Tag Archive | Japan

Meet magical creatures in compelling stories with AudioSYNC (audiobook recommendations)

Encounter wonderful and wondrous magical beings in this week’s AudioSYNC free audiobooks.

Be sure to download either or both audiobooks into your Sora shelf by Wednesday 24 May 2023 – free!

You can sign up for a free Sora account and see the entire AudioSYNC season here.

Here are this week’s tales of magical creatures, in our world and theirs.

CD cover of Keeper of the Night, by Kylie Lee Baker | Read by Rebecca Yeo
Published by Dreamscape

Keeper of the Night book 1 (free Sora download 5/18-24/2023)
by Kylie Lee Baker | Read by Rebecca Yeo
Published by Dreamscape

Ever-searching for her banished mother, Ren is a collector of deceased souls. The near-immortal teen travels from England to Japan on her quest, encountering mortals and magical creatures. Who’s on her side? Can she escape the rest?

https://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/205506/the-keeper-of-night-by-kylie-lee-baker-read-by-rebecca-yeo/

swirling lines clipart http://www.clipartpanda.com/clipart_images/mondays-throughout-the-day-17164159
CD cover of Out of the Blue, by Jason June | Read by André Santana, Neo Cihi. Published by Harper Audio

Out of the Blue (free Sora download 5/18-24/2023)
by Jason June | Read by André Santana, Neo Cihi
Published by Harper Audio

During his month-long quest on land, Crest must decide whether to return to the sea as a mer or live as a human. Meeting lifeguard Sean is eye-opening for the non-binary mer. As their relationship grows, Crest and Sean consider what their future might be.

https://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/214852/out-of-the-blue-by-jason-june-read-by-andr%C3%A9-santana-neo-cihi/

So many tales of magical beings – what others do you recommend?
**kmm

divider clipart http://www.clipartpanda.com/clipart_images/mondays-throughout-the-day-17164159

E is EVERYDAY HERO MACHINE BOY – can he ever control his powers? by Irma Kniivila & Tri Vuong (MG Graphic Novel review) #A2Z

book cover of Everyday Hero Machine Boy, by Irma Kniivila & Tri Vuong. Published by Skybound Comet / Image Comics | recommended on BooksYALove.com

A grandfather’s routine errand to buy tomatoes for spaghetti sauce turns violent as something crashes down from the sky!

The machine-boy tries to atone for his destruction by rebuilding the tomato greenhouse, but needs Grandma’s help to harness his powers.

He practices karate with her all summer long, anticipating the epic Orphan Universe concert and preparing to go to high school.

The school Frosh Dungeon obstacle course victors will get to meet Orphan Universe, so of course Machine Boy is eager to win – his partner Bea with the mysterious past, not so much…

His interstellar pet goes haywire, and Bea may not truly be his friend.

Can Machine Boy be the grandson that Grandma needs?

Includes a reading guide with questions and activities for this middle grade graphic novel, as well as the recipe for Grandma Mei’s Spaghetti and Meatballs!

How are you an everyday hero?
**kmm

Book info: Everyday Hero Machine Boy / Irma Kniivila & Tri Vuong. Skybound Comet / Image Comics, 2022. [Irma’s site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Searching for THE LOST RYU, dragon of his memory, by Emi Watanabe Cohen (YA book review)

book cover of The Lost Ryu, by Emi Watanabe Cohen. Published by Levine Querido | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Kohei still dreams of being three years old at the last dragon parade, holding his smiling grandfather’s hand as huge winged Western dragons flew overhead and sinuous Japanese ryu dragons strode along Osaka’s streets at the end of World War II.

His maternal grandfather was so angry about Kohei’s father dying soon afterward that he made the boy take his mother’s family name – maybe Ojiisan would be happy if he had a big dragon again, bigger than ryu Yuharu who rides on Kohei’s shoulder.

