Currently viewing the category: "Mini Reviews of Level 3 Books"

This is a list of all the Level 3 books that are part of my own collection; it’ll be updated as I keep reading (and buying) them.

From Extensive Reading in Japanese, the definition of a Level 3 book:

Level 3: Kana and kanji are mixed, but the book is mainly written in hiragana. Furigana is provided for any kanji in the text. The content is not only fiction, but may also contain facts or accounts of some natural phenomena. Pictures are the main feature of the book. Japanese native readers would be six to ten years old.

I’ve added Amazon links for the benefit of having title images and just in case anyone wants to subsidize my reading, but if you’re interested in ordering any of these, I’d also recommend you look them up on Kinokuniya’s website or YesAsia.com and compare prices and shipping costs. They may also be available at a library near you or be available through inter-library loan; you can look them up at WorldCat.org. Finally, if you’re in the Tacoma area, I’m setting up a weekly extensive reading group through the Tacoma Language and Culture meetup group; feel free to join the group and come read any of these!

Also, all title translations are my own unless otherwise indicated, names are family name first, then given name, and 作 and 絵 mean “author” and “illustrator,” respectively.

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This is an incomplete list of all the Level 3 books available from Nikkei Bunko, a Japanese-language library operated by the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington; it’ll be updated as I keep reading them.

From Extensive Reading in Japanese, the definition of a Level 3 book:

Level 3: Kana and kanji are mixed, but the book is mainly written in hiragana. Furigana is provided for any kanji in the text. The content is not only fiction, but may also contain facts or accounts of some natural phenomena. Pictures are the main feature of the book. Japanese native readers would be six to ten years old.

I’ve added Amazon links for the benefit of having title images and just in case anyone wants to subsidize my reading, but if you’re interested in ordering any of these, I’d also recommend you look them up on Kinokuniya’s website or YesAsia.com and compare prices and shipping costs. They may also be available at a library near you or be available through inter-library loan; you can look them up at WorldCat.org. Also, all title translations are my own unless otherwise indicated, names are family name first, then given name, and 作 and 絵 mean “author” and “illustrator,” respectively.

ピザパイくんたすけてよ
Help Us, Mr. Pizza!
作:角野栄子(かどのえいこ, Kadono Eiko)
絵:佐々木洋子(ささきようこ, Sasaki Yōko)
Level 3 本, 77 pages, 1,400 words (est.)

The ghost Acchi lives in a restaurant; at first he’s content just to sample the food, but after a while he learns to cook. Once word gets out that the restaurant is haunted, however, no one comes to it anymore. Acchi feels responsible… how can he turn things around and make people want to visit?

エビフライをおいかけろ
Chase the Fried Shrimp!
作:角野栄子(かどのえいこ, Kadono Eiko)
絵:佐々木洋子(ささきようこ, Sasaki Yōko)
Level 3 本, 78 pages, 1,400 words (est.)

So it seems there is a whole series about this cooking ghost Acchi, and Nikkei Bunko has a lot of them. In this installment, Acchi is aiming to pass a prestigious test, but he and his friends have to solve some riddles to even know what it is he’ll be required to cook.

忍たま乱太郎 ありったけ・これったけの段
Rantarō the Ninja Boy: The Arittake Mushroom and the Korettake Mushroom
原作:尼子騒兵衛(あまこそうべえ, Amako Sōbē)
文:田波靖男(たなみやすお, Tanami Yasuo)
絵:亜細亜堂(あじあどう, Ajiadō)
Level 3 本, 78 pages, 1,500 words (est.)

Hey, if you’re sick of happy bunnies and kindergarteners, maybe some ninja children might be up your alley? It seems that this is a book adaptation of an anime that was based off of a manga. Maybe that makes it more legit to the book purchasers of the world? 有りっ丈 apparently means “everything one has” (as in to give it all you’ve got”) and 茸 (たけ)is “mushroom,” so I guess the title is something of a play on that.

おひめさまがっこうへいく
The Princess Goes To School
作:まだらめ 三保(まだらめ みほ, Madarame Miho)
絵:国井 節(くにい せつ, Kunii Setsu)
Level 3 本, 78 pages, 1,500 words (est.)

I read one of this series early on — it was, I think, the very first Level 3 book I read without a single peek at a dictionary, and in order to keep from the temptation of looking words up I had to draw a bath and stay in it until the book was quite over and the water was quite cold. Revisiting the series with this book and the next one on the list was a pleasure, since books like these have become significantly easier since then. In any case, I find this princess charming, and I’ll explain why in the next entry. But yes, in this installment the princess attends school, and what a school it is.

おひめさま ケーキをつくる
The Princess Makes A Cake
作:まだらめ 三保(まだらめ みほ, Madarame Miho)
絵:国井 節(くにい せつ, Kunii Setsu)
Level 3 本, 85 pages, 1,500 words (est.)

