Thoughtful, sensitive exploration of contemporary Japanese culture.

Booker-winning Carey (The True History of the Kelly Gang, 2001, etc.) ruefully describes a visit with his son in search of “the Real Japan,” during which he learns that his ideas, like all assumptions about the unfamiliar, are flawed.

The Careys live in New York, where 12-year-old Charley has accumulated an extensive collection of Japanese comic books (manga) and developed an interest in the animated films (anime), especially the ones about a malevolent entity named Akira that lies dormant in Tokyo. Wanting his shy, gangly son to enjoy the trip, Carey promises, “No temples. No museums.” Once in Tokyo, though they stay in an old inn and Carey slips in a visit to a Kabuki performance, he essentially concentrates on Charley’s interests, figuring that “we might enter the mansion of Japanese culture through its garish, brightly lit back door.” Perhaps he could learn from the manga creators, whose woodcut illustrations recall famous traditional Japanese prints, about their links to the samurai and the historical arts of war. Trying to eat only Japanese food, father and son begin their research. They visit a traditional sword-maker and Akihabara Electric Town, a six-story bazaar that dazzles Charley. The Grave of Fireflies, a novel that became a famous anime about children trying to survive in a fiery world, leads them to Mr. Takazi, a friend of the author’s who eloquently recalls the WWII fire-bombings. They also meet the creator of the popular series featuring Gundam, a giant robot, and have coffee with the director of Blood: The Last Vampire. This is primarily a travel memoir, not a sentimental effusion about a father and son bonding in a foreign land. Charley has a great time, but Carey is not sure that his understanding of Japan is any deeper: nothing is what he thought it was, and the answers to his questions are elusive and noncommittal.

Thoughtful, sensitive exploration of contemporary Japanese culture.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-4311-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2004



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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