Napoli, Donna Jo

Words to Make a Friend: A Story in Japanese and English

(2) K-3 Illustrated by Naoko Stoop. In this bilingual book, a child moving into a new home sees the girl next-door frolicking in the snow and joins her. Speech balloons (the book's only text) contain their simple conversation, starting with "Hello" and the new girl's "Konnichiwa" in response, followed by "Let's play!" and “Asobou!" Many of their words are onomatopoeic: they hear a woodpecker and reply, "Peck peck" / "Kotsu kotsu"; while packing the snow for a snowman they say, "Nade nade" / "Pat pat pat." When they "Shiver shiver" / "Buru buru," it's time to head inside. The girls dry off, fold origami, and have some tea ("Huu huu" / "Blow blow"). Back to playing, they laugh together, and their final words are fittingly the same: "Ha ha ha!" Stoop (Sun and Moon Have a Tea Party, rev. 7/20) uses mixed-media on plywood to create cozy pictures of the children's play, both indoors and out. Inside, the wood is cleverly left bare and used to depict floors; in outdoor scenes the woodgrain, lightly covered, looks like clouds. The characters' perfectly round heads, with simple dots for eyes, resemble those in the books of Gyo Fujikawa, known for her early inclusion of non-white characters; Stoop's Japanese child here befriends a brown-skinned curly-haired girl. Both author and illustrator include notes at the back on their own experiences with language and friendship. Minor quibbles: a pronunciation guide would have been helpful, and the Japanese word hashi appears incorrectly as haji.


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