I even read picture dictionaries to my kids. Not English ones anymore, but foreign languages. Typically I stick with German because they know German and I studied it. So, I know how to pronounce it. However, there’s one exception.
Tokyo Friends. It doesn’t advertise itself as solely a picture dictionary, and that’s because it’s not. Really. It’s a story about Japanese siblings introducing an American girl to Tokyo by taking her around the city.
Throughout their day, the encounter many sights and activities that are, of course, typical in Japan. However, they often seamlessly compare the traditional Japanese customs with something American kids can relate to.
One way Tokyo Friends educates: Comparison
For example, counting. The way different cultures use their hands to count has always fascinated me. On the two page spread about counting, they show the Japanese way on the left and the Western way on the right. In Japan they’ll start with the thumb folded over, what looks like “4” to Americans, to indicate “one”. And then a fist (all fingers closed) means 5. On the right side of the spread is the Western style of counting. Which, funny enough, is different from the American style.
To continue using the counting spread as an example, I also love the way the book incorporates the story and the dictionary aspect of the book. Along the bottom of the spread is the rhythmic lines story, “You can fold your fingers in to count… or unfold them out. Either way you get to five… without any doubt.” This attitude towards how things are done between the cultures is beautiful. There are two ways to do them, neither is right nor wrong. They both achieve the goal.
Within the pictures of the spread is the dictionary part of the book. Along with the girls each showing how they count with their hands, there are even more educational opportunities for interested kids. The chalkboard shows how the numbers are written in their respective language. The side of the pages show the hands and how their numbers said in each language.
Another way Tokyo Friends educates: Showing unique traditions
While many spreads within the story use the above method of comparing two cultures, the whole book is not set up that way. After helping kids get comfortable with the idea that there are similarities and differences, Tokyo Friends also shares ideas that are uniquely Tokyo.
Note for those unfamiliar with Japanese pronunciation
I only have one suggestion/complaint.The book seems mainly geared towards families living in, or curious about, Japan. I studied Japanese as a child and in college. I think it’s a straightforward language. However, not everyone reading the book will have the same level of familiarity. My suggestion is to have some kind of pronunciation guide to help those who aren’t too familiar with the words sound them out properly.Want your kids to learn about Japan? Check out this awesome book. #kidsbook Click To Tweet
Tokyo Friends packs a lot into the page. I know I wish they had a version of for every country in the world.
Leanna @ Alldonemonkey says
My son loves this book! It was fun to learn facts about Japanese culture (like counting with your hands) and he loved learning the Japanese words! I agree that a pronunciation guide would be great for those of us that don’t speak Japanese.
It’s such a great find. Have you read other, similar books?