When a boy receives an invitation in the mail from Kuma-Kuma Chan, his friend who happens to be a bear, he travels by train, bus, and foot to reach Kuma-Kuma Chan's home. His friend welcomes him with 'bear tea', serves rice crackers and at the end of the day, a delicious salmon dinner. The two don't have a lot to talk about, but they spend the day sharing activities, eating delicious food, and experiencing the sense of belonging that comes from being with a good friend. When the boy leaves to catch the last bus home, both friends are enriched by the visit and look forward to the next one. Kuma-Kuma Chan's Home immerses children of all ages, as well as adults, in Kuma-Kuma Chan's peaceful, simple world, which will be sure to leave a smile on your face after the last page. AGES: 3 to 5 AUTHOR: Kazue Takahashi is a Japanese illustrator and children's book author whose debut book Kuma-Kuma Chan was published in Japan in 2001. She has since authored several other books for children and contributed her illustrations to books by other authors.
First published in Japan in 2001, and then translated into English earlier this year (2016), Kuma-Kuma Chan's House has the same kind of gentle and non-linear narrative as Takahashi's first story about this ursine character. Not a lot happens here - it's more a list of things the narrator and Kuma-Kuma Chan do together, accompanied by simple artwork - but somehow it works. I especially appreciated the fact that these characters don't feel the need to fill every moment with frenetic activity and conversation, that they are willing to be quiet together in order to become better acquainted, as I think this sort of calmness in social interaction is something too frequently missing from American society. That said, although I appreciated the text here as much as that in the first, I didn't find the artwork quite as appealing, probably because I think Takahashi's minimalist approach works better with bears than people. The boy - and it's interesting that it is a boy, as I assumed in my reading of the first book that the narrator was female, perhaps because the author/artist is! - somehow isn't as visually convincing to me, as Kuma-Kuma Chan is. Still, this was a sweet little book, one I would recommend to anyone who enjoyed the first story about Kuma-Kuma Chan, as well as to anyone interested in Japanese children's books.
The illustrations in Kuma-Kuma Chan's Home are beautiful - their sparseness and simplicity sets a very calm, endearing mood. This is furthered by the fact that the story is, overall, remarkably uneventful. There is no sudden epiphany experienced by the main characters, there is no adversity to overcome, there is no exciting adventure to be had... there are just two friends enjoying each other's company in between sharing snacks/meals and on-and-off-again conversation. It's wonderfully, beautifully simplistic, and I cannot wait to ultimately add it to my kiddos' home library (I was given a digital copy via NetGalley for review purposes).
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.