Level 3 Japanese Children’s Books Available from the Seattle Public Library
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Goldfish Princess
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!”
- 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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