Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE WAY WE DO IT IN JAPAN by Geneva Cobb Iijima

THE WAY WE DO IT IN JAPAN

By Geneva Cobb Iijima (Author) , Paige Billin-Frye (Illustrator)

Age Range: 5 - 9

Pub Date: March 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-8075-7822-3
Publisher: Whitman

A well-intentioned but wooden story of a young boy who, with his American mother and Japanese father, is transplanted from the US to Japan. Gregory’s father is sent to live in Japan by his business. Gregory’s very enthusiastic about the move (indeed, strangely so, considering the magnitude of the change), yet he quickly learns that Japan is a quite different place: new—and not necessarily yummy—foods and schoolmates with whom he doesn’t even share a language. And what a language: as explained in an appendix, there are three kinds of writing in the Japanese language and children learn all three. Little of this new life is presented with much verve—and the artwork, while interesting as set pieces, is decidedly wan; for either Gregory’s sake or the reader’s, it is just plopped in his lap. These are zabutons (a number of Japanese words are introduced, along with their pronunciation), this is a Japanese tub, Japanese children help keep their school clean, Japanese children have rice and fish for lunch, and Gregory feels conspicuous with his peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Gregory is neither cowed by his new environment, nor much energized by it. It is doubtless lifelike that Gregory spends most of his time simply trying to maintain his balance, though it doesn’t make for compelling reading. Even the surprise lunch the school throws for Gregory has a pathetic feel to it, as if learning how they do it in Japan is going to be a long row to hoe for Gregory. (Picture book. 5-9)