Kamishibai Man

Kamishibai Man

5.0 3
by Allen Say

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The Kamishibai man used to ride his bicycle into town where he would tell stories to the children and sell them candy, but gradually, fewer and fewer children came running at the sound of his clappers. They were all watching their new televisions instead. Finally, only one boy remained, and he had no money for candy. Years later, the Kamishibai man and his wife


The Kamishibai man used to ride his bicycle into town where he would tell stories to the children and sell them candy, but gradually, fewer and fewer children came running at the sound of his clappers. They were all watching their new televisions instead. Finally, only one boy remained, and he had no money for candy. Years later, the Kamishibai man and his wife made another batch of candy, and he pedaled into town to tell one more story—his own. When he comes out of the reverie of his memories, he looks around to see he is surrounded by familiar faces—the children he used to entertain have returned, all grown up and more eager than ever to listen to his delightful tales.

Using two very different yet remarkable styles of art, Allen Say tells a tale within a tale, transporting readers seamlessly to the Japan of his memories.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Say's gift is to multiply themes without struggling under their weight. . . . His artistry and power of invention are as strong as ever, and so will be his readers' enthusiasm." —Publishers Weekly, starred Publishers Weekly, Starred

"The quietly dramatic, beautifully evocative, tale contains a cliffhanger of its own, along with exquisite art in the style of Kamishibai picture cards that will attract even the most jaded kid away from the TV screen to enjoy a good, good book."—Booklist, starred Booklist, ALA, Starred Review

"Say's paintings are lovely: eloquent characterizations, evocative landscapes, and, for the memory sequence, a more freely drawn style that recalls the vanished art form he celebrates." —Horn Book Horn Book

Publishers Weekly
Caldecott-winner Say (Grandfather's Journey) has often written about children adrift between the cultures of East and West. Here, he imagines an old man straddling past and present. The kamishibai man of pre-war Japan brought to neighborhood children cliff-hanger tales, storyboard paintings and homemade sweets. Say's retired kamishibai man-lean and spare, with a face full of kindness-decides one day to return to his old route, familiar landmarks of the city having disappeared under a blanket of asphalt. This time, he tells a new story: his own. "Ah, yes, I can see you now, all your bright faces," he remembers, "clasping coins in your little hands... Patience, everyone! You'll get your sweets." When television arrived, he recalls, his once-eager listeners disappeared, too. "One day a little girl poked her head out the window and shushed me." As he talks, and passersby realize who he is, a great crowd gathers around him-"We grew up with your stories!" "Tell us 'Little One Inch' again!" Say's gift is to multiply themes without struggling under their weight. Aging, cultural change, the way humans seem to lose warmth with technological advances-he gestures toward all of these while keeping the lens tightly focused on the kamishibai man. Readers who worry that Say may be thinking about the fate of his own career should be reassured; his artistry and power of invention are as strong as ever, and so will be his readers' enthusiasm. Ages 4-8. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
In Japan, a Kamishibai man is one who travels around telling stories and handing out candy to children. Jiichan is such a storyteller and the story opens with him explaining to his friend how the world has changed. On his daily route, he reminisces about the times when he had crowds of children eager to hear his stories and eat his candy. He remembers telling the story of "The Peach Boy" and "The Old Man who Made Cherry Trees Bloom." He sits on a park bench and remembers the lines of clapping children asking for more. Time moves on and television takes the place of stories and become the main entertainment for children. This saddens Jiichan and he wishes he could still be a Kamishibai man. He does not understand how children can like blurry pictures instead of beautiful paintings. He questions his talents and what he has done with his life. He remembers a little boy whose favorite story was "Little One Inch." As Jiichan raises his head, that boy stands before him as a grown man. Others come and say they grew up with his stories and beg him to tell them the stories again right there, right then. Kamishibai man knows he will be a storyteller forever. What a wonderful story! The illustrations are simply perfect and capture the eloquence of the story. A superb book and great for reading aloud. 2006, Houghton Mifflin Company, Ages 6 up.
—Kathie M. Josephs
School Library Journal
Gr 1-5-An elderly kamishibai (paper theater) man decides to return to the city and spend the day on his former rounds. His wife makes candies for him, just as in the past, and he sets off on his bicycle. Things have changed-there's traffic with honking horns and he wonders, "Who needs to buy so many things and eat so many different foods?" when he sees the shops and restaurants replacing beautiful trees that have been cut. He sets up his theater and begins to tell his personal story of being a kamishibai man in a flashback sequence. Soon he is surrounded by adults who remember him and his stories from their youth. Ironically, that night he is featured on the news on television-the very technology that replaced him. Say's distinctive style and facial expressions are especially touching. A foreword gives readers a glimpse of the importance of the kamishibai man in the author's early life, and an afterword provides a historical look at the forgotten art form. The power of the story and the importance of the storyteller are felt in this nostalgic piece that makes readers think about "progress." Those interested in storytelling and theater will be especially impressed with this offering, but it will have broad appeal.-Helen Foster James, University of California at San Diego Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Kamishibai means "paper theater" in Japanese, and when Caldecott artist Say was a boy in Japan in the 1940s, a "kamishibai man" on a bicycle used to sell sweets and tell serial tales of heroes and heroines, using picture cards and a wooden stage. This nostalgic story begins when Grandpa, once a kamishibai man, gets a hankering to resurrect his show. Unfortunately, it's been so long he finds himself in an unrecognizable city with tall buildings and rude drivers. Dismayed, he parks his bike in a vacant lot and begins to recount not the beloved "Peach Boy," but his own story of how his show was eventually replaced by television (initially referred to as denki, or electric kamishibai!). Soon enough, Grandpa's surrounded by a crowd of adults who remember him from their childhood, and, ironically, he ends up on the evening news. Say effectively incorporates two illustration styles here-lovely soft watercolors and a more cartoonish style for flashbacks to the heyday of kamishibai. A fascinating window on a bygone art form. (foreword, afterword) (Picture book. 6-10)

