About the Holiday
Letters don’t have to be those long missives sent in envelopes with stamps affixed. A note to a friend, a message included in a child’s lunch sack, or a post-it stuck where a co-worker can see it are are all ways to write a few encouraging words to those you love. Today, why not put your thoughts on paper and send or give your letter to someone you’d like to connect with?
Kuma-Kuma Chan’s Home
By Kazue Takahashi
Framed by his window Kuma-Kuma Chan, the little bear, sits at his writing desk penning a letter. It says simply, “How are you? Come visit me soon.” When it is received, Kuma-Kuma Chan’s friend begins the long journey to see him. “I have to ride a train for an hour, take a bus for thirty minutes, then walk for fifteen minutes,” the boy states. From the bus stop, the boy can see the red roof of Kuma-Kuma Chan’s house in the distance, and as he approaches he sees hisfriend waiting outside to welcome him.
The boy has been here before and once more enjoys the routine as “Kuma-Kuma Chan serves bear tea. The first thing he always does is serve bear tea,” the boy explains. It seems that the time between visits has been long, and at first the silences are longer than the conversation. In the quiet the boy watches “the dust floating around in the afternoon sunbeams” and looks “at the books on the shelf,” reading “the titles one by one….” Meanwhile Kuma-Kuma Chan may be having second thoughts about his hospitality. He “gets up and opens the window to let in some fresh air” and checks the expiration date on the bear tea.
By the time Kuma-Kuma Chan serves the rice crackers conversation comes easier. For dinner Kuma-Kuma Chan prepares a salmon dish as always. It is, the boy thinks, his favorite and “perfect for a bear.” After dinner the two watch television and enjoy a mutually favorite snack of chocolate and hot milk. Soon all of the chocolates the boy brought are gone and it is time for him to catch the last bus home.
He slings his backpack over his shoulders and says goodbye to Kuma-Kuma Chan, who invites him to come back soon. Framed in the golden light of his doorway, the little bear waves farewell to his friend as he ventures out into the sapphire blue night.
Kazue Takahashi, a Japanese illustrator and children’s book author, employs kawaii—the quality of being cute and adorable—in creating her quiet, moment-in-time story that focuses on the essence of true friendship. The boy and the little bear are happy simply being together. The details of the day that Takahashi chooses to highlight are ones that we as adults might overlook, but which for children are still new and fascinating: the way Kuma-Kuma Chan’s house “smells slightly of bear,” a self-consciousness on the part of a host, the desire of each party to please the other.
Each right-hand page contains a central image that highlights the spare text presented on the left-hand page. The white space surrounding the illustrations, which are free of all extraneous details, echoes the openness of the storyline. The only two-page illustration spreads come at the beginning of the story, when Kuma-Kuma Chan stands at his door welcoming the boy, and at the end, when the two are saying goodbye, emphasizing the connection of their friendship and perhaps also the distance between them when they are apart. The muted colors and downy texture of the images enhances the sweet charm of Kuma-Kuma Chan, who is no bigger than a thumbprint.
Kuma-Kuma-Chan’s Home would appeal to a varying age-range of children—and even adults. Young children would enjoy discussing the story page-to-page, while older readers would like the quiet respite the book offers. It’s depiction of a one-on-one friendship would be welcomed by introverted children as well. Kuma-Kuma Chan’s Home is a perfect little book to keep on personal library shelves for those times when companionship—and cuteness—is needed.
Ages 3 and up
Museyon, 2016 | ISBN 978-1940842097
World Letter Writing Day Activity
Tea Time Stationery
Today, take a little tea time and write a short letter to a friend, a family member, or a coworker. Print out this Tea Time Stationery and get started!
Picture Book Review