A Bowl Full of Peace: A True Story

Illustrated by Akira Kusaka  

Age Suitability: 6-11 years 

A Bowl Full of Peace shines a light on the history of Japan; more specifically the tragic day of the atomic bombing of the city of Nagasaki. This story recounts the events of that tragic day seen through the lens of Sachiko Yasui, a survivor.  

Based on true events, Sachiko and her family gather around a low table to get ready for dinner. As everyone is seated and settled, Grandma’s green bowl that has been passed down through previous generations is placed on the table filled with food. Before consuming the food placed on the table, everyone bows their heads and whispers, “Itadakimasu,” or “We humbly receive this food,” as a sign of gratitude and blessing. This has become a tradition for the family each time they have a meal together no matter if it was a lot or just a little.  

As the sounds of war progress outside, Sachiko and her family grow more concerned about their safety and decide to find shelter. Leaving everything behind, they find cover in a cave and wait for the siren to notify them that it’s ok to come out.  

Coming out of the darkness and into the light, Sachiko meets up with her friends to play, not noticing an enemy bomber high above in the sky. The enemy bomber deploys an atomic bomb onto the city destroying everything in its path. Luckily, Sachiko and many of her family members survive the blast, but they soon realize that the bomb has taken the life of her little brother Toshi. There is damage as far as their eyes can see, and Sachiko and her family travel to safer ground.  

In the days that follow, her remaining brothers and sisters become very ill due to the radiation from the blast and become casualties as a result. As time passes, Sachiko and her family make their way back to their home to find any signs of life. Hoping for the best but expecting the worse, Sachiko’s father discovers grandmother’s bowl in perfect condition. Realizing this good news of his findings, the bowl becomes that much more significant to their family as it’s not only used to remember their loved one that have been taken away but also as a symbol of survival and hope for a better future.  

At each anniversary of the bombing, Sachiko’s mother fills the bowl with ice to remind everyone of all who suffered and died from the atomic bomb. Sachiko continues this ritual through the years as one by one the members of her family are taken away from her. Kusaka’s book gives us a deeper and personal understanding of the realities of war and the importance of family during a time of crisis. 

Ellie Makes a Friend

Illustrated by Mike Wu

Age Suitability: 3-5 years 

Friendship is put to the test in this adorable story of accepting the differences among us all. This story begins as a crowd of animal friends in the zoo are greeted by an unfamiliar face coming from a land far away, Ping, a panda bear. Seeing each other for the very first time, a friendly elephant named Ellie steps out of the group and introduces herself to the new visitor. Unfortunately, communication becomes difficult as neither Ellie nor the rest of the animals understands one another due to a language barrier. Not to get discouraged by this, Ping uses her skills in brushwork and calligraphy to make the best out of the situation, and the animal friends become intrigued by what Ping paints.  

Stroke by stroke, Lucy the giraffe notices that Elli and Ping have common interests, but jealousy ensues when this is brought up. With Ellie’s friends gravitating toward Ping and her unique talents, Ellie isolates herself from the rest of her animal friends. With every right to feel discouraged at what is happening, Ellie receives reassurance from a wise monkey named Gerard and tells her that her paintings are just as unique onto itself and that both of their shared interest in the art of painting should be celebrated rather than compared to one another.  

Hearing this, Ellie wonders if the two artists could work together. Finding Ping still with a paintbrush in hand, Ellie decides to get to know who Ping the panda is. She discovers that she not only likes to paint but also finds out what her other interests are. As Ping reveals more of herself, they begin to develop a closer bond where they are able to bring out the best in each other and accept each other for who they are. With a rekindled friendship for one another, Ellie and Ping are able to make both of their styles of painting work in harmony and in return reiterates the idea that if we are able to give people a chance, good things will result of it. 

Hat Tricks

Illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura

Age Suitability: 2-6 years 

In Kitamura’s latest book, Hat Tricks, audiences are invited to a magic show filled with mystery and surprise. Making a bold entrance onto the performance floor, Hattie, the rabbit magician begins her show like none other by popping out of a magical black hat dressed in a simple magician’s costume consisting of that of a gold jacket and a red bow tie with a magic wand.  

As the show begins, Hattie urges the audience to say the magic words of “abracadabra katakurico” along with her, because we all know that no magic show can go on without those infamous words. Pointing her wand to the hat that she came out from previously, Hattie successfully brings out her animal friends one by one.  

First, audiences are introduced to a frightened yellow cat that apparently wants no part in this magic show, as revealed through her many facial expressions. As the show progresses on, audiences are greeted with a tail from a squirrel, a tentacle from an octopus, and an antler from a moose. 

Moreover, as the animals pop out of the magical hat, they become increasing bigger in size. What seemingly has began looking like something so ordinary becomes something much bigger and more exciting. Could it get any bigger than the enormous elephant that seems to devour the pages of the book? Could there really be such a thing as a magical hat? Can it get more weird and bizarre?  

For the grand finale, audiences are in for a real treat as they are treated to something most unexpected when something larger than life and quite unexpected appears from the bottomless hat that surprises even Hattie the magician herself. This is a perfect selection for anybody who has a love of animals and also surprises; and, who doesn’t like surprises? 

