The Boy of the Three-Year Nap

by Dianne Snyder

Other authorsAllen Say (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 1988

Call number



HMH Books for Young Readers (1988), 32 pages


A poor Japanese woman maneuvers events to change the lazy habits of her son.

User reviews

LibraryThing member GeniusBabies
A classic Japanese fable of a boy who tricks a rich merchant into marrying him to his daughter, but the boy's mother has other plans. A quaint tale that doesn't really pack much punch, as it's very straightforward and simple. The art is good, especially the faces.
LibraryThing member cshaw
A Japanese widow's son refuses to work and sleeps the days away until he comes up with a plan to marry the merchant's daughter. The widow fools her son with her own plans and he is forced to work for the merchant in addition to marrying his daughter. This is a wonderfully illustrated book with a
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very powerful message about the way to stay happy. It also shows the cleverness and power of a poor widow to make a wonderful life for herself and her son.
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LibraryThing member merestreet123
A very lazy boy has a bad reputation as doing nothing but sleeping and eating. His mother insists he get a job, but he refuses. He has an idea to trick his rich neighbor into making him marry his daughter; then, he would not have to work. However, there is a twist at the end and although the boy's
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plan works and he tricks the man into making him marry his daughter, the boy's mother gets her way and he has to work. He is no longer known as the boy of the three-year nap
I read this to my daughter. I was kind of hesitant when I picked up this book because I thought it was going to be very boring, but I loved it! It's cute.
I cannot really think of any great ideas for extensions for classroom activities. Maybe I could just teach the kids that it is not a good thing to be lazy, because it never works out to your advantage in the end.
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LibraryThing member ewang109
Snyder, D. (1988). The boy of the three-year nap. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Taro, an only son, was clever, but “as lazy as a rich man’s cat” (p. 7). He did nothing except for eat and sleep. Consequently, he was called “The Boy of the Three-Year Nap.” When his mother
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suggests that he works for a rich merchant hauling rice sacks, he tells her that he has a plan to remain forever lazy. He dresses up in a black kimono and pretends to be ujigama, the patron god of the town. Taro tricks the wealthy merchant by saying that he is to immediately wed his daughter to Taro or to the “fine lad who lives on [his] street.” Will Taro marry the merchant’s daughter? Can anyone win by being lazy?

Like other folktales, it consists of a trickster who devises a plan. This traditional Japanese folktale is humorous. The illustrations by Allen Say are also amazing. The delicate, detailed drawings reveal traditional Japanese culture. The Boy of the Three-Year Nap is a Caldecott honor book.
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LibraryThing member elizabethholloway
Once upon a time, a widow had the laziest son in the world, so lazy they called him "the boy of the three-year nap." But this boy, Taro, has a plan. he disguises himself as a god and tells the rich merchant taro must marry his daughter. When the merchant goes to the widow for permission, she has
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her own plan. First she gets the merchant to repair and expand her house, then she gets him to give Taro a job--the last thing Taro would have planned. Taro and the merchant's daughter are married and Taro is lazy no more!

