teeth-gnashing and all!

Happy International Reading!

March 25, 2011

April Showers….wait, it’s March

Some of you may or may not know that I have a slight, wee preoccupation with the weather. (Or full-blown obsession) We needn’t quibble about the exact wording.
My husband Andrew says that I am the only person besides his dear departed grandmother who feels the need to check on the weather multiple times a day. (I try to limit myself to less than 5 times.)
This fascination with all things meteorological makes me the target of many many jokes from my husband.

 ME: Andrew, remember when we ALMOST had a snow event this past winter?
(the forecasters around here insist on calling a half inch or so of snow a “snow EVENT.”)

 ANDREW: Uh, by snow event you mean the time when it didn’t snow at all? Yeah I remember that. I remember how you had to check the TV every 5 minutes and got all excited about a whole lot of nothing. That was funny.

ME: But it ALMOST did! And if it had snowed, it would have snowed A LOT.
 ANDREW: Except that there was no snow whatsoever.

 ME: I am now choosing to ignore everything you say. You clearly do not realize how much snow we ALMOST had.

Shall we look at some great books about the changing of the seasons and weather? I think we should.

Cloudette is a small cloud who doesn’t get to do all the things that big clouds do.

This makes Cloudette sad until she realizes that even tiny clouds have Important Jobs to do, such as filling a frog’s pond, or making a little stream and waterfall for children to play in.

Cloudette makes friends with a kite, a bird, squirrels and different kinds of clouds.

We actually just got this book from J’s grandma and it is a super fun read. It has a sort of comic-book style which was neato.

This book, What Will the Weather Be Like Today?, is great for the toddler set as a fun intro to different types of weather:

Listen, Listen is a lovely, lyrical book about seasons changing.

Fabulous, intricate art style with lots of fun details.

And lastly, because you never know what might fall out of the sky, I include Cows Can’t Fly as a weather-related story -

Cows in the sky? Do I need to even explain this story? I think not.

Have a fab weekend and watch out for cows in the sky! And snow EVENTS.