Currently viewing the tag: "level 4"

This is an incomplete list of all the Level 4 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 4 book:

Level 4: Full texts with kanji and kana. Most kanji have furigana. The content is much richer and the length of a story could go over several volumes, but ample pictures help the readers. Most film comics are at this level. Japanese native readers would be eight to twelve 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.

雪の森のリサベット
Lisabet and the Snowy Woods
作:アストリッド・リンドグレーン(Astrid Lindgren)
絵:イロン・ヴィークランド(Ilon Wikland)
Level 4 本, 56 pages, 2,100 words (est.)

Astrid Lindgren also wrote the Pippi Longstocking series which I loved as a kid, so I snapped it up. Lisabet and Alva, her family’s maid, go to buy Christmas presents, and while Lisabet is waiting outside for Alva to buy her present, she gets the idea to ride on the back of a passing sleigh from a boy she knows. But the sleigh goes much further than she expected it would… It’s not nearly as lighthearted as the Pippi Longstocking books, but it’s lyrical and heartwarming. Incidentally, the original title is “Titta, Madicken, det snöar” (translated by one blogger as “Look, Madicken, it’s snowing!”); Madicken is Lisabet’s older sister, and although it’s not as if she has no role in the story, Lisabet’s adventure is the most compelling part, so I rather prefer the Japanese title (for once).

グッバイ!グランパ
Goodbye, Grandpa!
作:服部 千春(はっとり ちはる, Hattori Chiharu)
絵:鈴木 修一(すずき しゅういち, Suzuki Shūichi)
Level 4 本, 79 pages, 5,000 words (est.)

One night Sayaka’s grandfather, who passed away long before she was born, starts appearing in her bedridden grandmother’s room, and for some reason, she’s the only one who can see him. Worse still, he insists on following her around… This was one of the more complicated books I’ve read since I started this project, and I loved it, I read it in a night. Apparently it won a contest for children’s science fiction books, as well. By the way, this book marked something of a personal triumph for me: it’s the first time one character has used a word, another character has asked for a definition and I didn’t need to have it explained too. (The word in question was ハイカラ.)

保健室のクッキー
Cookie, the Nurse’s Office Dog
作:上条 さなえ(かみじょう さなえ, Kamijō Sanae)
絵:相澤 るつ子(あいざわ るつこ, Aizawa Rutsuko)
Level 4 本, 96 pages, 4,500 words (est.)

When Cookie, a Chihuahua who lives at an animal hospital, bites two people to try to avoid having his ears cleaned and his nails trimmed, his name is mud — and the only reasonable thing to do is to send him to work at a school nurse’s office and hope he changes his wicked ways. I’m a little baffled by the logic there, but it all works out, and it’s a really fun little book. Second one I’ve read that was narrated by a dog — I could probably start a collection. By the way, I didn’t know that the device I only know as the “Cone of Shame” is called an Elizabethan collar in English as well, so I cracked up when I figured out what エリザベスカラー referred to.

わんわん探偵団
The Doggie Detective Agency
作:杉山 亮 (すぎやま あきら) 
絵:廣川 沙映子(ひらかわ さえこ)
Level 4 本, 142 pages, 4,000 words (est.)

I was totally charmed by this book, and since it’s part of a larger series I might give it its own write-up at some point. It’s about a dog trainer named Spitz (that is, スピッツ; his t-shirt says “Spit’s Dog Training” but I choose to view it as an error, because he’s never gonna get the girl with a name like Spit), his next-door neighbor Miss Hanae, and all the dogs he takes care of; together, they fight crime! There’s three separate short stories, with a bit of information about various dog breeds at the end of each one.

ティアラちゃんのアン・ドゥ・トロワ 3
Tiara’s un, deux, trois (3)
作:しめの ゆき(Shimeno Yuki)
絵:小野 恵理(おの えり, Ono Eri)
Level 4 本, 71 pages, 3,000 words (est.)

Tiara is a bunny taking ballet classes; this is a slow-paced book about her interactions with her classmates and their struggles with ballet and friendship. This is the third book in the series, and although the previous books were summarized, it did make the book feel less compelling; if you happen to like ballet and/or cute animals, though, it might be a good one to order and start from the beginning. I’ve got to say, the dancing animal I most wanted to read about was the alligator Simone, who had no speaking lines but appears in some of the illustrations. There’s all these lithe, adorable gazelles, bunnies, lambs and so on, and then you have a grim-looking alligator with little stubby arms and a tutu. I’d read it, wouldn’t you?