Isolde moves in downstairs, with her Japanese-American mom, Polish-American dad, and winged dragon Cheshire (very small, Kohei is so disappointed) – imagine starting middle school in a new country and language!

When Ojiisan is suddenly hospitalized, Kohei decides that he must bring a ryu to him. Isolde never knew her grandparents who died in concentration camps in the United States and Poland during the War, so she wants to help.

Venturing into Papa’s study, Kohei finds details about how ryu are hatched, so he and Isolde travel to the faraway New Ryugyu-jo where their dragons will help bring a special ryu into the world.

When the biggest ryu Kohei has ever seen snatches the baby ryu, of course he has to follow and save her!

His memories shift like a kaleidoscope as Kohei learns more about his father’s and grandfather’s pasts.

How far, how far will we go to bring comfort to those we love?
**kmm

Book info: The Lost Ryu / Emi Watanabe Cohen. Levine Querido, 2022. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

J is for Japan, living and learning in HIMAWARI HOUSE, by Melody Becker (Graphic novel review) #A2Z

book cover of Himawari House, by Melody Becker. Published by First Second | recommended on BooksYALove.com

A gap year,
a new start,
away from family…far away.

Three young women move to Japan, living with people from other cultures in a Tokyo sharehouse and becoming good friends in this bilingual (sometimes trilingual) graphic novel.

Nao had moved to the US Midwest with her American father and Japanese mother when she and her brother were young, never quite fitting in there. Returning to Japan after high school graduation, she wants to reconnect with her roots and family here.

Tina came from Singapore to learn Japanese well enough to pass the university entrance exams here, close to home and also far away from her boisterous family for a while.

Hyejung left Korea because she was so very deeply unhappy with the treadmill of going to college to get a job to work till retirement; her parents didn’t approve, and they don’t communicate.

Japanese brothers Shinsan and Masaki anchor Himawari House, the elder suggesting festivals they can all attend together, and Masaki being generally moody (what is his problem?).

The girls work at low-skill jobs as they attend gogakuin to improve their Japanese, with not a few cultural mishaps along the way. Thank goodness they can all communicate in English at Himawari House!

Childhood memories are revived as Nao visits her mother’s family in the countryside where she played with her cousins, now also all grown up.

Will Tina and Hyejung pass their entrance exams?
Can Nao become fluent in Japanese during the short time she’s here?
Will Masaki ever come out of his shell?

A fun and thoughtful look at family, expectations, and friendship by the illustrator of the graphic novel version of George Takei’s memoir, They Called Us Enemies (recommendation coming soon).

If you could take a year off from your current life, where would you live?
**kmm

Book info: Himawari House / Harmony Becker. First Second, 2021. [author site] [publisher site] Library book; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

BEYOND ME, the earth shakes and trembles, by Annie Donworth-Chikamatsu (MG book review)

book cover of Beyond Me, by Annie Donworth-Chikamatsu. Published by Caitlyn Dlouhy Books /Atheneum | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Fifth grade almost done,
cramming for junior high entrance exams,
wait… what’s happening under our feet?!

Buildings and trains and children in Japan are well-prepared for earthquakes because small tremors happen all the time.

But on March 11, 2010, the earth shook and shook, halting choir practice for 11-year-old Maya and her classmates, sending them home with worried parents and grandparents.

Maya’s American mother works from home, her great-grandparents are next door, best friend Yuka lives just down the lane.

The epicenter was far away in Japan’s north, followed by a massive tsunami that struck a nuclear electricity plant – oh, the devastation! Maya is heart-sick, feeling dizzy even when the earth isn’t moving – what can she do to help the people of the northeast?

There are aftershocks even down here and continuing worries about losing electricity, damage to railroads, having enough drinking water. Father finally reaches them after walking 20 miles from his office in Tokyo!

Maya’s mother begins organizing relief efforts for the northeast, working on her computer at home under the big table during tremors.

