My First Book of Japanese Words

Written by: Michelle Haney Brown

Illustrated by: Aya Padrón

For ages: 4 years and up

Language: English & Japanese

Topics Covered: Bilingualism, Japanese Culture & Traditions, Literacy, Global Community.

Summary: This alphabetical rhyming book provides multiple languages and a short poem on each page, and is jam packed with information about literacy, culture, and language!  The book explains how some letters that are used in English don’t even exist in the Japanese alphabet, and how the letters are not formed the same way either.  There is an Author’s Preface and pronunciation guide in the beginning, as well as cultural facts about Japan scattered throughout the pages.

The illustrations are absolutely adorable and have a watercolor feel to them.  They do a great job showing life in the unnamed main character’s life, and demonstrate how many kids all over the world live a relatively similar life but there are special parts of Japan that are different than the life of most American kids.

The preface is very detailed and explains the different languages and alphabets being used in the book.  In the book there is English, Kanji, Kana, and Romaji which is a Romanized form of writing in Japanese.  Overall, this is a fabulous book to begin teaching a different language to young children!

Reflection Questions:

  • What letter does you name begin with?  Is that letter in the Japanese word, or is it one of the tricky ones that doesn’t exist?
  • What was unique about the Japanese student’s life that you don’t do?
  • What do you think you do everyday that isn’t pictured in the book?
  • Do you speak any other languages?  What about any of your family members?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Pick your favorite letter in the alphabet and see how many different languages you can use to list all the words you know!  If everyone in the class picks a different letter, you can make a banner to hang around the room with tons of different languages represented.
  • Pick up some more books on Japanese from the library, and keep learning!
  • Depending on the ages of the students and listeners, you can use this as a learning moment and introduce the Japanese Internment that took place in America during WWII.  Artist Ruth Asawa was one of these individuals, as well as actor George Takei.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Both of these humans were pretty hard to track down online!  The information provided was found on Amazon.

michelleMichelle Haney Brown is passionate about promoting intercultural awareness, especially by means of providing insight about the Japanese culture, as compared to the American. Currently, she incorporates cross-cultural lessons and fun into teaching Japanese language and culture.

In preschool, Michelle befriended an elderly German couple in the neighborhood whom no one else could understand. In high school, her best friend was an immigrant from Russia and not the typical student at a Houston suburban (and rather cowboy) high school. Michelle went on to study abroad for a year in a Japanese high school and live with a Japanese family. She fell in love with not only the Japanese culture and language but also with the foil that the whole experience provided to her cultural lenses and way of thinking. In a nutshell, it gave her perspective on her own culture and way of thinking.  Michelle says of her work “If I can bring to life the world for youngsters so that they feel that the world is is friendly, fun, and exciting, I will have accomplished my calling.”

ayaAya is an illustrator inspired by science, nature, and imaginary worlds.
Her work is also influenced by East Asian culture and art — especially that of Korea, where she used to live.

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