When I wrote the mini-review of the first book in this series I read, I wrote that it might be a good series to explore if you have a high tolerance for princesses. Well, I do indeed have a high tolerance for princesses, as you might have noticed if you’ve seen my paperdoll blog, so I picked up the two that were at Nikkei Bunko. This series has a twisted, childish logic that makes it more fun to read than many other books at this level, which run the risk of becoming slightly earnest. These books aren’t earnest, just goal-oriented: the Princess has a problem, so she solves it and hey presto, no more problem! (At least for the time being.) There’s no second-guessing herself, self-reflection or common sense to get in the way: she just does what she wants to do, and what she wants to do is generally pretty loony. She’s rather an admirable little character in that regard.

きいろいばけつ
The Yellow Bucket
作:森山 京(もりやま みやこ, Moriyama Miyako)
絵:土田 義晴(つちだ よしはる, Tsuchida Yoshiharu)
Level 3 本, 75 pages, 1,000 words (est.)

A young fox comes across a bucket, seemingly abandoned. He’d like it for himself, but doesn’t want to just take it, so he and his friends decide that if no one comes for it in a week, it would be all right to claim it.

いたずらまじょ子の王女さまになりたいな
The Impish Little Witch: If Only I Could Be A Princess
作:藤真知子(ふじまちこ, Fuji Machiko)
絵:ゆーちみえこ(Yūchi Mieko)
Level 3 本, 102 pages, 2,200 words (est.)

A decidedly cute little book about a girl named Arisa, a witch (the Majoko of the title) and their interactions with royalty. It’s divided into three stories, and the first and last stories are nice enough, but it was the second story I liked best, where the two girls meet all sorts of, shall we say, defective princesses. If you have problems remembering the kanji or word 胃 (stomach), it would probably be etched in your memory by the episode with the princess who loved food so much she had had surgery to install a second stomach and tried to steal the stomachs of the two girls for future use.

世界の童話29:日本の絵話
Fairy Tales from Around the World #29: Japanese Illustrated Stories
Level 3 絵本, 103 pages, 3,600 words (est.)

A collection of Japanese stories written and illustrated by different authors and artists; some of the illustrations are gorgeous (such as the ones for the first story, The Girl With A Bowl On Her Head) and it’s a shame you can’t even see the front cover on Amazon. Also, all of the stories are memorable. I don’t know how widespread they are, but I had only read one of them before, “The Split-Tongue Sparrow.”

へんしん!スグナクマン
Insta-Tears Man, Transform!
作:川北 亮司(かわきた りょうじ, Kawakita Ryōji)
絵:藤本 四郎(ふじもと しろう, Fujimoto Shirō)
Level 3 本, 85 pages, 2,500 words (est.)

Yoshio is a first grader who’s getting bullied every day; the other kids call him “Insta-Tears Man” because he cries three times a day. His parents don’t have much in the way of advice for him besides “You’ve got to buck up!” and even his friend from preschool considers him babyish. But he does solve the problem in, let’s say, a way that probably wouldn’t be used if this was a textbook for respectable adults. It’s interesting to me that there’s a subtle class element in this book: Yoshio’s mom works at a pachinko place and his dad is a taxi driver, and the first one of these jobs is something he specifically gets teased for.

おおかみなんてだーいすき
I Love You, Big Bad Wolf!
作/絵:木村裕一(きむらゆういち, Kimura Yūichi)
Level 3 本, 77 pages, 1,200 words (est.)

A bunny moves into a lovely little house on a hilltop; this makes her a target for the neighborhood wolf. But somehow he can’t find an opportunity to eat her, as she keeps him busy with helping her with housework, eating her cooking and even comforting her when she’s down.

きつねのスーパーマーケット
The Fox’s Supermarket
作:小沢正(おざわただし, Ozawa Tadashi)
絵:西川おさむ(にしかわおさむ, Nishikawa Osamu)
Level 3 本, 72 pages, 1,600 words (est.)

While waiting for her mom to finish shopping, Michiko notices a fox pushing a cart full of boxes; following him, she finds her way to the Fox’s Supermarket and gets a personal tour of all the wonderful gadgets there. This is the kind of level 3 book I like best: it’s got a fun story (well, there’s not all that much to the actual story, but it’s great to follow along with the tour of the store because the stuff on sale is so fantastic) and it’s also has a lot of great examples of polite salesman speech.

スパゲッティがたべたいよう
I Want Spaghetti!
作:角野栄子(かどのえいこ, Kadono Eiko)
絵:佐々木洋子(ささきようこ, Sasaki Yōko)
Level 3 本, 78 pages, 1,400 words (est.)

I’m reading all these books about Acchi the cooking ghost, but I’m reading them quite out of order, apparently; I would guess this is the first in the series, back from his days as a fearsome monster.

フルーツポンチはいできあがり
Your Fruit Salad Is Done!
作:角野栄子(かどのえいこ, Kadono Eiko)
絵:佐々木洋子(ささきようこ, Sasaki Yōko)
Level 3 本, 78 pages, 1,400 words (est.)

Acchi helps the mouse Chi make fruit salad for his twin brother Ki, who’s sick; the touching scene makes. Acchi wish that he had a little brother, too. If you read the Japanese title you might think I’m quite mistaken in translating it as “fruit salad” — but what he makes really is more like an American fruit salad than our fruit punch.