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.75(w) x 10.75(h) x 0.36(d)
AD690L (what's this?)
Age Range:
5 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Allen Say was born in Yokohama, Japan, in 1937. He dreamed of becoming a cartoonist from the age of six, and, at age twelve, apprenticed himself to his favorite cartoonist, Noro Shinpei. For the next four years, Say learned to draw and paint under the direction of Noro, who has remained Say's mentor. Say illustrated his first children's book—published in 1972—in a photo studio between shooting assignments. For years, Say continued writing and illustrating children's books on a part-time basis. But in 1987, while illustrating THE BOY OF THE THREE-YEAR NAP (Caldecott Honor Medal), he recaptured the joy he had known as a boy working in his master's studio. It was then that Say decided to make a full commitment to doing what he loves best: writing and illustrating children's books. Since then, he has written and illustrated many books, including TREE OF CRANES and GRANDFATHER'S JOURNEY, winner of the 1994 Caldecott Medal. He is a full-time writer and illustrator living in Portland, Oregon.

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Kamishibai Man 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the best book he has writen. (Thats my opion)
Guest More than 1 year ago
Like all Allen Say's art, the illustrations are exquisite, and the story is charming. Children nowadays find their world fun with having televisions and computers in their homes. This story is like a bit of history for them. It leads them through the good times when Japanese children eagerly anticipated the stories of the kamishibai man, and the heaviness felt by the storyteller because of the change of an era. I too grew up in a place where people didn't have televisions in their homes. Only Mrs. Chan two doors away owned a television. Every Saturday afternoon, Mrs. Chan would let us kids on the block in to watch two shows in her house. For me and the other children, it was like having a festival every weekend. Or, as I later learned to say, ¿It¿s like have Christmas every Saturday.¿ This story brought me back some wonderful childhood memories. This is a great book for children and adults to share and enjoy!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is absolutely amazing. It's like walking through a museum in many ways -- the author seamlessly transports us back to the Japan of his childhood in the 1940s. In the introduction, Allen Say writes, 'When I think of my childhood in Japan, I think of kamishibai. It means paper theater.' Say was born in Yokohama in 1937, into a very different Japan than what exists now. Back in the days where people didn't have televisions in their homes, children would eagerly anticipate listening to the kamishibai man's stories. 'Clack! Clack!' He would beat his wooden blocks together until he'd drawn a crowd of listeners. His stories were cliffhangers, ending with 'to be continued.' So the children would return the next day to hear what happened next. In this book, an old man who has retired to the countryside remembers his days of being a kamishibai man. 'I've been thinking how much I miss going on my rounds,' he says to his elderly wife. So, she makes him some candies, and he rides his bike back into the city, humming along the way (until he reaches the urban metropolis). He decides to set up his wooden theater in the middle of the concrete city and share the journey of his career. Thus begins a story within a story, and Say changes his style of artwork to preserve the style of the kamishibai man's illustrated cards. The facial expressions in the artwork are stunning. You have to look at each picture carefully to notice all the exquisite details. This would be a great addition to school libraries and classrooms -- teachers will love to read it out loud because it's captivating and full of dialogue.