January 18, 2011

Japan: Folk Tales

I took some time off blogging to celebrate my birthday weekend in style. On Saturday, we took the kids to the aquarium in Sandy to finish off our fish unit. I know--a little late. But, Christmas got crazy so better late than never.

Sunday was my birthday and Monday was a holiday.

Not much schooling got done.

However, we have been reading up a storm. You might like what I did with all these Japanese folk tales, or you might not. Whatever. Even if you don't use the books in the same way I did, some of them are DEFINITELY must-read books whether you are studying Japan or not.

The Boy of the Three-Year Nap by Dianne Snyder. Such a great book! I would say worth the inter-library loan fee. We loved it. (Clever, hard working.)
The Beckoning Cat: Based on a Japanese Folktale by Koko Nishizuka. This book wasn't profoundly great in a literary sense. However, it does explain why Chinese restaurants have all those waving cats everywhere. I've often wondered. My children loved this story and immediately wanted to draw/make beckoning cats of their own. Definitely worth the read. (Kind, generous, humble, polite, loyal to parents.)
The Crane Wife by Odds Bodkin. This was my least favorite of the stories we read. However, it is a good moral tale in that the protagonist does the wrong things and it ends up badly for him. A good read, but don't pay an interlibrary loan fee for it. (Selfless, keeps promises, loyal.)
GOLD STAR BOOK!!!!!!!!! Bokuden and the Bully by Stephen Krensky is by far the best of the books we read. My children loved it, I loved it, my hubby loved it. Read it!! (Humble, polite, clever.)
The Warrior and the Wise Man by David Wisniewski. This is a good story in that it has two main characters--one that makes good choices and one that does not. I like moral tales that compare the results of both choices. Besides, it was perfect for what we did with these stories. (Polite, humble, generous, clever.)
GOLD STAR BOOK!!! My children adored the book The Two Bullies by Junko Morimoto. Both of the characters were anti-heroes, and my kids giggled through the whole thing. Great "don't be like this" book. Very, very fun. (Courage, humility.)
The Samurai's Daughter by Robert D. San Souci. If you have a daughter, you definitely need to add this one to your mix. It is a Mulan type of tale--where the daughter acts with courage and grace and loyalty and all ends well. My daughter loved it. (Courageous, loyal, selfless.)

Okay--so what is up with all the words in ( )? While we read these books, we made a master list of the traits we felt Japanese people admire based on what happened to the characters in the books. We figured, if a character is brave and loyal and good things happen to that character in the end, then Japanese culture must approve of/respect those character traits. And the opposite for the anti-heroes in the books.

My children picked up on this very quickly. We read the first book and then talked about the main character. What did the main character do? Would you describe his/her actions as brave? What about humble? (We had to go over what humble means several times before my kids got it.) I introduced a lot of the descriptive words in the beginning to get the kids' juices flowing.

Then, with the second and third books we did the same thing. I wanted a nice little list before I did anything else.

With the fourth and subsequent books, I stopped after every few pages and asked the kids if they thought good or bad things were going to happen to the characters based on their behavior/character traits/choices. The kids were 100% accurate in their predictions. We also discussed which character traits the characters were demonstrating. As my children liked adding new character traits to the list, they paid a lot of attention to the stories and the characters' actions.

By the time we read The Two Bullies and The Samurai's Daughter (the last two we read and perfect sum-up books), the kids were quick to point out the a the two bullies were the opposite of good Japanese people and that the Samurai's daughter was a pretty much perfect example of a good Japanese person.

I recognize that you can do this with any books, but these Japanese folk tale books lend themselves perfectly to this activity.

Our completed list.

1 comment:

  1. I think there is a lloyd alexander book about a boy in Japan. If I remember it was a little below average for him so better than average for the rest of the world. I am trying to remember the name.