Author, editor, translator, and Japanese children’s literature pioneer Momoko Ishii died on April 2 at the age of 101. Although few people outside of Japan (and many people in Japan, I suspect) recognize her name, Ishii was an important figure in the development of modern Japanese children’s literature. At the very least, she should be remembered as the person who first translated Winnie-the-Pooh into Japanese.

I was introduced to Ishii’s work through a footnote in an otherwise unremarkable book on postwar Japanese children’s literature. That note led me to Ishii’s 1947 children’s book Non-chan kumo ni noru (Non-chan Rides on a Cloud), with which I fell instantly in love. Since then, I have been obsessively gathering everything I can find about Ishii–much to the puzzlement of both my American and Japanese friends and several (very helpful and patient) American and Japanese book dealers.

The news of her death makes me wish that I had been more diligent in my efforts to turn my personal research into a published article or a useful Wikipedia entry (or, more importantly, a completed MA thesis). Perhaps, if there are not permissions restrictions (and LibraryThing resolves some of its East Asian language support issues), I will enter the catalog of Katsura Bunko, Ishii’s children’s library, into the LT legacy library project.

Although, sadly, I never met Ishii, I feel this week as if I have lost a great friend, a wise mentor that I always thought would be around. In some ways, she will always be around–in her writings and in the work of her successors. Rest in peace, Ms. Ishii.

Further reading:

I did not plan to be in Harvard Square at midnight for the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I planned to be in bed, waiting for my own copy to arrive, far away from the happy Harry Potter fans clutching their new books and the mischief-makers shouting spoilers like Death Eaters firing Unforgivable Curses. While I was excited to be in the Square and with a good friend, I looked on with slight jealousy, doubting that my own copy would arrive soon enough.

However, the owls were good to me. A UPS delivery owl dropped off my copy of Deathly Hallows in the entryway to my apartment building some time before 6:30 Saturday morning (and placed it appropriately enough in a large spider web!). While I felt foolish checking so early in the morning and even more foolish standing outside in Mickey Mouse pajamas, I ignored my embarrassment, hugging the box to my chest and breathing deeply to hold back unexpected tears.

It was strange, but I felt the way I felt as a small child on Christmas morning in the days when Santa still left presents for me. I could not decide whether I wanted to open the box or not. I worried. Were the contents exactly what I wished for or was it another undesired pair of socks disguised in a festive box?

Overcome by too much anticipation and too little sleep, I did not open the box that morning. Instead, I slept, beginning the book only when I felt rested enough to do so and finishing the last lines late Monday night. And, although I had a few complaints (mostly concerning the epilogue and the treatment of a favorite character), I felt satisfied with how the story ended.

Of course, as a girl with a never-ending reading queue, I did not dwell too long on the end of Harry’s adventures. By Tuesday evening, I was prowling the local bookstores and libraries again, returning home with two books from Curious George and a tote bag full of books from the Boston Public Library. I must confess, however, that I have not given up on Harry quite yet; the Japanese-language edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was among the library books.

Last week, when I wrote my post about Harry Potter and adult readers, I wished that I could address j’s final point about how the series has fostered discussion among adults, young adults, and children in ways that other books have not. Unfortunately, since the young people in my life have either outgrown or were never interested in the Harry Potter books and movies, I did not have any personal examples to share.

Then, this Saturday, I found myself seated on the T next to a father and son on their way to see the Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix movie. The father was as excited about the movie as the son, it seemed. Although the father, as a non-native English speaker, was struggling with the characters’ names, he knew the plots of all of the books and movies and was happy to reenact favorite scenes with his son.

Ordinarily, I would be annoyed about people talking and laughing loudly on the subway. But, this time I smiled. When I looked around the subway car, my fellow passengers were smiling as well. For a moment, I wondered if I had discovered and boarded the train at Boston’s own Platform 9 3/4.

As the Harry Potter series nears its end, j of j’s scratchpad wonders how the series has changed the reading habits of adult readers. I suspect that most adults would argue that the series has made little, if any, difference in their reading habits. But, I wonder if this is truly the case.

Before Harry Potter, I, like most adults, led a boring reading life. I never stayed up past my bedtime to read one more chapter or one more page, unless I was forced to do so. I skimmed and scanned and read in fits and starts. And, when I read deeply, I focused on analyzing and critiquing the words before me. I could never imagine being seen in public with a children’s book. Instead, I spent my commute and lunch hour poring over newspapers, work-related reports, magazines, current events books, and novels that needed to be read for book group.

But, the day I picked up a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at my public library, everything changed. Suddenly, I remembered that there were other ways to read (and other reasons for reading). I rediscovered pleasure reading and the joy of shared reading experiences. I became reacquainted with my favorite childhood books, finding comfort in the fact that the library’s children’s room was not an Eden from which I was forever banished, but a place to which I could return to whenever needed.

In almost a week’s time, the Potter phenomenon will be over. However, adult Muggles should not despair. There are other books and other imaginary worlds to explore, and there are librarians, booksellers, and other readers’ advisers eager to guide you.

And, if you would rather savor the last days of Potter-mania, than think about the post-Harry Potter future, there are many opportunities to reminisce, rejoice, and create. For example, you can wile away the days until the final book release with Matthew Reidsma and other cartoonists as they draw a different Harry Potter character each day.

As an adult with a full-time job and grownup responsibilities, I am a bit too old for story hour. But, thanks to the recent proliferation of widgets, gadgets, and feeds, I am finding ways to sneak storytime into my workday.

My new morning routine, for example, includes a quick glance at the International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL) Book of the Day. This gadget, which I recently added to my Google homepage, displays a different book from the ICDL’s collection each day. Although the selections are often contemporary books in languages other than English, on occasion, older books are featured.

This week I discovered Marianne L.B. Ker’s How the Fairy Violet Lost and Won Her Wings. Ker’s 1872 children’s book tells the story of a fairy named Violet who loses her wings in an accident and earns new wings through her service to a dying girl. In between losing and winning her gossamer wings, Violet meets the Fire-King, the Snow-King, and a magician, among others. Beneath the melodrama and Victorian sentimentality, there is historically interesting commentary on man’s relationship to the environment, urban living conditions, and the restorative power of nature.

Now that I have frolicked with the Fairy Violet among the flowers, I wonder what interesting characters ICDL’s Book of the Day will bring to my breakfast table next?

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