She shows Maya the paper crane project started by American students who are sending messages of support. Together, Maya and Yuka decide to fold 1000 paper cranes for hope, like Sadako.

As end-of-school events are postponed again and again, Maya and Father work with Great-grandfather in the vegetable field, glad to be outdoors as summer begins, to grow food for their neighbors, to be together as tremors continue.

Will her sixth-grade year begin on time?
What if the Big Earthquake hits here?
Why is this strange cat coming into her house?

This novel in verse uses unique typesetting patterns to show Maya’s fright and confusion during the quake and its many aftershocks, large and small.

Today marks 12 years since this event – have you ever experienced an earthquake?
**kmm

Book info: Beyond Me / Annie Donworth-Chikamatsu. Caitlyn Dlouhy/ Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020, paperback 2021. [author site] [publisher site] Personal copy; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Soul calls to soul, WILLA AND THE WHALE, by Chad Morris & Shelly Brown (middle grade book review)

book cover of Willa and the Whale, by Chad Morris & Shelly Brown. Published by Shadow Mountain | recommended on BooksYALove.com

She observes and learns,
listens and writes,
are her own answers in the sea?

Same island town in Washington that Willa left as a nine year old when she and Mom moved to Japan after the divorce, but now her horizons are wider and her grief is deep.

On a whale-watching trip with Dad just a month after Mom’s death, Willa films a gigantic female humpback whale breaching and calls out to her and the whale Meg talks back!

Too much can change in three years – best friend in a different house, too many people in Willa’s old house (step-siblings, half-sibling, too much noise!), no Mom to help her study the creatures of the ocean.

When Willa calls to Meg from the island beach, the whale answers from the distant deeps.

When friend Marc is secretive, Meg gives Willa good advice. When something dreadful happens on the beach, Willa tells Meg about it first.

Missing her Mom – will it ever get easier?
Being herself – will her island classmates ever understand?

In this tale of grief and loss and love, Willa’s journal entries from then and now reveal her deep appreciation of the sea’s inhabitants and her struggle toward living less-alone on the land.

When have you heard a call from afar?
**kmm

Book info: Willa and the Whale / Chad Morris and Shelly Brown. Shadow Mountain, 2020. [Chad’s site] [Shelly’s site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

J is Japan and MY ALMOST FLAWLESS TOKYO DREAM LIFE, by Rachel Cohn (YA book review)

book cover of My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life, by Rachel Cohn. Published by Disney/Hyperion | recommended on BooksYALove.com

From nice house to shabby apartment,
apartment to terrible foster homes,
foster care to luxury hotel?!

Elle is stunned when ‘Uncle’ Masa arrives at her latest foster home (showers allowed once a week) with her new passport and an invitation from her biological father in Japan – happy 16th birthday after all.

Being so obviously hafu (half-Japanese) and gaijin (foreigner) is no big deal at her prestigious new school attended by kids of diplomats and business people from all over the world, but utterly scandalous to Elle’s new grandmother (no wonder Kenji was forbidden to marry her Native American/ African American mom).

Not sure she’s willing to believe all the gossip about Ryuu’s past or her dad’s convoluted business dealings

When have you been suddenly the outsider?
**kmm

Book info: My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life / Rachel Cohn. Disney Book Group, 2018. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy from the library; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Swept from foster care in Maryland to a Tokyo highrise, sixteen-year-old Elle must figure out where she fits in her biological father’s family and the social order at an elite international school.

Once the painkillers hooked Mom after that car wreck, drugs took their house, Elle’s security, and put Mom in jail.

When her never-seen dad offers Elle a home in Japan with him, she’s wary but goes along – to an amazing apartment in his skyscraper hotel with 24-hour room service…and his displeased mother and sister nearby.

Elle has to work hard at school to catch up, wondering why fellow swimmer Ryuu is shunned by the popular Ex-Brat crowd who inexplicably adopted her.

