An Award-Winning Book Club for Kids
Shop Now

The Best Japanese Kids Books

Looking for the best Japanese books?
Share this list
Add to list
The Funny Little Woman
Written by Arlene Mosel & illustrated by Blair Lent
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-5

In this Caldecott Medal-winning tale set in Old Japan, a lively little woman who loves to laugh pursues her runaway dumpling—and must outwit the wicked three-eyed oni when she lands in their clutches.

“The pictures are in perfect harmony with the humorous mood of the story. . . . It’s all done with a commendable amount of taste, imagination, and style.”—School Library Journal (starred review)

“A beautifully convincing tale.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Using elements of traditional Japanese art, the illustrator has made marvelously imaginative pictures.”—The Horn Book

“Lent’s pictures are a lively blend of finely detailed, delicate drawings and rip-roaring good humor.”—The Boston Globe

“A good read-aloud with lots of suspense.”—Learning

Awards: ALA Notable Children’s Book Child Study Association Book of the Year The Horn Book Fanfare

Buy book
$7.99
Bookshop
$6.79
Amazon
$5.99
Used $1.26
Prices as of Sep 26
Add to list
Patience, Miyuki
Written by Roxane Marie Galliez & illustrated by Seng Soun Ratanavanh
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-6

Miyuki wakes up early to say good morning to every flower in the garden, but there’s one sleepy flower that still hasn’t bloomed. Miyuki’s grandfather tells her that not every flower blooms at the same time, but she runs around, quickly, quickly, looking for water to wake the flower up. ‘Sometimes, Miyuki, sometimes it is not necessary to run, don’t you know? You must be patient, the journey is a bit long.’

Buy book
$17.95
Bookshop
$15.26
Amazon
$15.29
Used $15.07
Prices as of Sep 26
Add to list
Suki's Kimono
Written by Chieri Uegaki & illustrated by Stephane Jorisch
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

On her first day of first grade, despite the objections of her older sisters, Suki chooses to wear her beloved Japanese kimono to school because it holds special memories of her grandmother’s visit last summer.

Buy book
$8.95
Bookshop
$7.61
Amazon
$8.95
Used $8.95
Prices as of Sep 26
Add to list
Junko Tabei Masters the Mountains
Written by Rebel Girls & illustrated by Montse Galbany
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 7-10

From the world of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls comes the historical novel based on the life of Junko Tabei, the first female climber to summit Mount Everest.

Junko is bad at athletics. Really bad. Other students laugh because they think she is small and weak. Then her teacher takes the class on a trip to a mountain. It’s bigger than any Junko’s ever seen, but she is determined to make it to the top. Ganbatte, her teacher tells her. Do your best

After that first trip, Junko becomes a mountaineer in body and spirit. She climbs snowy mountains, rocky mountains, and even faraway mountains outside of her home country of Japan. She joins clubs and befriends fellow climbers who love the mountains as much as she does. Then, Junko does something that’s never been done before… she becomes the first woman to climb the tallest mountain in the world.

Buy book
$12.99
Bookshop
$11.04
Amazon
$10.99
Used $5.70
Prices as of Sep 26
Add to list
All the Ways Home
Written by Elsie Chapman
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Sometimes, home isn’t where you expect to find it. After losing his mom in a fatal car crash, Kaede Hirano–now living with a grandfather who is more stranger than family–developed anger issues and spent his last year of middle school acting out. Best-friendless and critically in danger repeating the seventh grade, Kaede is given a summer assignment: write an essay about what home means to him, which will be even tougher now that he’s on his way to Japan to reconnect with his estranged father and older half-brother. Still, if there’s a chance Kaede can finally build a new family from an old one, he’s willing to try. But building new relationships isn’t as easy as destroying his old ones, and one last desperate act will change the way Kaede sees everyone–including himself. This is a book about what home means to us—and that there are many different correct answers.

Buy book
$16.99
Bookshop
$14.44
Amazon
$16.99
Used $16.99
Prices as of Sep 26
Add to list
Add to list
Add to list
Add to list
  • Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen - The first book in a new chapter book series featuring a spunky Japanese-American heroine! Eight-year-old Jasmine Toguchi is a flamingo fan, tree climber, and top-notch mess-maker! She’s also tired of her big sister, Sophie, always getting to do things first. For once, Jasmine wishes SHE could do something before Sophie—something special, something different. The New Year approaches, and as the Toguchi family gathers in Los Angeles to celebrate, Jasmine is jealous that her sister gets to help roll mochi balls by hand with the women. Her mom says that Jasmine is still too young to join in, so she hatches a plan to help the men pound the mochi rice instead. Surely her sister has never done THAT before. But pounding mochi is traditionally reserved for boys. And the mochi hammer is heavier than it looks. Can Jasmine build her case and her mochi-making muscles in time for New Year’s Day?

