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.
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.)
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.)
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.)
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…
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.
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.
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.
- Extensive reading is known as 多読, or tadoku in Japanese. To try it, start with very easy books (ones with no more than two or three unknown words per page), and follow these principles:
1. Don’t look up words in the dictionary while reading.
2. Skip over parts you don’t understand.
3. If you aren’t enjoying one book, toss it aside and get another.
Find something to read!
Hundreds of free books and stories online
Local bookstores and libraries
Buying new and used books online
For more information, read "What Is Extensive Reading?" and "Classification System."
To learn more about Kunihide Sakai, who developed the three principles of tadoku and has worked to popularize it in Japan for years, read this interview with him.
Finally, for more than you ever wanted to know about why I believe extensive reading is worth your time, read my tadoku manifesto.
Superfluous StatsBooks read: 303
Word count (since starting the blog): 380,500
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