カレーライスはこわいぞ
Curry Rice is Pretty Darn Scary!
作:角野栄子(かどのえいこ, Kadono Eiko)
絵:佐々木洋子(ささきようこ, Sasaki Yōko)
Level 3 本, 78 pages, 1,400 words (est.)

Acchi the ghost is so thoroughly domesticated by now that a pair of mischevious mice have started sneaking into his room while he sleeps, tickling him and treating his tummy like a taiko drum. His friends come to the conclusion that it’s because he doesn’t look scary due to his habit of only eating sweets. So it’s time for a diet of super-spicy curry rice to regain some of that scariness…

ぼくのおなかがしろいわけ
The Reason My Belly Is White
作/絵:熊田 勇(くまだ いさむ, Kumada Isamu)
Level 3 本, 78 pages, 1,000 words (est.)

Tam oversleeps and breaks a promise to his friends; in the process of trying to make it up to them, he gets stuck up a tree. Very basic for a level 3 book, but cute.

おばけのコッチ ピ ピ ピ
Kocchi the Ghost: *whistle* *whistle* *whistle*
作:角野栄子(かどのえいこ, Kadono Eiko)
絵:佐々木洋子(ささきようこ, Sasaki Yōko)
Level 3 本, 77 pages, 1,400 words (est.)

Apparently there are even more of these ghosts! Socchi will show up soon, so now’s as good a time as any to point out that あっち, そっち and こっち mean “way over there,” “over there” and “over here” respectively. I imagine that Acchi picked up his name from people saying things like “Look over there, a ghost!” or “Go away, ghost!” But the rest of them, maybe it’s just a cute name by now? In any case, in this installment we meet Kocchi, a ghost who works in a barbershop. A ghost in a barbershop is all kinds of useful – for example, he can make himself invisible and hold down squalling children while they get their hair cut.

おばけのアッチ ねんねんねんね
Nighty-Night, Acchi the Ghost
作:角野栄子(かどのえいこ, Kadono Eiko)
絵:佐々木洋子(ささきようこ, Sasaki Yōko)
Level 3 本, 77 pages, 1,400 words (est.)

This year, too, Acchi has to spend Christmas all alone, as all of his friends are going to be with their families, and rather uncharacteristically none of them get the hint that he’s going to be lonely. So he decides to party with Santa instead, and he designs a bunch of foods intended to force Santa to eat long enough to stay with him, such as spaghetti made from a single strand that’s long enough to wrap around the earth.

おばけのアッチ スーパーマーケットのまき
Acchi the Ghost and the Supermarket
作:角野栄子(かどのえいこ, Kadono Eiko)
絵:佐々木洋子(ささきようこ, Sasaki Yōko)
Level 3 本, 86 pages, 2,100 words (est.)

Acchi and his friends want to play hide and seek, but Bon, the stray cat, insists on going to the new supermarket. However, a greedy ghost and two mice can’t help but cause trouble in a place filled with so many great things…

こまったさんのシチュー
Miss Oh-No’s Stew
作:寺村輝夫(てらむらてるお)
絵:岡本颯子(おかもとさつこ)
Level 3 本, 73 pages, 1,500 words (est.)

Komatta-san runs a flower shop, and one day, an order for tulips leads her on a whimsical journey with a young boy from Nigeria, who cooks her Nigerian stews. The only part I really enjoyed was the afterword about the author’s travels, which adds about 450 words, and also the fact that okra, which I would have guessed would be written in katakana, was in hiragana: おくら.

こまったさんのカレーライス
Miss Oh-No’s Curry Rice
作:寺村輝夫(てらむらてるお, Teramura Teruo)
絵:岡本颯子(おかもと さつこ, Okamoto Satsuko)
Level 3 本, 73 pages, 1,500 words (est.)

Another quirky, silly book about Miss Oh-no and her culinary hallucinations. Once again the best part is the author’s note (which adds about 450 words), where he talks about curry he’s eaten in various locales. If he wrote a kid’s book about eating curry in Africa I’d totally read it but the actual story, although cute, is pretty weak sauce — although good practice for cooking-related words and fantastic imagery.

わかったさんのアイスクリーム
Miss Got-It’s Ice Cream
作:寺村輝夫(てらむらてるお, Teramura Teruo)
絵:永井郁子(ながいいくこ, Nagai Ikuko)
Level 3 本, 79 pages, 2,300 words (est.)

Miss Got-it suffers a whimsical hallucination about gathering ingredients and making ice cream. I generally prefer less fantastic books, but it can be nice to test your faith in your own ability to comprehend strange language using this sort of nonsense material.

しんこころにのこる 1ねんせいのよみもの
New Stories for First Graders That Remain In Your Heart
監修:長崎 源之助(ながさき げんのすけ, Nagasaki Gennosuke)
Level 3 本, 119 pages, 5,300 words (est.)

I’m intending to write a longer post about this book, and I’ll link to it when it’s done.