Norm

Illustrated by Sylvia Liang

Age Suitability: 6-8 years 

Sylvia Liang invites us into a world in her book Norm where literally everything is the same and where there is no mystery behind anyone or anything. In this community, the people living within this space are no different from one another, the houses are built identical to one another and everything has to be measured everyday to maintain a sense of certainty and uniformity. If such a thing became different, it would be looked down upon and fixed back to normal or thrown out altogether.  

On a bright and sunny afternoon, Norm was going about his daily routine for the day, measuring his trees to make sure they were identical to one another, when he sees a brightly colored bird perched on top of the tree. He decides to follow the bird. Along the way, he sees many things for the first time like gigantic flowers that are much bigger than the trees in his community. He also stumbles across a girl named Odette who seems quite different from all the girls in his community.  

Intrigued at first sight, Norm follows the girl back to her town where he quickly notices that it’s not quite like his. Her town has towering landscapes and people who looked different from one another. He notices that she lives in houses that are oddly shaped and has friends that have their own individual hobbies.  

As his friendship grows along the way, Norm notices and come to an understanding that there are many things that just cannot be measured by a ruler. Moreover, as Odette introduces many of her friends to Norm, he realizes that it’s ok to be different from others. Realizing that he had been focusing on the smallest of details all along, he sees that there are bigger and better things that might pass him by. Returning home, Norm is given the opportunity to share what he has learned with everyone and embraces the freedom in knowing that uniformity limits your creativity. 

Pirate Queen: A Story of Zheng Yi Sao

Illustrated by Liz Wong

Age Suitability: 6-9 years 

Pirates throughout history were thought of as individuals who engaged in lawless and morally questionable activities. Despite these negative connotations that are associated with them, being a pirate in history was synonymous with treasure hunting, living freely on the high seas, and engaging in daring and romantic adventures.  

While perceived as a male dominant profession, a minority of pirates were women. Being under represented in popular culture, the story of  Zheng Yi Sao shines a light into a part of history rarely talked about. The story of Zheng Yi Sao begins not like any other but rather from humble beginnings as a woman who didn’t have much and had no thought in being a pirate in her own right.  

Living on the coastal shores of southern China, her life gets turned upside down when pirates come to her village. She is taken away from her family and against her own will like all of the other women of her village and told she is to be the bride of her captor. Zheng Yi Sao uses her quick wits to turn her situation work in her favor. Upon agreeing to marry Captain Zheng Yi, she boldly asks to be made co-owner of half the fleet.  

After six years into their marriage, she becomes a widow and she assumes control of Captain Zheng Yi’s fleet of pirates. Given this rare opportunity in an inopportune time, she embraces the idea of assuming the leadership role and accepts the challenge put forth before her. The very first thing on her agenda is to assure her squadron leaders’ loyalty by making them an offer that they cannot refuse. Upon gaining the trust of her adversaries, she sets sail and devises a plan that would transform her into one of the most feared pirates during that time.  

With so much power and influence at her fingertips, she questions if this is the life that she really wanted. With nothing more left for her to prove, she decides that it is time to give in to the pirate life and chase after the life of simplicity as a rich and free woman. This story highlights the idea of believing in yourself and your abilities and the empowerment of women with an underlining message to always chase after your dreams. 

The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden

Illustrated by Rachel Wada  

Age Suitability: 6-8 years 

Each morning a young boy named Makio and his neighbor Mr. Hirota sits atop of his garden gazing at the vast ocean view trying their best to spot Makio’s fisherman father as he unloads the day’s catch, and Mr. Hirota’s daughter, who helps to clean the fish.  

On this particular day, their usual game didn’t go as planned as disaster strikes their village when an earthquake and a tsunami ravage everything in their village, eventually taking the lives of Makio’s father and Hirota’s daughter. As the tsunami subsides, the village became ever so quite as grief takes a hold of the people living in the village.  

Trying to make sense of everything, Makio watches on as one day he discovers that his neighbor decides to build a telephone booth in his garden to talk with his daughter everyday. Soon, word gets out and other people from the village discover the phone booth for themselves. Confused and curious, he decides to check out the telephone booth for himself.  

Coming face to face with the phone booth, Makio sees it as any typical phone booth. His confusion only grew as he discovers that Hirota’s phone booth is plugged into nowhere and is void of plugs and wires. Growing disinterested and skeptical at the idea, Makio makes his way back down to the harbor to voice out his feelings towards the ocean to no avail. Will he be able to forgive the ocean and move on with his grief? Feeling hopeless and filled with despair, Makio decides to give the phone booth another opportunity.  

Speaking into the receiver, he comes to an understanding that even though his father isn’t with him physically, he is still able to have a connection to him psychologically. Through the healing process, Makio is able to learn that sometimes what seems like an impractical idea is actually the perfect solution to begin the healing of a broken heart. Having lost loved ones myself, I am reminded everyday that even though death is a part of life, the human spirit is always resilient. 

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