Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Falling into the Dragon's Mouth

Holly Thompson is a treasure for foreigners in Japan.

Having lived in the country for sixteen years, she has the experience of being an outsider and her books, like Orchard and Falling into the Dragon's Mouth bring that to life. When I read one of her novels-in-verse, I am back in my Kagoshima days, trying to use the correct manners and doing my best to understand. I taught in Japan with an American man who had three children attending Japanese schools. I always wondered what life was like for them. This is a book that would have helped them so much.

Falling into the Dragon's Mouth is about Jason Parker, a sixth grader who attends public school and is shunned by his classmates for being different. Jason finds solace in aikido, where everyone starts at the same level and his language difficulties don't matter. Knowing how to do aikido is one thing, and being faced with a pack of bullies is another, especially in a culture where saving face is so important.

Thompson makes Jason's loneliness palpable and captures so many small parts of daily life. I am eager to track down Thompson's other books to be brought back to my Japanese days. I hope that every international school in Japan gets a copy for their library.

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