________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 17. . . .January 7, 2011


Monchan's Bag.

Sleepless Kao.
Vancouver, BC: Simply Read Books, 2010.
36 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-897476-32-1.

Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 4-8.

Review by Reesa Cohen.

*** /4


This simple story about a little stuffed doll, Monchan, and his owner, Bluie, grows on the reader after a few readings and is enhanced by some additional research into the world of the author and illustrator, Sleepless Kao, whose real name is Kaori Kasai. Kaori is a Japanese visual artist whose world is populated with whimsical characters. This is her first children's book and is intended to be part of a three book series.

    Bluie receives a gift bag from his aunty, and inside he finds Monchan who becomes Bluie's favourite playmate. The story is told from the "Stuffie's " point of view.

Bluie takes me everywhere in his backpack. And I see bags wherever we go. On walks. At Auntie's house. Even in Bluie's room.

    But though Monchan sees bags all around her, she doesn't have a bag of her own. When Bluie decides to give Monchan her own bag she excitedly anticipates what wonderful things could be inside. To her disappointment, it's just another bag! One day Monchan accidentally falls out of Bluie's backpack and is lost. When she opens the bag Bluie made for her, she finds all the special items she needs to help comfort her until she is found by her owner.

    The story explores the world of bags, in all shapes and sizes, as well as their contents. It is told with humour and is accompanied by detailed small drawings, using mixed media, and collage, including fabric, paintings and photos. The images of the bags and the items inside include a variety of objects, with their names clearly labelled and identified on each page, making it an ideal way for young readers to learn new words.

    Because Monchan will not be a familiar term to North American children, the accompanying publicity release with the book and a search of this talented artist help to explain the origin of the word. We discover that Monchan is a Japanese pop character.

     Mon is a contraction of monster, and chan is the Japanese word we use for children or people we are fond of—so Mon-chan . . . She wears a monster costume because she is very timid and cannot go out by herself. Wearing the monster costume makes her comfortable. She always carries a bag and she can put her favourite things inside.

    On her web page, Kaori Kasai describes why she choose this name and why it is important to her.

    "In 1994, when I was 24 years old, I came to Canada from Tokyo. I always felt frustrated being stuck in a small city on a small island. I wanted to pursue my art, so I came here. Monchan was born on December 26, 1999. I remember clearly, because I felt so isolated at the time. I was living in a little room by myself and suddenly Monchan popped up in my head. Without thinking, I drew this Monchan character on paper, and after I drew it I suddenly felt so happy. I felt this was going to be my longest friend, my closest friend. This main character, Monchan, is my creation, is part of me, like an imaginary friend. Monchan always takes my side, even if I'm wrong. At that time I couldn't imagine that this was going to be my first book!"


Reesa Cohen is a retired Instructor of Children's Literature and Information Literacy at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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