Week-end Book Review: Circus Day in Japan, Written and illustrated by Eleanor B. Coerr, Japanese translation by Yumi Matsunari

Written and illustrated by Eleanor B. Coerr, Japanese translation by Yumi Matsunari,
Circus Day in Japan
Tuttle Publishing, 2010.

Ages 6-8

When Joji-chan and his sister Koko-chan wake, they cannot contain their excitement. They are going to the circus! They race to light the charcoal fire, dash down to the rice fields to deliver their father’s lunch, and run to catch the train that will bring them to the big city housing the big circus tent. As the brother and sister delight in unfamiliar city sights, including a man dressed like a bull to advertise a local store, and a policeman on a box, directing traffic like a graceful ballerina, readers will delight in equally unfamiliar sights of Japanese culture and childhood. The siblings’ triumphant day peaks when the elephant of Joji-chan’s dreams finally arrives and they are chosen to ride it around the ring above the smiling faces of onlookers.

Originally published in 1953, this new bilingual edition of Circus Day in Japan captures the timelessness of childhood adventures, while introducing vivid details about life in Japan in the 1950s.  Illustration and text work hand in hand to integrate the familiar and the foreign, making Circus Day in Japan a perfect read-aloud for a story time librarian or a social studies teacher. For example, after Joji-chan hurries into the kitchen, where we read that his mother “Mrs. Shima was preparing lunch,” the accompanying illustration reveals what that might be, showing her with an oversize whole fish on the cutting board and a cleaver in hand. Such attention to detail makes the warmly illustrated text a continual nostalgic remembrance of childhood and exploration of Japanese life.

Universally beloved for Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, author and illustrator Eleanor B. Coerr found inspiration for Circus Day in Japan after visiting a local circus during a one-year stay in Japan as a newspaper reporter.  While it lacks the same captivating magic of Sadako, its lengthier text, plus the addition of the Japanese translation by Yumi Matsunari, make this a valuable resource for bilingual classrooms, and in both English and Japanese speaking homes, communities and countries. In addition to subtle cultural lessons, Coerr integrates a more instructive approach in the warm-hued illustrations, sprinkling language lessons composed of images, English and Japanese words, and phonetic pronunciation throughout the text.

Sara Hudson
July 2011


One Response to “Week-end Book Review: Circus Day in Japan, Written and illustrated by Eleanor B. Coerr, Japanese translation by Yumi Matsunari”

  1. Sally Says:

    This looks like a great book! Thanks for the review, Sara.