What you'll find on Storybook Days

The Home page displays all my musings on life in Japan and a few other things (baseball and children's books are distinct possibilities). For highlights only: "A Day in the Life (edited)." "Tabemono (Food)" is exactly that. "Big in Japan" is my completely biased and oversimplified list of what is popular in Japan, and "Kimono Count" is a day-by-day record of the people I see in traditional dress. "Editor's Delight" catalogs the unintentionally amusing and apparently quite complicated world of Japanese-English translation. "Uncle Tucker" tracks our sightings of a certain cat following us around Japan.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Storybook Days and the International Children's Library

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Nino.  She had a purple-and-white bicycle and a dog named Flower.
So begins the best story ever, although there are some who would say that it starts like this:
Once upon a time, there was a girl named Nino.  She had a purple-and-white bicycle and a dog named Rewolf.
 Or like this:
Once upon a time, there was a girl named Nino.  She had a purple-and-white bicycle and a dog named Flower-Marmaduke and a cat named Farkle.
The Nino story originated with Dad over fifty years ago, and though you won't find the rest of it written down anywhere, it's alive and well and being told again and again at bedtime at my house and the houses of my nieces, who now have little ones of their own.  Each generation has their own take on the first few lines, and everyone has a favorite.  Mine is the one about the skunk.  Or the one about the leprechaun.  The one thing I know is this:  when a story grabs you, it doesn't let go.
    My fascination with Dad's stories led beyond the world of Nino to storybooks, where adventures take flight with illustrations.  My first love was The Bumper Book, edited by Watty Piper with illustrations by my all-time favorite children's book illustrator:  Eulalie.  That book is imprinted on my mind, and I can recall each page as though I were still five and sitting in my room under the window.

     So maybe it comes as no surprise that one of my first tourist stops in Tokyo was the International Library of Children's Literature, though it's probably not high on the list in Frommer's or Lonely Planet's guides to Tokyo.  No matter that I don't read Japanese;  it is an international library, so there are books in English, too.  (Besides, the beauty about children's books is this:  You CAN judge a book by its cover.)  In addition to the reading room, the library has an exhibit on the history of children's literature in Japan--case after case of gorgeous, humorous and completely enchanting illustrations just waiting for us to explore.

     Here is what we found:  
The sign outside the International Library of Children's Literature

My Father's Dragon, a treat in any language

The stacks in the reading room

Unfortunately, these are the only pictures I was able to take before I learned that photography is not allowed in the reading room.  So, I won't be able to show you the pictures of my kids looking through Brian Floca's Moonshot, which he wrote and illustrated, or Poppy, which Avi wrote and Brian illustrated.  (But, if you go to Brian's site, you can see his Japanese copy and so much more.)  After a little more book browsing, and lunch at the library café,

The automat where we ordered and payed for lunch...
This is what we got when we ordered "soda pop"...fizzy and green and sweet sweet sweet.

we headed upstairs to the exhibit on the history of Japanese children's books:

I am especially in love with the first one.  (I admit I took these photos from the library's website, but I was not allowed to take photos of my own.)  They even had a terrific brochure in English with two gorgeous illustrations on the front (yipee!!):

The exhibit was a delightful treat, and when we had had our fill, we headed back out into the spring sunshine, ready to conquer more of our storybook day.