Rating: ★★★★★


The format was so cool. It was two books in one. There were two stories, one about a lonely cat and one about a lonely bird. The bird’s story starts “front to back” and the cat’s story starts “back to front” (to American readers). Then their stories meet up in the middle of the book when the characters meet. It’s such a cool idea.


I highly recommend this book. Not only was it a cool idea, but I appreciated that the vocab and grammar was all stuff we had covered. I don’t think I had to look anything up, and I understood the story. This is one of my favorite Tadoku books by students I have read. Also, it looks like the drawings are hand drawn, and that’s really cool.


となりのトトロ(1)・ My Neighbor Totoro: Volume 1

Rating: ★★★★★


For fans of Studio Ghibli, this is a great book to read (even though Totoro himself doesn’t actually appear in this volume).  It’s the first volume of the “My Neighbor Totoro” film comics, following the story from the beginning of the movie to Satsuki and Mei’s first night in their new house.  It’s a little hard to read, but if you know the film, you’ll be able to understand more than you realize through memory and context.  There’s a lot of kanji that are new for a first-year student, but furigana is always provided, and there are also a lot of kanji that we have already learned.  Being able to read this book is a good goal to aim for, even if it’s on the more difficult side right now.  Reading this book was difficult, but it was a fun challenge.

I recommend this book for fans of Totoro at any level, but as a first-year student it might be more of a goal to strive for than an easy read.  First-year second semester or second-year students might be able to get more out of it from the start.

チーズスイートホーム vol. 2

Rating: ★★★★★

チーズズイートホームというマンガのシリーズは小さいチーという子猫について物語です。一冊で、チーは色々な面白い冒険を経験します。この vol. 2 の本で、チーは新し家族の生活になれ続きます。大きくて黒い猫に会ったり、お父さんと一緒に遊んだり(お父さんは仕事をしてみているのに)、牛乳を飲んでみたりします。大きくて黒い猫は色々な短い物語に出ます。最初に、チーにとって、黒い猫は怖くて、嫌なものだけど、だんだん仲良くなります。

I would recommend this book to Japanese students of every level–it’s really simple and easy to read, but also really fun. Chii is adorable and hilarious and gets into lots of trouble. Chii also uses a kind of baby-talk that is honestly pretty adorable to read. There is some continuity between the stories within each volume, and across the series as a whole, but honestly you could probably pick up book 6 and have no trouble following what’s going on. The stories come across as short, connected vignettes rather than chapters in a long-running series.








This is a very interesting book, but it is really incredibly hard to read. It’s full of court intrigues, 敬語, complex court etiquette, and there’s a good dose of international politics at the beginning. It’s all simplified for the manga, of course, but for language learners, it’s going to be really hard to follow. There’s so much vocabulary in here that we’ve never encountered before because for obvious reasons we’re not learning about 18th century France. Some things I was able to figure out based on historical knowledge of the time period–for example, I had no idea what 「天然痘」was, but from the context of how horrified everyone was that Louis XV had contracted it, I correctly guessed it was smallpox. But I had to look up most of the titles for the nobility because I just had no idea what they were–I could tell they were titles, but I couldn’t tell which ones were more highly ranked than the others from the kanji, which meant I wasn’t always understanding the court intrigue. Usually I was able to understand the gist of what was going on, but sometimes I honestly wasn’t even getting that. Overall, I probably understood 50% of this book.


Rating: ★★★★★


I was quite excited to find out that this manga is (probably loosely) based on the life of a real nineteenth century English explorer, Isabella Bird. It tells the story of her travels across Japan with her interpreter Itou. I think there is a strong theme of respecting cultural differences.

I understood most of the book thanks to the pictures, but the vocabulary is pretty tough and there were definitely some jokes that I didn’t understand. Even so, I think it would be a fun read for my fourth year classmates.


Rating: ★★★★★


Super cute book. If you’re a cat lover, this is a must. It barely has any kanji and has a lot of pictures so it’s perfect for beginners. Chi is surely going to win your heart!