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Kamishibai Man Hardcover – October 24, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 1-5–An elderly kamishibai (paper theater) man decides to return to the city and spend the day on his former rounds. His wife makes candies for him, just as in the past, and he sets off on his bicycle. Things have changed–there's traffic with honking horns and he wonders, Who needs to buy so many things and eat so many different foods? when he sees the shops and restaurants replacing beautiful trees that have been cut. He sets up his theater and begins to tell his personal story of being a kamishibai man in a flashback sequence. Soon he is surrounded by adults who remember him and his stories from their youth. Ironically, that night he is featured on the news on television–the very technology that replaced him. Say's distinctive style and facial expressions are especially touching. A foreword gives readers a glimpse of the importance of the kamishibai man in the author's early life, and an afterword provides a historical look at the forgotten art form. The power of the story and the importance of the storyteller are felt in this nostalgic piece that makes readers think about progress. Those interested in storytelling and theater will be especially impressed with this offering, but it will have broad appeal.–Helen Foster James, University of California at San Diego
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 1-3. In a foreword, Say explains that Kamishibai means "paper theater" and that years ago Kamishibai men were itinerant storytellers who traveled around Japan on bicycles with a big, wooden box mounted on the back seat. The box contained a miniature theater, and beneath it were drawers of candy that the performer sold to eke out a living. As a storyteller spun his tale, he used picture cards to illustrate dramatic points, finishing each time with a cliffhanger designed to entice the children in his audience to come back another time to hear the continuation of the story. Say's lovely new book is about an elderly Kamishibai man, long retired, who, missing his rounds, decides to pedal back to the old neighborhood for one last performance. The story-within-a-story that emerges reveals why this unique type of performance art has all but disappeared. The quietly dramatic, beautifully evocative tale contains a cliffhanger of its own, and its exquisite art, in the style of Kamishibai picture cards, will attract even the most jaded kid away from the TV to enjoy a good, good book. Michael Cart
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 7 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 690L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (October 24, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618479546
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618479542
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 0.4 x 10.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #198,277 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Allen Say was born in Yokohama, Japan, in 1937. He dreamed of becoming a cartoonist from the age of six, and, at age twelve, apprenticed himself to his favorite cartoonist, Noro Shinpei. For the next four years, Say learned to draw and paint under the direction of Noro, who has remained Say's mentor. Say illustrated his first children's book -- published in 1972 -- in a photo studio between shooting assignments. For years, Say continued writing and illustrating children's books on a part-time basis. But in 1987, while illustrating THE BOY OF THE THREE-YEAR NAP (Caldecott Honor Medal), he recaptured the joy he had known as a boy working in his master's studio. It was then that Say decided to make a full commitment to doing what he loves best: writing and illustrating children's books. Since then, he has written and illustrated many books, including TREE OF CRANES and GRANDFATHER'S JOURNEY, winner of the 1994 Caldecott Medal. He is a full-time writer and illustrator living in Portland, Oregon.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Heather Ivester on November 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book is absolutely amazing. It's like walking through a museum in many ways -- and don't we parents feel great when we take our kids to a museum? We feel like it's worth the admission price to ensure our children know how to appreciate history, art, and beauty.

In the introduction, Allen Say writes, "When I think of my childhood in Japan, I think of kamishibai. It means 'paper theater.' Every afternoon, the kamishibai man came on a bicycle that had a big wooden box mounted on the back seat. The box had drawers full of candies and a stage at the top. We bought candies and listened to the man's stories."

Say was born in Yokohama in 1937, into a very different Japan than what exists now. Back in the days where people didn't have televisions in their homes, children would eagerly anticipate listening to the kamishibai man's stories. "Clack! Clack!" He would beat his wooden blocks together until he'd drawn a crowd of listeners. His stories were cliffhangers, ending with "to be continued." So the children would return the next day to hear what happened next.

In this book, an old man who has retired to the countryside remembers his days of being a kamishibai man. "I've been thinking how much I miss going on my rounds," he says to his elderly wife. So, she makes him some candies, and he rides his bike back into the city, humming along the way (until he reaches the urban metropolis). Much has changed. The trees and quiet parks have been replaced with concrete and buildings. "Who needs to buy so many things and eat so many different foods?" he wonders to himself.

The cover of the book shows you what his theater looks like. (Oh, don't you love that picture?) He takes out his wooden blocks and clacks them together, just like in the old times.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Nia VINE VOICE on March 15, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This story, set in old Japan, is that of a story teller (Kamishibai). Jichan,or grandfather in Japanese, and his wife had no children. So, he enjoyed telling his stories to the young children and selling his candies. But all that changed when television came around. The children stopped coming to listen to his stories and he was even shushed by a child when calling for them to come. Though it saddened him, Jichan stopped coming around and being the Kamishibai Man. That is until one day many years later when he decided to give it one last shot. Find out what happens when Jichan returns to the city. See the surprises that are in-store for him.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Lin Fong-O'Neill on January 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Like all Allen Say's work, this book is splendidly illustrated. I love the story. It brings me back to my childhood in Hong Kong, where we kids sat outdoor and enjoyed bowls of sweetened soybean gelatin dessert bought from the door-to-door vendor while lapping up our mothers' gossip and real-life tales. The affordability of refrigerator in each home pretty much replaced the vendor. I remember as a little girl, I too had gone by my window one day and shushed the old man for clacking his clappers and yelling to sell his goods. Children and adults will both enjoy the stunning drawings, reading the words aloud, and appreciate the "once upon a time" story.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David Battino on September 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
My wife and I perform kamishibai stories at local schools, libraries, and cultural festivals, and we always take Kamishibai Man along to show audiences. The illustrations are warm yet detailed; you get a good sense of what it must have been like to watch the original kamishibai men, back in the days before TV. And the story's mix of nostalgia and hope is touching. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
This book enlightens kids and adults alike to the art of Kamishibai story telling. It would be wonderful to incorporate it into a class unit on Japan, or to read alone. Also, if one wants to learn about some of the lesser known history of Japan. The book further demonstrates the ubiquitous impact TV had on Japan (as well as the rest of the world) and how it nearly eradicated the Kamishibai method altogether. Yet, the gentleman in this story decides to go out one more time to one of his former spots and finds an audience of excited adults who have their fond memories of the Kamishibai Man rekindled.

This book inspired me to purchase a Kamishibai stage and stories for my students. I read the book first, giving the kids background knowledge regard Kamishibai and how it compares (slightly) to the ice cream truck and how the kids in Japan would come running when the Kamishibai man was in their neighborhood. Afterward, I revealed that I have an actual Japanese Kamishibai stage (kept hidden during the story) to the ooooos and awwwwws of the students. Ending, of course, with "reading" a Kamishibai story.

Great stuff.
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By KAROW on January 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Kamishibai men in were kind of like our ice cream truck drivers if they also told illustrated stories while they dished out popsicles.

One day an elderly kamishibai man decided to dust off his bicycle and sets off to a large city with his pictures, candies, and - of course - stories. He discovers a lot has changed since his retirement, which was precipitated by a drop in demand for his talents by children who favored television. But as be begins to spins his tales, he discovers that he's brought back a lot of fond memories among his former - now adult - customers.

This is a really charming story, and of course because this is a Say title, the illustrations are magical. Say also slides in a gentle-but-pointed message against TV that I appreciated.
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