________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 15 . . . . March 20, 2009

cover Japan: The Land. (The Lands, Peoples, and Culture Series). Rev. Ed.

Bobbie Kalman.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2009.
32 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $20.76 (RLB).
ISBN 978-0-7787-9664-0 (pbk.),
ISBN 978-0-7787-9296-3 (RLB).

Subject Heading:
Japan-Description and travel-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-9 / Ages 9-14.

Review by Mary Thomas.

**** /4

   
cover Japan: The People. (The Lands, Peoples, and Culture Series). Rev. Ed.

Bobbie Kalman.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2009.
32 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $20.76 (RLB).
ISBN 978-0-7787-9665-7 (pbk.),
ISBN 978-0-7787-9297-0 (RLB).

Subject Heading:
Japan-Social conditions-1945- -Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-9 / Ages 9-14.

Review by Mary Thomas.

**** /4
   
cover Japan: The Culture. (The Lands, Peoples, and Culture Series). Rev. Ed.

Bobbie Kalman.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2009.
32 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $20.76 (RLB).
ISBN 978-0-7787-9666-4 (pbk.),
ISBN 978-0-7787-9298-7 (RLB).

Subject Heading:
Japan-Social life and customs-1945- -Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-9 / Ages 9-14.

Review by Mary Thomas.

**** /4

excerpts:

Going to school in Japan is serious business. Once children start kindergarten, their lives quickly begin to change. Students do not always attend neighborhood schools. Their parents try to enroll them in the schools with the best reputations. Young students write tests to compete for positions at these schools.

Hard Work

Japanese schools are competitive. Instead of learning at their own pace, Japanese children must all study the same material at the same level. Learning in this way is difficult for some children because not everyone learns in the same way and at the same speed. Students study hard after school and on weekends in order to keep up with their schoolwork. Many go to cram schools where tutors, called "crammers", drill them until they have learned all their lessons. Competition to be accepted to the top high schools pushes students to try to get the highest marks. (From Japan: The People.)

Not all of Japan is crowded. Small farming communities lie nestled in lush mountain valleys. Quiet fishing villages are scattered throughout the smaller islands Although only a small number of Japanese people live in these areas, they provide the rest of the country with most of its food supply. (From Japan: The Land.)

"The Lands, Peoples, and Cultures" series from Crabtree now covers most of the nations of the world. For many countries, there is a good deal of overlap in the material in the three books — sometimes so much that two of them need to be combined into one volume — but the Japan books are exceptions. Presumably as a result of its isolation from the rest of the world until the middle of the nineteenth century, Japan and the Japanese way of life have developed in highly idiosyncratic ways that can barely be touched upon in these short books. The only point on which all three volumes comment is the Japanese love of nature and in particular their desire to experience the blossoming of the cherry trees in the spring. Otherwise, the material in the three books is completely disparate.

     Japan: The Land deals with the physical characteristics of Japan, its many islands, volcanoes — it possesses ten per cent of the world's active volcanoes! — and the way the small amount of habitable land must be shared among farms, cities, and industry. The efficiency required to sustain the Japanese way of life has been transferred to the elements of a modern economy — manufacturing, fishing (unfortunately!), and transportation.

     In the volume Japan: The People, family structure, living accommodation, diet, education, and leisure including such diverse activities as sumo wrestling and origami are discussed. There are many such contrasts in the Japanese way of life and they are highlighted still further in Japan: The Culture which is full of ancient and modern activities that sometimes clash but more frequently seem to be blended in a remarkably harmonious manner.

     One effect of what most of us in Canada would regard as incredibly claustrophobic overcrowding is the courtesy which is instilled into people very early in life. Good manners are not optional, and self-discipline is essential. There is a lesson to be learned from this for all of us!

     In general, the books paint Japan in a very positive light. There are a few slightly critical remarks dealing with their treatment of foreigners — their courtesy to strangers does not extend to immigrants — and the regimented life required of the children in order that they succeed in life and so not disgrace their families, but in general the warts are not in evidence. And all Japanese people are beautiful! However, the books are interesting, informative and attractive — one cannot complain about a formula that so obviously works and fills an otherwise almost empty niche in library holdings!

     In common with the rest of the series, the volumes are beautifully produced and presented. The pictures are informative and nicely related to the blocks of text; there are enough of them that the pages are attractive and the information easily read and assimilated. The reading level is about grade four, which means that it is possible actually to convey enough interesting information that the books are worth reading, even for junior-high students looking for background on the country. Young researchers will find the index helpful. The glossary to each volume consists of words printed in bold-face type in the text; it does not include the italicized Japanese words for things which are defined in context.

Highly Recommended.

Mary Thomas lives and works in Winnipeg, MB; it is perhaps not surprising that she found the pictures of the mountains particularly entrancing.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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