Tuttle Publishing sent me My First Book of Japanese Words: An ABC Rhyming Book by Michelle Haney Brown for review so let’s take a look.
The author’s stated goal of this children’s book is to “introduce young children to Japanese language and culture through simple everyday words”. I’m not a children’s book expert but the pictures and content look pretty good. My two year-old wasn’t really into it but I can never tell what she’s going to like or not and why.
Don’t use it for its Japanese
If this book gets parents and kids remotely interested in the Japanese language, great. But the book itself won’t teach you much about Japanese. For some reason, the author decided to use the English alphabet instead of the Japanese syllabary. This means some pages with no words such as “X” have an awkward, “Japanese doesn’t have this sound so here’s the Japanese word for Xylophone”. Also, I have some nitpicks like ライオン for 獅子, which people might mistake as the actual reading and かっこう for 学校 which looks like a misprint.
As for how to pronounce the Japanese words, it has a short pronunciation guide for the five vowel sounds and G, R, and F. Not exactly the most comprehensive but it also says to go to www.tuttlepublishing.com to listen to the words in Japanese. That’s the main website for the entire publishing company and I can’t find what they’re talking about. Can’t they put at least a more specific link or maybe even a CD?
You can look inside the book on Amazon to check out the pictures. If it looks good to you as a children’s book, I would say go for it. But don’t expect to teach your kid any Japanese. Personally, I would recommend ショコラちゃんのあいうえお or any of the tons of あいうえお children’s book, none of which are sold here in the States. I wish somebody would publish a real book to teach kids あいうえお here instead of this…