Postcard from Japan: Of polar bears, Winston of Churchill and Japan

Just before I left Canada, I had a quick browse through the bookstore at our local airport, thinking it might be a good idea to bring a book about Manitoba to show to kids in Japan.  Winston of Churchill: One Bear’s Battle Against Global Warming by Jean Davies Okimoto, illustrated by Jeremiah Trammell (Scholastic, 2007) was prominently displayed in the kids section.  I’d heard about and read the book before to my daughter based on her teacher’s recommendation, so was happy to pick up a copy. 

Winston of Churchill tells the story of a “fierce, brave bear” to whom everyone listened.  He lived in Churchill, Manitoba — a famed location for polar bear sightings. Winston had a message for all those sightseeing tourists:  If humans didn’t stop their nasty global warming habits, then a feature of the polar bears’ natural habitat — ice, to be specific — would soon disappear.  Winston rallies his polar bear community to make a protest to the tourists.  Everyone thinks this is a good idea, except for Winston’s wife.  She has a little something she would like Winston to consider before making his stand public.  Suffice it to say, the little something has to do with Winston’s own little nasty personal habit.

I thought I would read Winston of Churchill to Japanese school children in English, but lo, to my surprise, the book had already been translated into Japanese and there were three copies of the translation in my daughter’s school library here.  So much for that idea! Currently, for our night time reading, my daughter and I have been concentrating on bilingual books to keep up with her English reading skills and help orient her in basic written Japanese.  We started with the well known classic Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion, pictures by Margaret Bloy Graham (Harper Collins, 1956).  The Japanese translation is titled Doronko Hari and is translated by Watanabe Shigeo (Fukinkan Shoten, 1964).   We will now  definitely be moving on to Winston of Churchill!

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