おばけのアッチ こどもプールのまき
Acchi the Ghost: The Kid’s Pool
作:角野 栄子(かどの えいこ, Kadono Eiko)
絵:佐々木 洋子(ささき ようこ, Sasaki Yōko)
Level 3 本, 78 pages, 1,400 words (est.)

Faced with the reality of a crowded public pool, Acchi the ghost and his stray cat friend Bon fantasize about an awesome water park for kids.

おばけのソッチ ぞびぞびぞー
Socchi the Ghost: *screech* *screech*
作:角野 栄子(かどの えいこ, Kadono Eiko)
絵:佐々木 洋子(ささき ようこ, Sasaki Yōko)
Level 3 本, 78 pages, 1,400 words (est.)

Socchi loves to sing but needs, shall we say, some practice to win an upcoming singing contest, so she infiltrates a first grade music class for pointers.

バスにのってはじめてのおつかい
My First Time Taking The Bus On An Errand
作:としま かをり(Toshima Kaori)
絵:岡本 美子(おかもと よしこ, Okamoto Yoshiko)
Level 3 本, 94 pages, 1,600 words (est.)

This book’s title is deceptively bland — it’s actually a moving, mildly supernatural tale about a second-grader named Yui who takes the bus to her grandmother’s house all by herself for the first time, to bring her grandmother some of her favorite kinako mochi. (I went a good four-fifths of the book thinking that was kinoko mochi, and thinking that was a very specific sort of favorite food to have.) On the way there, she meets a strangely-dressed girl with bobbed hair, who’s carrying a treasure of her own… It’s one of the better level 3 books I’ve read.

おばけのコッチ あかちゃんのまき
Kocchi the Ghost: The Baby Book
作:角野 栄子(かどの えいこ, Kadono Eiko)
絵:佐々木 洋子(ささき ようこ, Sasaki Yōko)
Level 3 本, 78 pages, 1400 words (est.)

Kocchi, who lives at a barbershop, is enlisted to babysit one of his clients from the previous day. But acting like a mother is harder than he thinks…

おばけのソッチ 1年生のまき
Socchi the Ghost: First Grade
作:角野 栄子(かどの えいこ, Kadono Eiko)
絵:佐々木 洋子(ささき ようこ, Sasaki Yōko)
Level 3 本, 78 pages, 1400 words (est.)

Socchi, after her adventures with the first grade music class, longs to be able to attend school herself; unsurprisingly, there are a number of obstacles in the way.

 

This is an incomplete list of all the Level 3 books available from the Pierce County Library; it’ll be updated as I keep reading them.

From Extensive Reading in Japanese, the definition of a Level 3 book:

Level 3: Kana and kanji are mixed, but the book is mainly written in hiragana. Furigana is provided for any kanji in the text. The content is not only fiction, but may also contain facts or accounts of some natural phenomena. Pictures are the main feature of the book. Japanese native readers would be six to ten years old.

I’ve added Amazon links for the benefit of having title images and just in case anyone wants to subsidize my reading, but if you’re interested in ordering any of these, I’d also recommend you look them up on Kinokuniya’s website and compare shipping costs. Also, all title translations are my own unless otherwise indicated, names are family name first, then given name, and 作 and 絵 mean “author” and “illustrator,” respectively.

文明の迷路
Mazes through Civilization
作/絵:香川 元太郎(かがわ げんたろう, Kagawa Gentarō)
Level 3 絵本, 32 pages, 1,700 words (est.)

Although the bulk of the book is devoted to illustrations of mazes set in various ancient civilizations, the language used is fairly sophisticated, and I liked the feeling of instant feedback provided by having to follow the instructions to complete the various puzzles. Take care to find all the crystal pyramids, and you’ll wind up in Atlantis…

ひみつのたまご
The Secret Egg
作/絵:かみや しん(Kamiya Shin)
Level 3 本, 48 pages, 1,000 words (est.)

A sweet book about a boy playing in the woods who intends to dig a trap, but can’t make anything bigger than a shallow hole — which looks like a perfect size for a nest.

ムーミン谷に冬がきた
Winter Comes to Moomin Valley
原作:トーベ・ヤンソン(Tove Jansson)
文:ミンナ・パルクマン(Minna Parkman)
絵:モルデン・シュメット(Mardon Smet)
訳:矢田堀 厚子(やたぼり あつこ, Yatabori Atsuko)
Level 3 絵本, 47 pages, 1,500 words (est.)

I had never heard of such a thing as a Moomin until I read somewhere that the series, originally in Swedish and about a family of cartoony-looking trolls, is quite popular in Japan. In this one, one of the Moomins wakes up prematurely from hibernation and experiences winter for the first time. It’s a slow-paced, gentle comic, and I rather enjoyed it.

えほんねぶた
Picture Book Nebuta Festival
作:あべ弘士(あべ ひろし, Abe Hiroshi)
Level 3 絵本, 32 pages, 900 words (est.)

I knew I had seen this guy before — he illustrated “森からのてがみ 2 (Letters from the Forest #2)” In this book, we follow the process of creating an illustrated float for a local festival. This would be a nice book for a classroom: it’s heavy on the kanji, but they would mostly be ones that students would be familiar with around the third year of study, and the ones that are difficult often have pictures — you might not know what 筆 are, but there’s a picture right next to the second time it’s used. So it combines the good parts of an upper-level book (the content, the kanji, the complex sentences) with the good parts of a lower-level one (the pictures, the manageable length).