Will she always see her father by appointment only?
Can her new grandmother accept Elle’s mixed-race maternal heritage?
What happens if things don’t work out with her family in Tokyo?

As Elle and Ryuu get to know each other at swim practice, some Ex-Brats go beyond pushy, and business pressures are affecting her dad, badly.

Running with Cosmos Flowers, after Hiroshima bombing, by Shizumi Shigeto Manale and Richard Marshall (book review)

book cover of Running With Cosmos Flowers: The Children of Hiroshima, by Shizumi Shigeto Manale and Richard Marshall. Pelican Publishing | recommended on BooksYALove.comAfter the A-bomb hits,
surviving winter in Hiroshima is so hard,
then flowers bloom in spring – and perhaps hope also?

Among the packages of desperately needed clothes and food sent to these Japanese schoolchildren when World War II ended were simple gifts of paper, pencils, and crayons from a church in the USA.

So they drew their thank-yous, sent back to the church which displayed and preserved them until today.

Ask for this story of war’s aftermath as seen through children’s eyes and art at your local library or independent bookstore.

The author’s documentary film “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard” includes the restored children’s drawings sent to All Souls’ Church in D.C. as well as archival footage showing life in Hiroshima in the days and months after the bombing.

War…
**kmm

Book info: Running with Cosmos Flowers: the Children of Hiroshima / Shizumi Shigeto Manale and Richard Marshall. Pelican Publishing, 2014.  [book website] [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Now her turn to evacuate in summer 1945, Hana-chan arrives at her aunt’s country village shortly before her mother departs with students going home… to Hiroshima.

Struggling to travel from the mountains into the city after the A-bomb strikes, Hana and her aunt are aghast at the devastation, yet try to help where they can.

Back at school in one of the few buildings remaining upright, 7 year old Hana and her young classmates worry about whether radiation sickness is contagious and how they will cope with oncoming winter weather.

Then packages arrive from America – with clothes and food and paper and pencils.

Can small gifts of paper and crayons begin to heal these broken lives?

And their thank-you drawings are sent to the USA, seen by thousands and remembered over the decades.

Based on the author’s experiences as a young girl born in Hiroshima just after World War II ended, hearing survivors’ stories and becoming part of a rebuilding nation. As usual in Japanese fiction, quotation marks aren’t used in the dialogue, but readers will soon be caught up in the story without need of this punctuation.

N is Name of the Blade calling Mio to danger & love, by Zoe Marriott (book review)

US book cover of Name of the Blade, by Zoe Marriott, published by Candlewick Press | recommended on BooksYALove.comGrandfather said she would become guardian of this katana at age 16, as Yamatos have done for over 500 years.

Surely it’s okay if Mio takes the ancient sword from its hiding place a little early, while Mom and Dad are away…

Monsters and gods, worlds of humans and spirits, from Japan to London to the depths of despair to first love – the katana connects them all to Mio as she struggles to master herself and the legendary blade’s powers.

Glide into Mio’s no longer boring life by reading the first chapter here free (courtesy of the publisher). Yes, all 3 books of the trilogy are available in the US!

Family secrets – what to share?
**kmm

Book info: Name of the Blade (Name of the Blade trilogy, book 1) / Zoe Marriott. Candlewick Press, 2014. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

J is Japan in Last Leaves Falling, by Sarah Benwell (book review)

Knows he is dying,
losing body control, bit by bit –
and finally finding friends who don’t care?

Have a hankie at hand when you read Abe’s determination to get the last word over the ALS that’s attacking his 17 year old body and his almost-too-late joy in meeting peers who look past his condition to help him when he needs it most.

Read the first chapter free at the publisher’s website here (scroll down to Excerpt), then discover the rest of this Japanese teen’s story at your local library or favorite independent bookstore in hardcover or paperback.

What would you do to help a friend?
**kmm

Book info: The Last Leaves Falling / Sarah Benwell (or Fox Benwell). Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2015 (hardcover), 2016 (paperback) [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.