Issue 11: J-Book Review
Want to learn kanji, vocab AND read manga? Here’s a dictionary unlike any!
hen I was teaching English (in China to Japanese and Korean kids, go figure huh), one of my Japanese students’s mom introduced me to this book she was using to teach her son idiomatic phrases. I remember how kind she was and would always introduce me to all kinds of Japanese things, whether it was Japanese tea, typical Japanese desserts or even when she was planning a family trip in Japan, she would tell me about the place. And as a『専業主婦 (せんぎょうしゅふ、full-time housewife)』she was always busy with her three kids making their o-bento boxes, scheduling after-school activities and socializing with other housewives. So when she knew I was studying Japanese she showed me this particular『慣用句 (かんようく、idiomatic phrases)』book and even let me borrow it.
The book is part of the popular『満点ゲットシリーズ • ちびまる子ちゃん』series and centers around a little girl called『まろ子』and her family. As we follow her to school she learns all kinds of things and that’s also the main point of this educational series. Books in the series teach a variety of different subject such as『敬語 (けいご)』,『ことわざ』,『俳句 (はいく)』and this issue’s book selection topic: kanji.
After returning the book, I searched online and found out that there were many more ちびまる子ちゃん books and I found these kanji dictionaries. Being charmed by the books I decided to order them (actually one of my other student’s mom kindly ordered them for me). ちびまる子ちゃん is very popular in Japan and several manga, video games as well as anime and live action series have been released. The story revolves around まる子ちゃん who is a cheerful (outspoken) Japanese girl growing up and going to school learning things. The charm of the manga is its simple but often wacky style and each character looks unique and even talk in their own special way.
The book『ちびまる子ちゃんの漢字辞典』has 3 volumes. Volume one is aimed at first and second year primary school kids and holds 240 basic kanji to learn. Volume two is targeted at second to fourth year kids covering 560 kanji and the last volume is for fifth and sixth year students learning another 366 kanji. Why do I love these books? Because it’s loaded with pictures, tons of it! The dictionary (slash manga) is very unique and begins with an introductionary comic then followed by a group of kanji to learn. Each kanji is clearly explained in detail with a cute side picture, meaning, stroke order, readings, kanji radicals, example words AND example sentences provided by まる子ちゃん‘s friends and family. Throughout the book you’ll find kanji quizzes, puzzles, kanji history facts, trivia, furigana and more comics. It’s actually very surprising that there is so much information stuffed in these little books and then some! It’s literally filled to the brim AND fun to read. I LOVE THESE BOOKS!
Easy in disguise
Don’t let these seemingly easy books fool you though, as these books are targeted at Japanese schoolkids, everything is ofcourse in Japanese, explanation and all. Adding to that, まる子ちゃん & Co often use a lot of kiddie slang (and that’s a language on its own). So a decent knowledge of Japanese is needed in order to fully enjoy the books. I’d recommend the first volume for upper beginners bordering on lower intermediate. Volume 2 and 3 are for intermediates to lower advanced.
A dictionary is a great book, but when you add pictures, informative lessons, trivia, examples and ちびまる子ちゃん, it becomes an awesome book! Even though it says dictionary, see it more as a manga teaching you kanji. With the amount of info it holds, it’s a great source to learn kanji (not to mention a ton of extra vocab) and the manga (real Japanese manga) style approach takes the boring out of learning. A super recommendation to anybody learning kanji!
• title: ちびまる子ちゃん漢字辞典 (vol. 1 • 2 • 3)
• pages: vol.1: 224 • vol.2: 232 • vol.3: 256
• dimensions: 18 x 13 cm
• extra: n/a
• language: Japanese
• publisher: 集英社 (kids.shueisha.co.jp)
• order: http://www.amazon.co.jp
• ISBN: vol.1: 4-08-314002-x • vol.2: 4-08-314004-6 • vol.3: 4-08-314043-7
• special Chokochoko rating: 満点 100%