This book is based on a 1906 novel by Itou Sachio. It seems to be quite famous; there are several film adaptations. I didn’t read this one for a while because I didn’t like the art, but I actually found it quite touching. It’s a sad story about two teenagers who fall in love but aren’t allowed to get married.  I would recommend it to any level 3 or 4 students.

チーズスイートホーム vol. 2

チーズズイートホームというマンガのシリーズは小さいチーという子猫について物語です。一冊で、チーは色々な面白い冒険を経験します。この vol. 2 の本で、チーは新し家族の生活になれ続きます。大きくて黒い猫に会ったり、お父さんと一緒に遊んだり(お父さんは仕事をしてみているのに)、牛乳を飲んでみたりします。大きくて黒い猫は色々な短い物語に出ます。最初に、チーにとって、黒い猫は怖くて、嫌なものだけど、だんだん仲良くなります。

I would recommend this book to Japanese students of every level–it’s really simple and easy to read, but also really fun. Chii is adorable and hilarious and gets into lots of trouble. Chii also uses a kind of baby-talk that is honestly pretty adorable to read. There is some continuity between the stories within each volume, and across the series as a whole, but honestly you could probably pick up book 6 and have no trouble following what’s going on. The stories come across as short, connected vignettes rather than chapters in a long-running series.






I would recommend this book to third and fourth year students, and possibly ambitious second-year students as well. There’s a lot of vocabulary that we don’t learn in class, but there are also helpful foot/side-notes that explain some of the vocabulary and historical references. The art style in the book is pretty nice, and that makes it fun to read, as well as the fact that the stories are pretty interesting.





This is a very interesting book, but it is really incredibly hard to read. It’s full of court intrigues, 敬語, complex court etiquette, and there’s a good dose of international politics at the beginning. It’s all simplified for the manga, of course, but for language learners, it’s going to be really hard to follow. There’s so much vocabulary in here that we’ve never encountered before because for obvious reasons we’re not learning about 18th century France. Some things I was able to figure out based on historical knowledge of the time period–for example, I had no idea what 「天然痘」was, but from the context of how horrified everyone was that Louis XV had contracted it, I correctly guessed it was smallpox. But I had to look up most of the titles for the nobility because I just had no idea what they were–I could tell they were titles, but I couldn’t tell which ones were more highly ranked than the others from the kanji, which meant I wasn’t always understanding the court intrigue. Usually I was able to understand the gist of what was going on, but sometimes I honestly wasn’t even getting that. Overall, I probably understood 50% of this book.




This story is about the author’s grandfather’s life as an immigrant in America. The illustrations are quite beautiful and, although the story was short, it moved me. Overall, it’s about how immigrants have two places to call home, and how they are always missing a place.

I definitely recommend it!




I was quite excited to find out that this manga is (probably loosely) based on the life of a real nineteenth century English explorer, Isabella Bird. It tells the story of her travels across Japan with her interpreter Itou. I think there is a strong theme of respecting cultural differences.

I understood most of the book thanks to the pictures, but the vocabulary is pretty tough and there were definitely some jokes that I didn’t understand. Even so, I think it would be a fun read for my fourth year classmates.



I wanted to write this review because I wanted to caution students a bit. It looks like a picture book at first, but it actually includes very difficult poetry and kanji without kana in the last half. I only recommend this for advanced Japanese students. Even for me, (4th year) it was difficult. However, the photographs are really beautiful and the first half is very easy.



This is picture book version of the Studio Ghibli movie, “Whisper of the Heart.” It’s quite easy to read, especially if you’ve seen the movie before. It’s meant for a younger audience so not that much kanji is used, which actually makes it a bit difficult to read sometimes. The story focuses on middle schooler named Tsukishima Shizuka, who loves to read fantasy books. She notices that a boy named Amasawa Seiji has almost always checked out the books she reads before her and he wonders what kind of person he is. One day, she chases a cat she meets on the train and that is where the story begins. The story is quite nice and reminds me of the beauty of youth.


世界のどこかで 日本のどこかで 〜本当にあった話〜



I found this book a lot more engaging than I had expected, although it’s a bit of a strange combination of stories. I think knowing that the stories are true makes them more enjoyable. Fair warning: at the end there is a story about a cat that made my cry a little bit.

I think the vocabulary might be too challenging for first or second year Japanese students, unless they can read a lot of kanji. Overall I would recommend it.



This is a wonderful book for newer Japanese readers because it has amazing illustrations and a lot of furigana. I do believe, however, that the story is a bit complex. Read this book carefully because there are many twists and turns to the story! Overall, a good read.