The Japanese Twins (1912) ⭐⭐⭐⭐ by Lucy Fitch Perkins
I read The Japanese Twins by Lucy Fitch Perkins. The book has some cute illustrations, all in black and white, and is illustrated by the author. Lucy Fitch Perkins (July 12, 1865-March 18, 1937) was an American author and illustrator, and this is actually one of her series of 26 books that tell all about different times and cultures such as Dutch, Irish, Puritan, and so on. The Japanese Twins is the second book in this series.
The book is written in one of my favorite styles of writing, common for children’s books in the very early 1900s. This style is the sort that speaks directly to the reader. It’s written in simple English, obviously made for 5, 6, or 7 year olds, with smallish sentences and words as to be easily understood. I love this style, because it gives the idea that you are truly being told a story, and it gives me a cozy, quaint feeling.
This book was published by Houghton Mifflin Company. My copy has a yellowish hardcover, and has ‘Catherine Brewster’ written on the inside cover. There is a page printed in the book that says ‘This Book Belongs To’, and Miss Catherine wrote her name there, too. On page 15, there is a sentence underlined in pencil, which seems to be ‘corrected’ by the owner of the book. The sentence printed describes the beds in the house. It reads ‘It was made of many thick quilts, and the pillow a little block of wood!’ In pencil, the words ‘It was’ is crossed out, and replaced with ‘Japanese beds are’. I thought that was kind of curious and interesting.
The Japanese Twins is a really sweet book about, you guessed it, twins who live in Japan. They are a boy named Taro and a girl named Take (pronounced Tah-kay). They are just five years old, and the book starts out with them welcoming a new baby brother to the family, Bot-Chan. The ‘o’ in his name has a macron above it, so it is pronounced like ‘boat’. There is extreme emphasis on politeness, and the children in the book seem to be perfect in basically every way. The land of Japan is painted as an amazing fairyland, almost to the point where, if one did not know it, they might think that Japan is a made up place.
The book gives a great description of Japanese life at the time, and describes how they go to the temple for the blessing of new baby Bot-Chan, their doings on a rainy day, their first day of school, and the separate birthdays of Take and Taro. Although they are twins, they have different birthdays, because back then Japanese people would celebrate all the boys’ birthdays on one day and all the girls’ birthdays on another. This is where the modern Girl’s Day, celebrated on March 3rd, and Boys Day, (aka Children’s Day) which is celebrated on May 5th, comes from.
I know a bit about Japanese culture, and all of the things that are described in this book are true, and mostly are still in play in Japanese life. It was nice knowing some things and making these connections as I read the book. I think it gave me more enjoyment.
I wanted to give this 5 stars, but the story had one downfall. I grappled with this decision to give it 4 stars, because it’s not the fault of the writer, but of the fact that the girl in the book is taught that she must always obey the males in the family, no matter what, and that girls are basically nothing important at all. Little Take is told that no one has to obey her, even her children, and the only one that will ever listen to her is her daughter-in-law. She is even told that she must obey her brothers, as well. It was sort of heavy on that toward the beginning of the book.
This all being said, I read a review where the reader said that she skipped those parts when reading to her children, but I think that’s folly, because it misses a chance to explain to girls that they are important, that this is a story from long ago, and we don’t accept that sort of thing in today’s culture.
I would definitely recommend this book, because it is charming, sweet, and actually pretty informative as an introduction to traditional Japanese culture. This could open a window of interest in other cultures and lands.