 

This is an incomplete list of all the Level 3 books available from the Seattle Public Library; it’ll be updated as I keep reading them.

From Extensive Reading in Japanese, the definition of a Level 3 book:

Level 3: Kana and kanji are mixed, but the book is mainly written in hiragana. Furigana is provided for any kanji in the text. The content is not only fiction, but may also contain facts or accounts of some natural phenomena. Pictures are the main feature of the book. Japanese native readers would be six to ten years old.

I’ve added Amazon links for the benefit of having title images and just in case anyone wants to subsidize my reading, but if you’re interested in ordering any of these, I’d also recommend you look them up on Kinokuniya’s website and compare shipping costs. Also, all title translations are my own unless otherwise indicated, names are family name first, then given name, and 作 and 絵 mean “author” and “illustrator,” respectively.

チクチクのおばけりょこう
Chikuchiku’s Ghost Safari
作/絵:舟崎 克彦(ふなざき よしひこ, Funazaki Yoshihiko)
Level 3 本, 77 pages, 850 words (est.)

The hedgehog Chikuchiku, back from exploring, tells all his animal friends about the places he found… and the ghosts inhabiting them. Or at least, that’s what he thought they were, but some of his friends are a little skeptical. This one had a surprising amount of words I didn’t know for a shortish level 3 book – lots of exploring-related verbs, perhaps.

光のゲンちゃん
Lil’ Genji
作:花散里(はなちるさと, Hanachirusato)
絵:西村 緋禄司(にしむら ひろし, Nishimura Hiroshi)
Level 3 絵本, 47 pages, 1,100 words (est.)

The young Hikaru Genji wishes to see if people are still talking about him in a thousand years, so he takes a time-traveling oxcart to present-day Kyoto, where he dances for the crowds, transforms a girl in jeans into a Heian-era princess and turns into a phoenix. (A 鳳凰, technically.) Yeah, seriously. I never thought my interest in The Tale of Genji would lead me here. There’s a song that goes with it, too. (The sheet music is in the back of the book.)

ちいさいドットちゃん
Little Dot
作/絵:堀川 波(ほりかわ なみ, Horikawa Nami)
Level 3 本, 63 pages, 1,000 words (est.)

Little Dot’s birthday is tomorrow! Until then, she spends time with her mom and dad doing chores, then visits her friend Sara and her twin brothers. When she gets bigger, she’s going to do all sorts of wonderful things like drive a car and drink coffee with her dad. I guess this is sort of like a … slice of life book? It’s really charming.

チョコレートのまち
Chocolate City
作/絵:深見 春夫(ふかみ はるお, Fukami Haruo)
Level 3 本, 63 pages, 850 words (est.)

Since the residents of Chocolate City are all made of chocolate, all it takes is a little heat from the hairdryer at the beauty parlor and they can remake their heads into any shape they want. Most people choose to be beautiful or handsome, but some are a little more creative: a carpenter makes his head into a house, a musician makes hers into a violin and among children there’s a fad for animal heads. But some shapes come with unintended side effects…

1ねん1くみ1ばんくいしんぼう
The Biggest Glutton In My First Grade Class
作:後藤 竜二(ごとう りゅうじ, Gotō Ryūji)
絵:長谷川 知子(はせがわ ともこ, Hasegawa Tomoko)
Level 3本, 71 pages, 1,900 words (est.)

That would be Kurosawa-kun, who begs to be put in charge of overseeing the school lunch for his class. At least, you’d think it would be, given that he’s prone to saying things like “I live for curry rice” — but maybe the title really belongs to someone else, someone no one would suspect? Apparently there’s a whole series of these books, too. I really liked the peek into the first-grade classroom, and the way the teacher interacted with the students.

くやしっぽ
Kuya the Tail
作:丸井 裕子(まるい ひろこ, Marui Hiroko)
絵:長 新太(ちょう しんた, Chō Shinta)
Level 3 本, 77 pages, 1,400 words (est.)

A tanuki’s tail is fed up with being attached to such a boring tanuki, who never does anything except go fishing and bites it whenever it complains. But it makes its escape when its owner accidentally shuts the door on it, then it recruits a wolf’s tail so they can live the unattached tail dream lifestyle together. But can the tails of two such different animals get along? しっぽ (shippo) is “tail,” and I wonder if くやしっぽ (kuyashippo) is a pun of some sort — I’ll ask one of my friends and report back.

おにいちゃん
Big Brother
作:後藤 竜二(ごとう りゅうじ, Gotō Ryūji)
絵:小泉 るみ子(こいずみ るみこ, Koizumi Rumiko)
Level 3 本, 63 pages, 550 words (est.)

Kōsuke’s little sister never calls him “big brother,” just always by his name, and then she goes and gets him in trouble with their mom. So what’s a guy to do but run away from his home? Luckily he’s got a special hideout all prepared… This same author also wrote 1ねん1くみ1ばんくいしんぼう, but this one is much shorter and simpler.