  • The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota's Garden - When the tsunami destroyed Makio’s village, Makio lost his father…and his voice. The entire village is silenced by grief, and the young child’s anger at the ocean grows. Then one day his neighbor, Mr. Hirota, begins a mysterious project—building a phone booth in his garden. At first Makio is puzzled; the phone isn’t connected to anything. It just sits there, unable to ring. But as more and more villagers are drawn to the phone booth, its purpose becomes clear to Makio: the disconnected phone is connecting people to their lost loved ones. Makio calls to the sea to return what it has taken from him and ultimately finds his voice and solace in a phone that carries words on the wind. Inspired by the true story of the wind phone in Otsuchi, Japan, following the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

  • The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks - A pair of mandarin ducks, separated by a cruel lord who wishes to possess the drake for his colorful beauty, reward a compassionate couple who risk their lives to reunite the ducks.

  • First Words - Japanese - Perfect for introducing very young children to the Japanese language, this colourful board book features 12 words to learn – from ‘sun’ and ‘shoes’ to ‘beach’ and ‘bed’. Each word is accompanied by an illustration and pronunciation guide that make the vocabulary easy to learn. From Lonely Planet Kids, First Words Japanese is a great learning resource for families planning a trip or practicing a new language at home. Our dedicated First Words website features a free audio pronunciation guide where you can hear each word spoken out loud.

Add to list
Sora and the Cloud
Written & illustrated by Felicia Hoshino
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-8

A noted children’s artist, Hoshino authors her first picture book, inspired by her own experiences as a mother to her son Sora: a growing boy enjoys the ultimate daydream - to soar like a cloud!

Once a baby, now Sora is a boy who explores the world around him. First crawling and then walking, Sora soon learns to how to climb a tree. Up there a friendly cloud awaits! Hopping aboard, Sora embarks on a fantastic trip.

Curious birds, squealing kites and whispering fireworks whirl by. This wonderful flight of fancy is created in Hoshino’s hallmark style: a unique combination of mixed media creates ethereal environments with subtle shading, and contemplative characters who invoke the innocence of youth.

Also included is a bilingual Japanese translation which highlights how Hoshino shares her heritage with her children and readers.

Buy book
$15.95
Bookshop
$13.56
Amazon
$12.91
Used $2.55
Prices as of Sep 26
Add to list
Katie's Spooky Sleepover
Written by Fran Manushkin & illustrated by Tammy Lyon
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 5-7

Katie’s friends have come for a sleepover, and telling a scary story seems like a good idea–until she has a dream about a monster under her bed, and she wakes up to find her lucky kimono missing.

Buy book
$21.32
Bookshop
$18.12
Amazon
$13.86
Used $13.27
Prices as of Sep 26
Add to list
Where Are You Going? To See My Friend! (English and Japanese Edition)
Written by Kazuo Iwamura & illustrated by Eric Carle
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Legendary author/illustrator Eric Carle pairs with Kazuo Iwamura to create a picture book full of rhyme and repetition, in a question and response format that will delight young readers.

Acclaimed author-illustrator Eric Carle and Japanese artist Kazuo Iwamura have created a unique bilingual book, half in English, half in Japanese, with each half illustrated respectively by Carle and Iwamura. Carle, using his distinctive collage technique, and Iwamura introduce a colorful cast of characters who join one another, one-by-one, on the way to see their friends. The two parts meet in the middle, in a beautiful eight-page gatefold. Here, Carle and Iwamura’s stories and art come together, as the friends finally meet, joining English and Japanese.

Buy book
$19.99
Bookshop
$16.99
Amazon
$19.99
Used $2.12
Prices as of Sep 26
Add to list
The Cat Who Went to Heaven
Written by Elizabeth Coatsworth & illustrated by Raoul Vitale
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

A Newberry Medal Winner

This timeless fable has been a classic since its first publication in 1930, and this beautifully reillustrated edition brings the magic and wonder of the tale to a new generation of readers.

In ancient Japan, a struggling artist is angered when his housekeeper brings home a tiny white cat he can barely afford to feed. But when the village’s head priest commissions a painting of the Buddha for a healthy sum, the artist softens toward the animal he believes has brought him luck.

According to legend, the proud and haughty cat was denied the Buddha’s blessing for refusing to accept his teachings and pay him homage. So when the artist, moved by compassion for his pet, includes the cat in his painting, the priest rejects the work and decrees that it must be destroyed. It seems the artist’s life is ruined as well—until he is rewarded for his act of love by a Buddhist miracle.

