多読(たどく) Tadoku Activity (Japanese Graded Readers)
What is Tadoku?
Japanese graded readers are available in East Asian Seminar Room of Van Pelt Library at Penn. Every Japanese course has Tadoku activity throughout the semester. Students are able to enjoy reading the books at their own interest on their own pace. Topics of graded readers are wide-ranged including Japanese culture, Japanese old tales, stories from China, etc. If you are interested in reading books, go to the library to enjoy these sets of graded readers!
Book Review by students
「大豆（だいず）」 (Daizu, “Soybeans”) by Faith Mamaradlo (JPAN 011, Fall 2017)
For the Tadoku exercise, I read the book 大豆, which translates to “soybean” in English. Rather than having an actual plot, the book describes the many applications of the soybean, particularly in Japanese culture. The book is suitable for those wanting to be well acquainted with Japanese customs and cuisine as it goes in-depth with all the uses of soybeans, from describing miso soup to making tofu. The book is also written in simple Japanese with no complex vocabulary and is paired with easy-to-understand illustrations to aid in comprehension, perfect for beginners to the language. All in all, the book offers an appropriate introduction to one of Japan’s main commodities, the soybean.
「タクシー」 (“Taxi”) by Jiawen Qian (JPAN 011, Fall 2017)
During the Tadoku exercise, タクシー was one of the most interesting books I read. The story starts off with a taxi driver picking up a girl on a chilly night. But that’s all I’m going to say about the book because any further information would probably ruin the experience of the story. The book has an interesting twist at the end which is both unexpected and sad. The plot was simple but also well thought-out and the illustrations in the book complements the storyline. Would recommend.
「ごんぎづね」(Gongitsune, “Gon, The Fox”) by Victoria Green (JPAN 111, Fall 2017)
One book that I read for the Tadoku reading exercise was called Gongitsune, and was a story about a fox named Gon. Gon is a very mischievous fox who steals food constantly from the people in the nearby village. One day, he steals an eel from a man named Hyoujuu, who was planning on feeding it to his sick and elderly mother. Through a series of sad events, both Gon and Hyoujuu learn important lessons about goodness and the way that your actions affect others. I found this book to be quite sad, but also very interesting. It reminded me a lot of Aesop’s fables or Hans Christian Anderson stories that I read when I was younger, as lessons about humanity and the darkness of the world lay right under the surface of what initially just seemed to be a children’s story. The art in the book was also very nice. Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to first-year students doing the Tadoku activity.
「ホウイとチャンア」(“Hou Yi and Chang’e”) by Hongyu Zhou (JPAN 111, Fall 2017)
The book I read was called Hou Yi and Chang’e. It was a really good book, and I enjoyed story. The book is about the origins of the Chinese Moon Cake Festival. Long ago, there were ten suns in the sky. The suns caused drought, famine, and death. Thus, in order to save his people, Hou Yi climbed to the top of Kunlun Mountain and shot down 9 of the 10 suns with his bow and arrows. One day, Hou Yi encountered the Lady Queen Mother and received the elixir of immortality from her. The elixir, when taken, would allow one to become an immortal and live in the heavens. Hou Yi gave the elixir to his wife, Chang’e, for safekeeping. One day, a neighbor tried to steal the elixir from Chang’e. In order to protect the elixir, Chang’e drank it. In consequence, she became a Goddess of the Moon. When I was a child, I read the story in Chinese school. It was great to have been able to read the Japanese version of the story.
「一休さん」(Ikkyu) by Anita Yang (JPAN 111, Fall 2017)
During the Tadoku reading exercise, I read the first and second books of Ikkyuusan. The books were about a young boy named Ikkyuu who lives in a temple, with a group of other young boys, training to become a monk. Ikkyuu is a very clever boy who have a peculiar perspective on things and the books go through various skits of when Ikkyuu responded in an unexpected manner that left the other characters speechless. An example of this was when he came across a sign that says “Do not cross the bridge (はし)”, he crossed the bridge anyway. When questioned about why he crossed it, he responded by pointing out that はし in Hiragana can be translated as bridge (橋) or edge (端) and he said he did not cross the はし because he walked on the center of the bridge. I found this skit to be especially interesting because it exposed me to the use of puns in the Japanese language. The other stories in the books are also very quirky, light-hearted and amusing. I would recommend the Ikkyuusan series for second year students looking for some light-hearted reading.