This is an entertaining and engaging story. The illustrations, which are influenced by traditional Japanese art, are beautiful, lively, convey emotion, and help propel the story. This book would be appropriate for ages 5 to 8.
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LibraryThing member MsLangdon
Part Ca 5 of 1 Motif (Trickery)
Snyder, D. (1988). The boy of the three-year nap. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Earning the nickname “Boy of the three-year nap,” Taro is a lazy boy who does nothing but eat and nap all day. His mother tries to convince him to work for the rice merchant next door.
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However, he thinks that he is clever and disguises himself. He uses the disguise to trick the rice merchant into having Taro marry the merchant’s daughter. The merchant fixes the home of Taro and his mother and adds more rooms. But Taro’s mother plays the final trick. She won’t consent to the marriage unless the rice merchant gives Taro a job. The unique feature of this book is that the language is repetitious througout the story, which adds an upbeat humor to the story.
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LibraryThing member nzfj
Library thing part C…#2 of 10 Traditional Literature Motif Trickery 2
Snyder, Dianne, and Allen Say. The Boy of the Three-year Nap. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1988. Print.
The Boy of the Three Year Nap is one of Japan’s older and well worn folktales. Humor, trickery, and three tasks, alter a
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widow and her son’s poor lot in life. Sewing for long hours into the night, the widow created beautiful garments for the wealthy. Her diligence, much like the cormorant, was not changing their future prospects. Neither could she rely on her able and intelligent son, Taro. “If he was asked to do any work, he would yawn and say, ‘after my nap.’ It was said that if no one woke him, Taro would sleep three years at a stretch.”
The advent of new neighbors spurs Taro’s curiosity and he begins to watch them. “Taro was impressed with his fine new neighbors and began to sneak into the garden between his naps. Everything he saw enchanted him-the magnificent house, the elegant daughter, the fat carp in the pond…ah, what a life.” Taro devises a plan. Trickery, a priest’s kimono and hat, and charcoal makeup; three things will enable Taro to access a life as equal to that of the merchant. At dusk the merchant walks to the village shrine to make an offering. Taro with a fierce charcoaled lined face, a black kimono and priest’s hat, steps in front of the merchant. The fearful merchant believes it to be Ujigami and cowers before the spirit fearing retribution. The Ujigami growls and demands that the merchant’s daughter marry a fine young man called Taro. The shocked merchant believes the Ujigami has made a mistake. Then following the pattern of three in folktales, the Ujigami angrily utters: “ it has been decreed, ordained, and sanctified!” the merchant’s daughter must marry only Taro. Early the following morning the merchant asks the widow’s permission and consent to the marriage.
The magic of appearance is what the widow realizes is her son’s plan. She catches his plan and like a cormorant dives into the water to seek more fish. She then humbly makes three wise observations which become the merchant’s three tasks before she gives her consent: 1. The mending of cracks and leaks in their home 2. The addition of rooms onto their home 3. A job for Taro
“All right, your son shall manage my storehouse…Taro’s mother tossed her head like a cormorant that has caught a large fish. ‘you have my consent,’ she said.”
Taro is tricked into adulthood with his own plan. The widow is a wise cormorant ever ready to catch the unsuspecting fish. This is a great read for elementary and middle school. It could be used in the study of folktale genre, diversity, and background knowledge for world history in studying Japanese or Asian culture and as an extended art project. This novel won the 1988 Caldecott Honor Award and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and marked a transition point in the illustrator’s (Allen Say) career and profession. He left his photography career and became a writer and illustrator for childrens’ books.
Allen Say opens his full page illustrations just like we would open a door and watch an ancient Japanese fishing village next to the Nagara River. Each panel is enclosed with a black border that adds to the picture’s sense of timelessness. The detailed content of an ancient Japanese village next to a river of soft iridescent water, shades of earthen hues, blue mountains, sun rise, the ghostly pallor of a full moon, authentic solid and print garments, the interior of a humble room and a noble room, and the characters expressions all entice the viewer into participation. We become villagers entertained with a poor widow and a foolish sleeping son who trick fate and change their destiny.
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LibraryThing member jamie_lanell
Taro is very lazy and always napping. And his mother is frustrated. The rice pot is empty, the house needs to be fixed, and Taro’s mother is always working. Taro tries to trick a local merchant into taking care of his family. But it’s Taro who gets tricked in the end
LibraryThing member Cindy_22
This is a story about a boy named Taro is known as the boy of the three year nap because of how lazy he is. The only time he wakes up and does something is when he eats, or watches his wealthy neighbors next door build their mansion. He ends up planning how to marry the wealthy man's next
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door daughter and helps his widowed mother out along the way.

Personal Reaction: It was a cute story, when I read the title I wondered how this story would turn out. I had not even ever heard of this book. It would be a good book to read aloud to a classroom.

