Book review by
Patricia Tauzer, Common Sense Media
Erika-San Book Poster Image
The simple beauty of home and a girl's dream of finding it.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

All characters are kind and helpful, and they help the young girl follow her dream.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this touching story with sensitive watercolors and a soft sense of home was created by Allen Say, who won the 1994 Caldecott for his book My Grandfather's Journey. Say has written and illustrated many award-winning books, and is well-known for the strength and power of his artistry.

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What's the story?

Inspired by a watercolor hanging on her grandmother's wall, a young American girl follows her dream to find "Old Japan." Her grandmother's stories and the folktales add to her interest until, finally, after studying Japanese in school, she goes to Japan to teach English as a second language. The bustle of Tokyo city life drives her further into the country, and ultimately her search for the house in the painting leads her to much more than she ever expected.

Is it any good?

The story, based on a true one, is authentically heartwarming and amazingly simple. From the moment the girl is first drawn in by the magical painting, her story is told in a way that expresses the quiet, solid pace of her journey. The text is clear and absorbing, and Say's watercolors add even greater resonance to the gentle tone of the story.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Japan, find it on a map, and discuss what kind of place it might be. Then they might want to talk about the painting and how much it meant to the young girl. What do you think she saw in the watercolor that made her so sure she wanted to find "Old Japan." Why was she not satisfied when she got to Tokyo, and to the other town with its football stadium crowd? What was she searching for that she finally found in the teahouse?

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