森からのてがみ 2
Messages from the Forest #2 (official title)
文:ニコライ・スラトコフ(Nikolai Sladkov)
訳:松谷 さやか(まつや さやか, Matsuya Sayaka)
絵:あべ 弘士(あべ ひろし, Abe Hiroshi)
Level 4 本, 56 pages, 1,800 words (est.)

Nikolai Sladkov was a naturalist writer, so these little stories about animals are a cut above all of the other animal books I’ve been reading: they feel slightly like fables, and there’s none of this “oh, how nice, Usako-chan and Kuma-kun are playing together” business. I class it as a Level 4 book because it uses more kanji, a smaller font and has no spaces between words, but it’s fairly short and split into three stories, and I think it and the other two books in the series would be a good choice for my fantasy extensive reading library that, as of yet, I only carry around in my head.

1分で読める江戸の笑い話(落語を生んだ江戸の笑い話・こわい話1)
Funny Stories from Edo You Can Read In One Minute (Edo’s Funny and Scary Stories That Produced Rakugo, #1)
作 (Writer):加納 一郎(かのう いちろう, Kanō Ichirō)
絵 (Illustrator):中沢 正人(なかざわ まさと, Nakazawa Masato)
Level 4 本, 88 pages, 4,500 words (est.) ★★★★★
Hardcover

Forgive me if this is all familiar to you, but Edo (江戸) is Tokyo’s former name. It also lends its name to the Edo Period (江戸時代, 1603 ~ 1868), when political power was moved from Kyoto to Edo, turning an insignificant village with a castle in it into Japan’s major financial and cultural center. So even if all you know of rakugo (落語, traditional comic stories) is that one chapter in “Dave Barry Does Japan,” the 江戸 in the title is a clue that these stories are going to involve a lot of samurai, stingy rich guys, wise-cracking commoners and other staples of period drama.

There’s 41 stories, each two pages long and illustrated by a small picture, and each story is essentially a long joke. This is a great format for a book used in extensive reading, because if you’ve understood the story you’ll get the joke, if you don’t get the joke the essential clues are somewhere in those two pages, and if you still don’t understand, just go on to the next story! The only story I knew before reading the book was まんじゅうこわい (A Fear of Manjū), so they were all fresh to me and getting the joke always seemed like an accomplishment. Many of the jokes rely on understated, dry humor (which is like catnip to me) and they don’t generally need any outside knowledge to understand; the occasional references to other stories or concepts are usually explained in a footnote.

With so many books out there I covet I hesitate to actually buy an easy book, because once I’ve read it once or twice I get bored with it and don’t feel like there’s much value in reading it again, but this one combines the benefits of being at a low enough level that I actually can read the stories in one minute with having quite a lot of content to enjoy and reread. My hope is to collect the whole series, on the assumption that they’re all about the same level and draw from a common pool of vocabulary, but even just this one would be a fantastic addition to an extensive reading collection.

Difficulty
According to Hitosugi and Day’s classification system, I’d give it a 4. (I wouldn’t call the pictures “ample” exactly, but for some of the stories that baffled me at first they were a great help.) Kanji that are taught in first and second grade do not have furigana, but all other kanji do, so it is probably targeted to about that reading level.

Running a representative story through Reading Tutor, there were 39 different kanji used; 2 of them (5.1%) were JLPT level 1, 16 (41%) were JLPT level 2, 11 (28%) were JLPT level 3 and 10 (25.6%) were JLPT level 4. Based on the vocabulary, Reading Tutor rated it as “easy.”

There is some mild dialect going on in the dialogue; if you can handle the odd ない to ねえ shift, you’ll be OK. Also, there’s some Edo-period vocabulary defined at the bottom of each page it appears on.