Classroom Extension Ideas:
1. You could have a discussion over Japans's herritage and what rice sacks are.
2. Pull out vocabulary words from this book and go over the meanings.
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LibraryThing member conlonk
I thought that this was a sweet story. It is definitely formatted like a folk tale, in the sense of having a specific moral and a little twist at the end. It is about a boy who is so lazy, people say if nobody ever woke him, he would nap for 3 years. He never wants to do any work, because he says
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he's always too tired. So, when a wealthy rice merchant moves into a mansion next door, the boy creates a plan to marry his daughter, and live a life of luxury without working, because of the father's wealth. However, his plan goes awry in the end, teaching that you can't just be lazy and trick people in order to get ahead.
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LibraryThing member dukefan86
This Japanese folktale has an interesting twist--both mother and son are sneaky with their plans, and it works for them. At least, everyone seems happy in the end. Pretty illustrations!
LibraryThing member DayDreamBear
This folktale like story which takes place in Japan tells of a boy who achieves wealth even though lazy, but also tells how his mother makes him into a not so stationary man. The children always love this one as it has so much room for animated voices and sound effects. The moral is good and I'd
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use it on any given day.
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LibraryThing member TeresaCruz
I like this book because it reminded me of when I lived in Japan for some part of my life. It was comical to read because the boy was so into his plan, yet he did not see his mother's plans.
LibraryThing member kmetca1
I had mixed feelings about this book after reading it. I thought it was a fun little story, but the ending was not a satisfying as I would have liked. The reason I thought the story was a fun read was because the plot was very engaging. There was also a good amount of suspense to the plot. The
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story started by explaining the background story of the main character. He was a lazy boy who everyone assumed just slept his life away. But when his rich neighbors move in, he devises a plan to marry their daughter so that he can live the rich lifestyle too. Suspense is added to the story as his plan is developing. For example, when he was disguising himself I was wondering why he would possibly need makeup. Then when he pretending to be a god and fooling his neighbor I wondered if he would get caught, or if his neighbor would actually believe him. This kind of suspense allowed the story to be a quick read, because I was always wondering what was going to happen next. I wanted to turn each page to see if my predictions would come true. This kind of writing also allowed the story to flow well. Because the story was always leading to the big event at the end of the story. The story had suspenseful rising actions that were leading to the conflict, and this helped the story flow well. Another reason I liked the story was because the character was believable. There are many people who would rather sleep their life away than work. And when the boy is trying to devise a plan to get what he wants instead of actually working for it, this could also be relatable. Many people try to take shortcuts in life, instead of just putting in all their own effort. Having a believable character allowed me to be pulled into the story because I could picture him as a real person. I was interested in how this character was going to develop throughout the story and this made me want to continue reading. Another reason I liked the story was because I thought the illustrations fit the story quite well. The illustrations were able to enhance the story and bring it to a deeper level. The illustrations were able to show the emotions of the characters better, and allow the reader to see deeper into the story. For example, through the illustrations the reader is able to see the frustration of the mother when he son is acting so lazy. The drawings describe more than the written text on the own. The only reason I felt a little uneasy about the end of the book was that the boy never told his neighbor that he had lied to him. So the boy was able to marry the girl and get a new house without having to tell the neighbor the truth. The boy did decided to start working, so I thought that was encouraging, but I would have preferred him to admit his lie. Overall I think the big message of the story is that to get what you want you have to work. Things will not just be handed to you. In the end, I do believe the boy learned that he had to work for the life he wanted and he could not just sleep his life away.
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LibraryThing member Tcochr1
The central message of this story is for “you to be prepared to face the repercussions of your actions.” This story was interesting to say the least. I thought the plot was slightly unusual. For example, Taro was extremely lazy, and never helped his mother. It was not until the wealthy
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merchants move next door, that Taro thought of a great idea. Taro made himself look like an ancestor whom the merchant respected. Taro, looking like the ancestor, scared the merchant, and told him to allow his daughter to marry the boy next door. Scared, the merchant discussed the marriage with Taro’s mother. Piecing together what Taro did, the widow has the merchant remodel her house, and allow her son to work for him. Taro’s plan comes true, but he also ends up getting a job! I thought this was just a strange plot, but I thought Taro was slick. Another reason I enjoyed this story is because of the illustrations. For example, when Taro made himself look like the ancestor, the illustration really created a vivid image of Taro dressed all in black. The last reason I liked this story is because of the use of descriptive language! For example, the author describes the widow’s head bobbling up and down, like a fish in the sea. The use of descriptive language allows the reader to imagine how much Taro’s head bobbles, and the reader can get a better understanding of the story.
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LibraryThing member catherineparry
A young boy is very lazy and only wants to sleep and eat. His hard-working mother is frustrated with him until he concocts a plan that he thinks will fix their problems with little effort on his part. Mother catches on though and turns things around in both their favor.
I would use this folktale
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during our study of folktales and it would be a great book for k-3rd.
Media: ink and watercolo
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LibraryThing member NMiller22
A poor Japanese woman maneuvers events to change the lazy habits of her son.


Caldecott Medal (Honor Book — 1989)
Nebraska Golden Sower Award (Nominee — 1991)
Boston Globe–Horn Book Award (Winner — Picture Book — 1988)




0395440904 / 9780395440902


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