Lee A. Tonouchi
Special to Da Hawai‘i Herald
I not huhu dat my parents and grandparents nevah buy me no Okinawan children’s picture books when I wuz small. For one ting, nevah have too much back den. And plus too, wuzn’t like dey could check online. Even with modern day search technologies, still not easy for find these kine books, so I hope my two daughters who still small yet going eventually appreciate all da hard work their awesome daddy went through for get these books for dem.
My first review of Okinawan-theme children’s picture books dat stay written in English ran in da Jan. 3, 2014, issue of da Hawai‘i Herald — da New Year’s edition. Since dat time, I found a bunch more dat, unfortunately, might be even more harder for locate. Some of ’em stay available as used copies on www.amazon.com. And if you one Amazon regular, you can probably navigate da Japan Amazon site, www.amazon.co.jp. Jus be warned, shipping rates from Japan kinda crazy. You might also try da friendly folks down at da Hawaii Okinawa Center’s library in Waipi‘o and try see what dey get available for reference.
Jus like last year, I wen give da books my customized shisaa ranking.
= Real junk.
= Not bad.
= One classic.
“FOLKTALES OF OKINAWA”
Written by Shoji Endo
Translated by Terunobu Tamamori and Jayne A. Hitchcock
Illustrated by Fumie Amuro
Bank of the Ryukyus International Foundation, 1995
My Uncle Mac Yonamine said I should’ve included one Okinawan folktale collection in my last review. I had thought about dat, but da books I get nevah really fit da criteria of being one children’s picture book. But if I had-to-had-to include one, den “Folktales of Okinawa” would be da closest ting.
Even though da introduction says da book stay intended for readers above da high school level, seeing as how each story stay only couple pages long, get big font and includes one stylish sumi-e drawing, I tink younger readers can appreciate these stories, too. Professor Shoji Endo is one recognized scholar who leads da Okinawan Folktales Study Society dat collected 55,000 stories. Dis book get 28 of those stories. Da coolest ting is dis book get special features, too. Each story includes da Japanese version of da text. An’den get one map and chart telling which stories came from which parts of what island in da Ryükyü chain. And if das no nuff, get special commentary notes dat reveal if da story might be similar to stories from oddah places in Asia and beyond. Dis one very well-researched and supa important book for have in your Okinawan collection.
In Okinawa, when da green sea turtle comes ashore for lay its eggs, da villagers honor da turtle in celebration. Da belief is if you treat da turtle good, den you going be rewarded with good kine fishing.
Dis story stay about what happens when da cycle of life stay disrupted by war and da turtle gotta lay eggs on top one beach dat jus got shelled. It’s also da story about one small, recently orphaned Okinawan boy who stay struggling for survive. What happens when da starving little boy encounters da mama turtle and her ‘ono-looking nest of eggs? Das da conflict of da book, but da ting stay buried underneath all of novelist Nosaka’s choke exposition.
Anime collectors might purchase dis book purely for da cinematic watercolor art, cuz Oga stay one famous art director and background artist for lotta Studio Ghibli films. I get some problems with da book’s design. Da book’s first half get da English version das mostly all words with some pictures crammed in; den da second half get da more properly laid-out Japanese version with way more drawings. Hakum not same same?
On June 30, 1959, one U.S. military F-100 jet wen go crash into Miyamori Elementary School in Okinawa. Eleven children and six neighboring residents were killed. Hundreds sustained various injures. Da American pilot managed for eject. For decades, those who lost loved ones in da tragedy wuz unable for talk about ’em. In 2009, da Half Century Miyamori Group wuz formed for collect oral histories from da bereaved, and from dat dey created dis book.
Da story stay framed in da present, where one boy named Ryu encounters one noddah boy he nevah seen before named So-chan. While dey playing togeddah, one plane comes crashing down from da sky and get one big explosion. Da next ting he knows, Ryu finds himself back safely at home. Ryu’s grandparents believe he must’ve been talking to da spirit of his relative who died 50 years earlier, and so das when dey reveal to him da story dey wuz keeping hidden.
Da pastelly art works well in both capturing da innocence of da present along with da darkness from da past. I nevah heard about dis book before, so I lucky my friend Valerie Barkse gave me one copy. Da book comes with one CD dat includes chree tracks: da Japanese narration, da English narration and one Japanese pop song dat incorporates some sweet sanshin.
“THE SAD SONG OF OKINAWA: NUCHI DU TAKARA / LIFE ITSELF IS OUR MOST PRECIOUS TREASURE”
Written and illustrated by Toshi and Iri Maruki
Translated by Kinjo Haruna and Andrea Good
R.I.C. Publications, 2011
Hauntingly beautiful — das da only way I can tink of for describe da surreal watercolor art by da husband-and-wife team of Toshi and Iri Maruki. Somehow, dey manage for capture all da horrors Okinawans had for endure in da Battle of Okinawa in one way dat makes you NOT wanna turn away, but raddah look closer at da art for more details. Dis late couple wuz internationally renowned peace artists most noted for their museum pieces, “The Hiroshima Murals” and “The Battle of Okinawa.” Even though da book covers lotta history, da text remains amazingly concise.
Dis book originally came out in 1984 and through fundraising efforts, peace groups managed for put togeddah dis English translation. Da book comes with one CD dat get one narration of da story along with two Okinawan folk songs by Nahgushiku Yoshimitsu. Small kine ironic dat in order for promote peace, da book aims for show children da consequences of war. To me, da text get more violence than da pictures demselves — still yet, parental guidance stay suggested, li’dat.
Hachiko might be da most famous dog in all of Japan. But did you know Okinawans get their own celebrity canine, too? Dis story stay about Shiro, one dog living on top Aka island, which stay southwest of Okinawa island. Da watercolor-looking artwork stay attractive, but because da art wuz going for photorealism, I kinda sorta wanted it for go more in dat direction. But den again, maybe too much attention to place would’ve distracted from da star of da story, so back to da story.
One day, Shiro wuz getting restless, so his master Toshi wen go take ’em on top one boat to da neighboring Zamami island just for go holoholo. Das wea Shiro wen go meet da foxed-face dog of his dreams, Marilyn. Later dat day, Toshi and Shiro had for return home, and das wea da mystery begins. Late dat night, Toshi gets one call saying his dog stay bothering Marilyn all da way on Zamami. But how can? Read dis book and be inspired in finding out what lengths one dog will go through for be with his one true love.
Dis book with crayon drawings actually get chree stories inside, all of ’em centered around Shinju-Hime, da Sea Princess. Even though dis Okinawan princess links da stories togeddah, she not very active as one character. She more da catalyst for propelling these stories along. In da first story, she brings her ocean fruit from underwater to above ground and so das how come get watermelons. In da second story, she stay sick so da turtle gotta go save her by trying for outwit one monkey. In da third story, Taro, one sweet potato farmer from Minna island brings da habu sake medicine to da underwater kingdom so da princess no haff to die.
If you looking for one book with one modern kine action hero princess, den dis not da book for you. But if you one fan of folk tales in general and you can keep in mind dat da main purpose of these stories wuz for teach values to young people, den, like me, you can admire da spirit behind dis Hui O Laulima-sponsored project.
Lee A. Tonouchi stay one Pidgin writer. His last book, “Significant Moments in da Life of Oriental Faddah and Son: One Hawai‘i Okinawan Journal,” from Bess Press wen go win da national 2013 Association for Asian American Studies Book Award for Poetry/Prose. If you get any suggestions on any oddah Okinawan-theme children kine books for one possible future review, no sked send Lee one email at email@example.com.