おにのめん(落語絵本)
The Demon Mask (Rakugo Picture Book)
作/絵:川端 誠(かわばた まこと, Kawabata Makoto)
Level 3絵本, 24 pages, 700 words (est.)

Books with a lot of dialect are just the worst for someone like me. I go from thinking I’m getting to some level of competency to feeling happy to have figured out that おかん means “Mom.” But if you do like dialect, there’s a whole series of these rakugo picture books, and the illustrations are awfully cute. In this one, a girl working as an apprentice at a big store has a mask that looks just like her mother back home, but someone switches it out with a demon mask as a prank.

うたのすきなかえるくん
The Frog Who Loved To Sing
作/絵:加古 里子(かこ さとし, Kako Satoshi)
Level 3 本, 71 pages, 1,700 words (est.)

Kaeru-kun’s beloved Kaeru-chan is sick, and he can’t make enough money for food and medicine just by singing and playing his guitar on the street, so he finds a string of odd jobs unil he gets himself mixed up with some sort of froggie yakuza group. I may have been a little bored until I got to that part, but all of a sudden I was interested again… There are a lot of books that would be improved with the addition of a froggie yakuza group.

にんじんぎらいのうさこさん
The Carrot-Hating Bunny
作:垣内 磯子(かきうち いそこ Kakiuchi Isoko)
絵:松成 真理子(まつなり まりこ, Matsunari Mariko)
Level 3 本, 101 pages, 3,400 words (est.)

Rather a hefty little book for level 3, and kind of meandering, but quite sweet. A bear wants to find work as a dentist, but somehow the area’s bunnies, squirrels and so on get queasy at the idea of a big bear poking around in their teeth and business is nonexistent. He hears about a bunny called Usako who hates carrots and only eats chocolate, and wants to do her the favor of taking care of her no-doubt horrendous teeth, but none of his plots to get her through the door work at all…

盲導犬アンドリューの一日
A Day In The Life of Andrew The Guide Dog
作:松井 進(まつい すすむ, Matsui Susumu)
絵:鈴木 びんこ(すずき びんこ, Suzuki Binko)
Level 3 絵本, 27 pages, 2,400 words (est.)

My third book narrated by a dog — I really do need to find more! I didn’t know the ins and outs of how guide dogs work for their owners, so it was educational for me as well. Maybe it’s a little naive, but I was surprised that people with guide dogs can be refused service in Japanese hotels and restaurants.

カレーライスおかわり!
More Curry Rice, Please!
作/絵:土田 義晴(つちだ よしはる, Tsuchida Yoshiharu)
Level 3 本, 77 pages, 900 words (est.)

This was another meandering little level 3 book about cooking lots of curry rice for the other animals working to take in the rice harvest. I’m such a sucker for books about animals cooking, and this book made me want to try to make fried eggplant and tomato curry myself, even though I’m generally relatively indifferent to eggplant.

ひみつたんていワンダーモール とめろ!せきゆパニック
Secret Sleuth Wonder Mole: Stop Right There! Oil Panic
作/絵:はら ひろあき & バースディ (Hara Hiroaki and the members of Birthday)
Level 3 絵本, 80 pages, 2,400 words (est.)

This is another Zorori-style book that’s partly prose and partly presented manga-style; if you liked the Zorori series, these might be worth a try too. There’s a modest set of four in the series, but they have the disadvantage of not being in stock at Kinokuniya at the moment. (They also have the disadvantage of not starring Zorori, but so do a lot of books.) In this one, Mogi (the “wonder mole” of the title) uncovers a plot to control the world’s oil.

ピエロのおくりもの
The Clown’s Gift
作:おのでら やえ(Onodera Yae)
絵:木村 智美(きむら さとみ, Kimura Satomi)
Level 3 本, 79 pages, 1,800 words (est.)

For his birthday, Takeshi gets a toy clown holding a violin who plays music if you wind him up. As it happens, Takeshi longs to learn how to play the violin, but he’s too ashamed to ask his parents to let him learn something like that because all of his friends are into baseball, soccer and so on. But the toy clown gives him the courage to follow his dream… A very sweet little book, and surprisingly, although it’s got several marks of low-level 3 books (large text, spaces between words, almost no kanji), it has almost no pictures.

キンギョのてんこうせい
The Transfer Student Goldfish
作:阿部 夏丸(あべ なつまる, Abe Natsumaru)
絵:村上 康成(むらかみ やすなり, Murakami Yasunari)
Level 3 本, 77 pages, 1,500 words (est.)

The loach (for future reference: 泥鰌) Dojio is the outcast of Donut Pond, and he prays that he can make just one friend. Then, a goldfish comes splashing down from the sky… But will she want to be friends with him, or will she prefer all the other fish that make fun of him? I thought I knew where this one was going, and I so didn’t. It’s a little refreshing to read a kids’ book where the moral of the story isn’t “It’s good to fit in and make friends with everyone” but something more like “Seriously, screw all those jerks.”

