ばけばけ町のべろろんまつり
Spooky Town’s Slurpy Festival
作/絵:たごもりのりこ(Tagomori Noriko)
Level 2 絵本, 32 pages, 350 words (est.) ★★★★★
Hardcover

If I was in charge of buying books for a high school or college extensive reading library, I’d get this one and the other two in the series, because everyone would be fighting over the chance to read them! For one thing, the wacky setting is much more fun than stories about happy bears baking cake, and for another thing, it really feels like something you’d never read in English. The human boy Ken and his tiger friend Torako get dressed up in yukata for the Slurpy Festival, a summer Japanese festival held in Spooky Town, a village of monsters and ghosts. There they meet a Jizō statue, Anguri Jizō, who leaves his shrine to join them in playing games, eating enchanted food and dancing. I won’t lie, the illustrations in this book would have terrified me when I was a kid, what with the three-eyed bunny and bakebakeyaki (like takoyaki, but with, shall we say, a side effect) but I think that’s precisely what older readers would enjoy! Its very weirdness helps make it feel less childish and more exotic. I would like to find more books like this one that are distinctively Japanese; it really helps you feel like you’re discovering something through your language studies that’s hidden from all those poor suckers that just speak English.

Difficulty
It’s a level 2 book with no kanji and spaces between words, and there are many pictures that help the reader understand what’s going on, but it’s a little more difficult than most level 2 books at this level because of the playful, conversational language. For example, in the sample text, there are words like いろんな(いろいろな)and でてる(でている)that might be difficult for a student who isn’t used to casual speech. It’s also filled with onomatopoeias; I would have had a better time on my first readthrough if I had known that べろろん meant something like “slurp” and あんぐり meant a gaping or wide open mouth, and more perceptive readers than me might be able to get this sort of thing from the pictures and context. So this book might be good for someone who has been reading long enough to be able to skip over unknown things and still enjoy the text.

Reading Tutor rates it as “normal,” mostly because of the non-standard, conversational language and onomatopoeias. It has no kanji.

Sample text (two pages of text)
「わあっ! いろんな おみせがでてるぞ」
あんぐりじぞうも ついてきちゃった!
「いちねんぶん あそばなくっちゃ、ぺろり!」
まずは ひとまわり。
「ねぇねぇ、しっぽつりだって」
「やってみる?」
だれが じょうずに つれるかなぁ?

How to get it
To get it from Kinokuniya at the time I write this, you would have to special order it for ¥1,300 (about $16 at the time of this writing) plus tax and shipping. (However, another one of the books is in store, if you don’t want to deal with special ordering.) It’s on Amazon too, for ¥1,365, or less if used; as always, don’t forget the high cost of shipping if you’re outside Japan. It’s also on YesAsia for $23.99. You can also look it up on WorldCat to see if it’s at a nearby library. (I got it from the Seattle library.)

Don’t forget to check out the other books in the series, “Moving to Spooky Town” and “The Spooky Town Burglar.”

 

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