Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tomo - Holly Thompson

Title: Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction-An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories
Author: Holly Thompson (Editor)
Publisher: Stone Bridge Press, 2012 (Paperback)
Length: 374 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Realistic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Science-Fiction
Started: August 18, 2012
Finished: August 23, 2012

From the back of the book:

One year after the March 2011 Japan earthquake, this collection brings teens closer to Japan and contributes to long-term relief efforts.

Tomo (which means "friend" in Japanese) features thirty-six stories-including ten in translation and two graphic narratives-by authors and artists from around the world, all of whom share a deep connection to Japan.

Here are entertaining tales of family, mystery, war, love, ghosts, magic, science-fiction, and history that will propel you to Japan past and present, to countryside and to city, and to Japanese communities around the world. This is a Japan fresh and different but still familiar: you are as likely to befriend a ninja in these pages as you are a young student riding the trains and texting classmates on a cellphone.

I was a Japanese major in university and grew to love this particular publisher (Stone Bridge Press) since they tend to put out a lot of excellent Japan-centric material, from dictionaries and flash cards to novels. These days I'm out of the loop where Japan-related materials are concerned since my focus has shifted from Japanese stuff to YA and children's literature, but when I saw this listed late last year I knew I had to read it.

Tomo is a great concept: an anthology of Japan-centric short stories where the proceeds benefit recovery efforts in the aftermath of last year's earthquake. Short stories, especially a nice variety of genres as those in this book, are a great way to get kids interested in fiction, plus I find they're great for readers with a smaller attention span or just less patience for things to really get going like in full-length novels. The stories are broken up by broad themes: Shocks and Tremors (stories directly relating to earthquake experiences), Friends and Enemies (stories about Japanese experiences in WWII), Ghosts and Spirits (supernatural stories), and various others. I loved the manga-style graphic pieces, they were a nice touch and a great nod to Japanese artistic culture. I had several favourites across the themes, there's something for everyone to enjoy here.

This anthology is a wonderful way to introduce readers to Japanese subjects and themes in literature. There are several here that would be ideal to use in a classroom setting. There's a glossary at the back for Japanese terms that pop up, but it might be proactive to explain to readers about Japan's somewhat xenophobic attitudes (the theme of biracial and foreign characters being ostracized occurs in many of the stories).

Thoughts on the cover:
I like the yellowy-green background with the red-orange title font and kanji, as well as the silhouettes of the kids along the bottom of the book.

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