“大きな家”を見てごらん!
Come See The “Big House!”
Level 3 本, 63 pages, 1,300 words (est.)
The “Big House” is a retirement home, a cheery and active one in the middle of town with kids coming to visit. Its founder created it because of a story he heard when he was a young boy, told to him by an old man about the time when he was a young boy and found his grandma in a disturbing, bleak retirement home.

やまだまやだあっ!
I’m Maya Yamada!
作:杉本 深由起(すぎもと みゆき, Sugimoto Miyuki)
絵:長谷川 知子(はせがわ ともこ, Hasegawa Tomoko)
Level 3 本, 48 pages, 1,700 words (est.)

I’m disappointed there’s not a whole series about this little chatterbox kid with the palindrome name (when written with the last name first, that is), because I would totally read them. It’s kind of like the book about the biggest glutton in class (of which there is a series, which I’d rather like to read, illustrated by the same person incidentally) — the inner lives of first graders are really kind of fun.

なんでもぽい!
Throw It All Away!
作:山中 恒(やまなか ひさし, Yamanaka Hisashi)
絵:赤坂 三好(あかさか みよし, Akasaka Miyoshi)
Level 3 本, 48 pages, 1,200 words (est.)

If I didn’t think of this one as “whimsical” I would have to think of it as “portrait of a budding sociopath,” so I choose to go with “whimsical.” Mariko wishes her annoying mom and brother would just go away, along with all of her toys that she’s being forced to clean up; as it happens, she finds a way to get everything she wants.

かいけつゾロリ たべるぜ!大ぐいせんしゅけん
Incredible Zorori: Eat Up! The Speed Eating Championship
作/絵:原 ゆたか(はら ゆたか, Hara Yutaka)
Level 3 絵本, 103 pages, 4,000 words (est.)

Another Zorori book♪ This one seemed more difficult to me than the previous one, though, and definitely more difficult than most level 3 books — lots of words I didn’t know, and more words in general. In any case, if anyone was wondering just how Zorori and the flunkies got as fat as we saw them in “Incredible Zorori: I’m Going To Slim Down! The Great Diet Strategy,” well, now we have an answer: massive amounts of curry, ramen, udon and so on. By the way, how many spicy food items can you identify in this picture? My score is 20/24. (My husband says I frequently make that face when I’m cooking, too. What can I say, I like adding spices to things.)

かいけつゾロリ カレーvs.ちょうのうりょく
Incredible Zorori: Curry vs. ESP
作/絵:原 ゆたか(はら ゆたか, Hara Yutaka)
Level 3 絵本, 107 pages, 4,000 words (est.)

More good times with my favorite trickster fox in the whole world♪ Zorori somehow acquires the ability to bend spoons just by saying “I want to eat curry!” (I’m not sure if there is a reason for this that I missed somehow, or this kind of thing just happens in his world); he joins forces with three kids, each with their own psychic power, in order to find out the secrets of a curry factory that just opened nearby.

わらいボール
The Laughter Ball
作:赤羽じゅんこ(あかはねじゅんこ, Akahane Junko)
絵:岡本順(おかもとじゅん Okamoto Jun)
Level 3 本, 77 pages, 1,300 words (est.)

When Yūya, looking for some equipment for gym class, comes across a bit of graffiti depicting a ninja, she comes to life and gives him the task of collecting people’s laughter for her; she’s spent so much time training that she’s forgotten how to have fun.

やまねこようちえん
Wildcat Kindergarten
作:那須田 淳(なすだ じゅん, Nasuda Jun)
絵:武田 美穂(たけだ みほ, Takeda Miho)
Level 3 本, 79 pages, 1,400 words (est.)

Sakura doesn’t like going to kindergarten, but when her cat tells her about the kindergarten he has to go to, Wildcat Kindergarten, she’s curious about it, so they go together early one morning to learn all the things necessary to make kittens into proper cats.

やどかりどんのやどさがし
Don The Hermit Crab Finds A New Shell
作:大島まや(おおしままや, Ōshima Maya)
絵:高部晴市(たかべせいいち, Takabe Seiichi)
Level 3, 77 pages, 1,700 words (est.)

Don’s old shell is getting tiresome, so off he goes to find a new one; he comes across a turtle shell (still occupied by a turtle), a glass bottle, a shell too big for one hermit crab and other possible houses.

きんぎょひめ
The Goldfish Princess
作:とだかずよ(Toda Kazuyo)
絵:おぐまこうじ(Oguma Kōji)
Level 3 本, 64 pages, 2,500 words (est.)

A sweet, curiously disjointed little book about a goldfish who becomes a human girl. It’s a little longer than a lot of my level 3 books, and very cheerful, something like a series of animated shorts in book form ; it merrily skips from episode to episode, and I’m reading along and thinking “Hey, I wanted to know what happened next!”

This is an incomplete list of all the Level 3 books available from the Tacoma Public Library; it’ll be updated as I keep reading them.

From Extensive Reading in Japanese, the definition of a Level 3 book:

Level 3: Kana and kanji are mixed, but the book is mainly written in hiragana. Furigana is provided for any kanji in the text. The content is not only fiction, but may also contain facts or accounts of some natural phenomena. Pictures are the main feature of the book. Japanese native readers would be six to ten years old.

