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.
Lisabet and the Snowy Woods
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).
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.)
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.
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.
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?
Messages from the Forest #2 (official title)
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.
- 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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