Sample text
身投げ
昔、江戸の大きな橋には、番人がいて通行料を取る所がありました。
「近ごろ、この橋から身を投げる者が毎晩いるということだ。よく、見張っていろ。」
#身を投げる 水の中などに飛びこんで、自殺すること。
と、役人に言われて、橋番のおじいさん、夜もねないで見張っています。
すると、一人の若いむすめがやって来て、橋の真ん中に立ち止まり、じっと暗い川の流れを見つめています。
「あのむすめ、きっと川へ飛びこむつもりにちがいねえ。」
おじいさん、あわてて走り寄り、むすめをつかめました。
「これ、ここから毎晩身を投げるのはおまえだろう。」

How to get it
I bought mine at the Seattle Kinokuniya; you can order it online from them for $29.60 plus shipping if they still have it in stock.
It’s also available from Amazon; at the moment it’s ¥1,680 ($20.74 as of today) plus shipping. If you’re outside Japan, Amazon.co.jp’s shipping costs are most likely a rather weightier matter than Kinokuniya’s shipping costs, so keep that in mind.

I have a weakness for physical books, but if you’d like to try some Edo-period stories yourself without going to the trouble of finding this collection, you can read plenty at 福娘童話集 きょうの江戸小話 (Hukumusume’s Fairy Tale Collection: Today’s Story from Edo).

This is an incomplete list of all the Level 4 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 4 book:

Level 4: Full texts with kanji and kana. Most kanji have furigana. The content is much richer and the length of a story could go over several volumes, but ample pictures help the readers. Most film comics are at this level. Japanese native readers would be eight to twelve 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.

鉄のキリンの海わたり
The Iron Giraffe’s Sea Crossing
作:あさば みゆき
絵:石崎 正次(いしさき しょうじ)
Level 4 絵本, 32 pages, 1,100 words (est.)

This story of a crane (the “iron giraffe” of the title) who rescues a little boy from kidnappers and sacrifices himself to bring him back home is a bit of a tearjerker, but I guess everyone’s happy in the end. Becoming a living coral reef is probably less exciting than working in a port, but it is probably just as interesting a way to live — I like to think, at any rate, otherwise I may have trouble sleeping. This one apparently won a children’s book award sponsored by Nissan.

メル友からのメッセージ
Messages from My E-Mail Friend
作:増原 亜紀子(ますはら あきこ, Masuhara Akiko)
絵:内藤 あけみ(ないとう あけみ, Naitō Akemi)
Level 4 本, 62 pages, 2,900 words (est.)

A fourth grader, recently transferred to a new school, has trouble making friends and withdraws to an online bulletin board, where she lies about how great her life is. But when she reads a post by another transfer student who’s only recently been able to make friends, she drops the act and asks for help. They become e-mail friends, and realize they live close enough to each other to meet, but as it turns out, they had a previous connection… Part of it is told in first-person prose, but much of it is told through e-mails between the two girls. It’s the 11th winner of the Firefly Award (ホタル賞), a prize for books with an anti-bullying theme.
It’s hard to say what level this one is; I wouldn’t call the pictures “ample,” but it’s not extremely long or complex. There’s small illustrations every couple of pages that take up maybe a third of the page; it’s nothing like a manga. One caveat: it does have a maddening cliffhanger for an ending.

ぼくはにんじゃのあやし丸
I’m Ayashi-maru, the Ninja
作:広瀬寿子(ひろせ ひさこ, Hirose Hisako)
絵:梶山俊夫(かじやま としお, Kajiyama Toshio)
Level 4 本, 83 pages, 2,800 words (est.)

Kai’s grandpa has an important secret to pass on to him: although Kai’s lost his memories of the past, they’re both ninjas who arrived in the present day through a mysterious cave while trying to save a princess from a burning, beseiged castle. (“Grandpa can’t really tell the difference between reality and those novels he used to write anymore,” Kai’s aunt mentions. “Has he said anything strange to you?” “No,” Kai responds; after all, he thinks, there’s nothing strange about ninjas.)

It started out simply, but around the middle, when Grandpa is talking about the old days, there’s a lot of vocabulary that both Kai and I were having trouble with. Kai asked for definitions, but somewhere along the line his grandpa started getting grumpy at having to explain words like 不甲斐ない, 寸前 and 疲労困憊 and just started glaring until Kai was quiet again — ninjas are not very patient when asked to serve as living dictionaries, apparently. I went back and looked them all up after finishing the book the first time, and that part made much more sense.