I’ve added Amazon links for the benefit of having title images and just in case anyone wants to subsidize my reading, but if you’re interested in ordering any of these, I’d also recommend you look them up on Kinokuniya’s website and compare shipping costs. Also, all title translations are my own unless otherwise indicated, names are family name first, then given name, and 作 and 絵 mean “author” and “illustrator,” respectively.

しまうまのしごとさがし
The Zebra’s Job Hunt
作/絵 トビイ ルツ(Tobii Rutsu)
Level 3 絵本, 95 pages, 1,200 words (est.)

I was really charmed by this book, which tells the story of a young zebra wondering what he should be when he grows up. Initially he wants to be a black panther spy, but his friends point out that his stripes would make that a little difficult, so he sets out to the big city and interviews bakers, interior designers, a scholar of animal behavior (the Lion, who spent his time as the king of beasts observing the lives of other creatures) and a striped traffic crossing. This is a prequel to a previous book, どうぶつびょういん (Animal Hospital); the library doesn’t have it, but it appears that our zebra eventually became a doctor. (I was glad to figure this out, because I was wondering if he ever found a job he liked, then I saw the other book on the dust jacket and wondered about the connection. I couldn’t really tell if this zebra was the son of the doctor zebra in the other book or if the zebra became the doctor until I looked up the other book online.)

わにのニニくんのゆめ
The Dream of Nini-kun the Crocodile
作:角野 栄子 (かどの えいこ, Kadono Eiko)
絵:にしかわ おさむ(Nishikawa Osamu)
Level 3 本, 64 pages, 1,200 words (est.)

And just what is Nini-kun’s dream? Perhaps you can guess from the cover. This business of having a crocodile walking around the zoo dressed in human clothing causes a few problems for the beleaguered zookeeper… (Not in terms of children eaten – no, the other animals get jealous.)

子ザルのいちねん
A Year in the Life of a Baby Monkey
作/写真:福田 幸広(ふくだ ゆきひろ, Fukuda Yukihiro)
Level 3 絵本, 56 pages, 500 words (est.)

I’ll spare you the suspense: as it happens, a year in the life of a baby monkey is extraordinarily cute. Playing with their buddies, chilling in onsens… it all looks pretty sweet! There are also a couple of pages at the end with more detailed information on monkeys, as well as how not to act when you go see them. (They’re not included in the word count; I estimate those couple of pages tack on another 750 words, and they’re about level 4 difficulty.)

かいけつゾロリ やせるぜ!ダイエット大さくせん
Incredible Zorori: I’m Going To Slim Down! The Great Diet Strategy
作/絵:原 ゆたか(はら ゆたか, Hara Yutaka)
Level 3 本, 103 pages, 3,000 words (rough estimate)

Since this is part of a larger series that I thought would be particularly useful to extensive readers, I gave it its own review. To sum it up in a sentence, it’s a playful adventure story about Zorori and his followers Ishishi and Noshishi, following their efforts first to lose weight, then to deliver a set of diet gadgets to a birthday party. I really enjoyed it, and haven’t ruled out that 44-book series yet…

おひめさまパンダになる?
Will You Become A Panda, Princess?
作:まだらめ 三保(まだらめ みほ, Madarame Miho)
絵:国井 節(くにい せつ, Kunii Setsu)
Level 3 本, 88 pages, 1,000 words (est.)

I originally classified this one (and some others) as level 2 books because there’s pictures on every page, almost no kanji, large text and spaced words but was uneasy with that because of the length, so I switched it to level 3. If you wanted to buy some fairly easy level 3 books that would stand up to re-reading (assuming you have a high tolerance for princesses) it might be worth investigating this series; there’s eleven other books about the same character listed in the back flap. In this one, the princess springs her panda friend from the zoo and takes him to Panda Country, running into pirates on the way. The art reminds me of those scary black and white 1930s cartoons.

くんくまくんとおやすみなさい
Goodnight, Kunkuma-kun
作:今村 葦子(いまむら あしこ, Imamura Ashiko)
絵:菊池 恭子(きくち きょうこ, Kikuchi Kyōko)
Level 3 本, 63 pages, 1,600 words (est.)

This is another one that has a lot in common with level 2 books, but is long enough to make it into level 3; it even has three separate stories about Kunkuma-kun and his family, the text isn’t huge and it’s part of a larger series. The content was cute, but didn’t make a huge impression on my mind — I guess I am not all that much on teddy bears, somehow.

こまじょちゃんとあなぼっこ
The Little Witch and Bokko the Digger
作:越水 利江子(こしみず りえこ, Koshimizu Rieko)
絵:山田 花菜(やまだ かな, Yamada Kana)
Level 3 本, 79 pages, 1,600 words (est.)

This one was another “level 2.5″: that is, a book that has a lot in common with picture books, but is much longer and denser. It’s one of my favorites that I’ve read so far, because it’s got some pretty, figurative language and a silly, engaging story with magic and cats. I might need the other three at some point.