[review] Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko by David Jacobson, Sally Ito, Michiko Tsuboi, and Toshikado Hajiri

Though every elementary school student in Japan is familiar with Misuzu Kaneko’s poetry, relatively few in the English-speaking world are familiar with her work.

Marked by a refreshing ingenuousness, curiosity, and extraordinary empathy for the world around her, Misuzu’s poems resonate with people of all ages, demonstrating that quiet, gentle words have their own special power.


Let’s not tell anyone.

In the corner of the garden this morning,
a flower shed a tear.

If word of this spreads
to the ears of the bee,

it’ll feel it’s done wrong
and go back to return the nectar.

Thanks to this breathtakingly beautiful picture book, a new audience of North American children can now read a selection of Misuzu’s poetry in English, learn about her short tragic life and the fascinating backstory of how her work was lost for half a century before being rediscovered in 1982.

 In Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko (Chin Music Press, 2016), author David Jacobson frames the story of Misuzu’s life with an account of how young student poet Setsuo Yazaki read one of her poems and was so impressed by it that he spent the next 16 years searching for more.

Art © 2016 Toshikado Hajiri


At sunrise, glorious sunrise
it’s a big catch!
A big catch of sardines!

On the beach, it’s like a festival
but in the sea, they will hold funerals
for the tens of thousands dead.

Continue reading

creativiTEA: stacy polson’s wild and wooly teapots

“If Ducks Joined the Circus”

Today’s spot of creativiTEA is brought to you by San Francisco-based artist Stacy Polson.

She created these needle-felted teapot sculptures for an exhibition at the Mobilia Gallery in Cambridge, MA. She chose “If Ducks Ran the Circus” as her theme for these beautiful and whimsical pieces.

“If Ducks Joined the Circus”

“The Extraterrestrial Way of Tea”
“The Catch of the Day”
“The Catch of the Day”

She initially got into needle felting while trying to re-create 17th century Japanese woodcuts in wool. I love the gorgeous colors and quirky details of her wool paintings. Isn’t it simply amazing what can be done with a needle, some wool, “a little determination,” and lots of imagination?

“The Parrots”
“Nikko and the Rooster”
“Yoki Goes Fishing”
“Falling Tomatoes”
“Mary and the Ducklings”
“Three Sisters” is available for purchase via RiverSea Gallery (click for info).

Stacy is self-taught and tells me she’ll be making more teapots, which makes me very happy indeed. 🙂

Peruse her website gallery and flickr photostream for more of her stunning work. Truly a feast for the eyes!


Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

soup of the day: flying the dragon by natalie dias lorenzi

“The dragon is a creature of the sea,” Grandfather said. “When it takes to the sky, it is looking for something precious it has lost. When it finds what it was looking for, it returns to the sea in the form of rain.”

Konnichiwa! Hello!


We’re especially excited today to be celebrating the official release of Flying the Dragon by Natalie Dias Lorenzi (Charlesbridge, 2012). Not only is Natalie a Virginia author, but this is her debut middle grade novel. As I always say, no matter how many books you go on to write, or how rich and famous you might become, there will always be only one first book, with its own special brand of pride, joy and feelings of accomplishment. We LOVE to celebrate first books!

Friends, I’m so glad you’re here to join us. Let’s get the party started by suiting up.

First, please select a t-shirt. Depending on your mood, you may feel like building a kite,

or noshing on sushi:

With all the mouthwatering Japanese food in the book, you should probably put this on, too:

Lookin’ good!

Can’t eat a plate of yakisoba without a good pair of chopsticks. Choose your favorite color:

All set?

Now, a little about Flying the Dragon:

Continue reading

welcome to annelore parot’s world of kokeshi!

Konnichiwa! Hello!

Here’s a charming way to introduce little ones to a bit of Japanese culture. Annelore Parot has created a series of interactive books featuring kokeshi, the traditional wooden folk art dolls that originated in the Tohoku region of  Northern Japan.

In Kimonos (Chronicle Books, 2011), we meet seven adorable kokeshi. Each invites us to join her in an everyday activity involving clothing. Ayuka wants us to pick out friends who aren’t wearing school uniforms, we go shopping with Kimiyo to select kimonos and accessories (sashes, fans, bows), and Sen’Jo shows off lots of fun hairstyles. When we are asked to help Yumi find her lost ladybugs, we pop into several different apartments, and eventually get to meet her extended family by identifying the colors and patterns of their clothes.

Continue reading

a great way to help teen tsunami victims in japan!

Wanted to give you the heads up about TOMO: Friendship Through Fiction — An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories (Stone Bridge Press, March 2012), that was published just last week to benefit teens in the Tohoku region on Honshu, the area hardest hit by the 2011 earthquake/tsunami disaster.

There is a wonderful interview with Holly Thompson, editor of this incredible anthology, at Debtastic Reads. You can learn  more about the project and the Japanese and international authors who contributed their stories for this wonderful charitable initiative, and enter for a chance to win a free copy by leaving a comment no later than March 16, 2012.

“Tomo” means ‘friend’ in Japanese, the perfect title for a book that was created to let teenagers in Japan know that we haven’t forgotten, and want to continue to support them as they rebuild their lives.

Click through, read the interview, enter the giveaway, purchase a copy for yourself or the teens in your life, and help spread the word through all your social networks! TOMO is available at your favorite online bookseller or directly through Stone Bridge Press.

Check out the TOMO blog for even more about all the contributors and the 36 stories in the anthology.



Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.