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Last updated Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Author: Allen Say
Date of Publication: 2009
ISBN: 618889337
Grade Level: 2nd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Jan. 2010

Synopsis: Say's exquisite paintings provide backdrop for a charming fairy tale with a contemporary, feminist twist. Here, it is a girl (read "princess") whose quest to find her heart's desire is at the core of the story. As a child, Erika becomes entranced with a painting on her grandmother's wall, depicting a small rustic house in Japan. Determined to find it, she prepares (in true fairy-tale fashion) for her journey, learning about the country and studying the language. Following college, she begins her search, and accepts a teaching assignment in Japan. Once there, it takes the proverbial three challenges before she finds success. Tokyo is too large, another (unnamed) city is too noisy, but in the third place—a small rural island community—Erika finds the house of her dreams, a welcoming class of children, and a "prince" named Aki to share her life. The house in the painting, she discovers, is a teahouse, where one day, kimono-clad, she happily performs a formal tea ceremony for Aki. Say's soft-colored paintings, detailed but not busy, contain just the right amount of nuance to build the story. He nicely contrasts the busyness of the cities with the verdant landscapes of the country, casting a happy-ever-after glow to the tale. More romantic and idealistic than many of Say's stories, Erika-San will find readers beyond the usual picture-book crowd.—

Note to readers:
•  San is placed after someone’s name for respect.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Looking at the Book Jacket: Where is the person on the cover? Where do you want to go to visit? Is there somewhere where you can read books? Do you speak any languages besides English?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Where is Erika in the train station? (Center right)
•  Why is it called a bullet train?
•  What is a rice paddy?
•  Do you ride bikes with your friends?
•  What is a tea house?
•  What is on the bulletin board? How does it compare to English?
•  Why is she not talking to Aki-San?
•  Rise your hand if you think they will fall in love?
•  What do you think it would be like if you lived in a place far- far away from your home?

Craft ideas:
•  Use the instructions on the back of this sheet to make Origami Tea cups.
•  You will need to cut construction paper down into squares. This can be done prior to the reading at your grade-level tables.

Special activities:
•  Have the kids make up their own "Tea Ceremony."

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don't have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!