Buy book
$6.99
Bookshop
$5.94
Amazon
$6.99
Used $6.99
Prices as of Sep 26
Add to list
The Out-Foxed Fox
Written by Tim J Myers & illustrated by Ariel Ya-Wen Pang
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Hundreds of years ago in the mountains of Japan, there lived a hunter who trapped many foxes. People warned him that foxes were cunning creatures that possessed great magic, but he ignored them. One day, the bossy old fox leader declared they must stop the hunter and that he had the perfect plan. But a young fox with crooked whiskers knew that a simple plan is often best. To prove it, he showed both the hunter and the leader just how cunning a fox can be! Whimsical illustrations rendered in pencil, water-color, oil paint, and colored pencil by Ariel Ya-Wen Pang add to the charm of this Japanese tale based on a traditional kyogen. An author’s note is included.

Buy book
$16.99
Bookshop
$14.44
Amazon
$16.99
Used $4.24
Prices as of Sep 26
Add to list
Add to list
Add to list
Add to list
  • The Boy from the Dragon Palace - One day, a poor flower seller drops his leftover flowers into the sea as a gift for the Dragon King. What does he get in return? A little snot-nosed boy—with the power to grant wishes! Soon the flower seller is rich, but what will happen if he forgets the meaning of “thank you”? This classic folktale is reimagined with adorable watercolor images, playful text, and an endearing—if snotty—main character.

  • The Discovery of Ramen - Dao is an adorable red panda who can travel back in time and place! Two curious kids Ethan and Emma befriend him and together they discover how some very cool things came from Asia. In their first adventure, Ethan and Emma smell a tasty bowl of ramen noodles. Luckily Dao is the perfect guide to see how ramen was created! The trio zip to 1800s Japan, then skip across the decades to visit ramen factories, museums, and restaurants. Hungry for knowledge, they travel across the world and even zoom to outer space! Ramen has never been more popular. Dynamic art brings food alive and off the page to the point where your mouth will water. After savoring this tasty tale, get ready to discover more marvelous inventions from The Asian Hall of Fame!

  • If Not for the Calico Cat - In Japan, the ship The Jade Lotus takes a calico cat aboard for good luck, but the crew still runs into all kinds of trouble.

  • Dragon of the Red Dawn - The #1 bestselling chapter book series of all time celebrates 25 years with new covers and a new, easy-to-use numbering system! Jack and Annie are headed to a land of fierce samurai and great beauty, the capital city of Edo (now the city of Tokyo), in ancient Japan in the 1600s. They bring only a research book to guide them and a magic wand with three special rules. Formerly numbered as Magic Tree House #37, the title of this book is now Magic Tree House Merlin Mission #9: Dragon of the Red Dawn. Did you know that there's a Magic Tree House book for every kid? Magic Tree House: Adventures with Jack and Annie, perfect for readers who are just beginning chapter books
    Merlin Missions: More challenging adventures for the experienced reader
    Super Edition: A longer and more dangerous adventure
    Fact Trackers: Nonfiction companions to your favorite Magic Tree House adventures Have more fun with Jack and Annie at MagicTreeHouse.com!

Add to list
Pinkalicious: Cherry Blossom
Written & illustrated by Victoria Kann
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Readers can watch Pinkalicious and Peterrific on the funtastic PBS Kids TV series Pinkalicious & Peterrific!

Buy book
$16.99
Bookshop
$14.44
Amazon
$16.99
Used $16.99
Prices as of Sep 26
Add to list
On the Horizon
Written by Lois Lowry & illustrated by Kenard Pak
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-12
From two-time Newbery medalist and living legend Lois Lowry comes a moving account of the lives lost in two of WWII's most infamous events: Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima. With evocative black-and-white illustrations by SCBWI Golden Kite Award winner Kenard Pak.
Buy book
$16.99
Bookshop
$14.44
Amazon
$12.99
Used $7.44
Prices as of Sep 26
Add to list
Grass Sandals: The Travels of Basho
Written by & illustrated by Demi
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

A simple retelling of the travels of 17th century Japanese poet, Basho, across his island homeland. The book includes examples of the haiku verses he composed.

Buy book
$13.99
Bookshop
$11.89
Amazon
$12.89
Used $11.20
Prices as of Sep 26
Add to list
I Survived the Japanese Tsunami, 2011
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 7-10
The disaster felt around the world . . .
Buy book
$5.99
Bookshop
$5.09
Amazon
$4.99
Used $0.35
Prices as of Sep 26

    Suggested Links