A Picture Book of the Week (PBOW) feature

Take Me Out to the Yakyu
Aaron Meshon
Atheneum, 2013

This was one of my favorite new reads this summer. Such a fun little book and one that works equally well as a baseball story as it does an informational text on cultural differences between the U.S. and Japan–not to mention a sweet reflection of a terrific grandpa/kid relationship! So let’s unpack this gem a bit.

Cover/Endpapers: The astute viewer will notice right away that the cover image is symmetrical with the boy smack in the center. He’s the star of our show, to be sure, but the background shows us the world he straddles–literally. Everything on the left is U.S.A. Everything on the right is Japan. The jaunty colors and simple, bold images tell us this book is for younger folks–ages 4-6 or so (and that’s pretty accurate, although I think the book can go up or down a bit). What is a “Yakyu”? Glad you asked–the cover tells us that, too, with lots of baseball imagery. This is definitely going to have some baseball game action in it, even if we still don’t know exactly what a Yakyu is. Endpapers: baseball again!

Title Page: More of the same left/right juxtaposition of U.S.A. and Japan–and this will continue on most pages that have both countries/cultures represented simultaneously. American scenes are first, followed by Japanese.

Design: This book is wonderfully designed. Without spelling out, “this is a book about American baseball and culture compared to Japanese baseball and culture,” it shows us this comparison quite clearly. Even young children will pick up on it as the boy goes to a baseball game with his American grandfather and with his Japanese grandfather. Most double spreads are mirror images of each other, reflecting both cultures. The similarities in layout and composition of each spread help the reader see right away what is different between the two countries. Since this book is being published in America, to an American audience, it makes sense that American scenes are the touchpoint–we know these images. The Japanese reflections stand out in stark contrast sometimes (such as sleeping on the floor in Japan) while others images show us just how similar we really are (celebrating the seventh inning, even if we do it differently).

Palette: Bright, bold, saturated colors fill this book. But there is more to it than just “fun” colors. The American side is consistently blue–background, player jerseys, shades of blue. The Japanese side is consistently red in the same way. This starts on the cover with the foam hand and plastic horn the boy is holding up, and even his clothes reflect both main colors. I used this book to introduce the concept of palette to my children (twin boys, aged 6, and a daughter, age 8). THEY pointed out to me that on the cover, the American (English) words are in blue and the Japanese word is in red!

Text: Picture books aren’t just about the pictures! The text in this book nicely mirrors the symmetry of the illustrations which helps the reader know what Ji Ji means or that kilometers-per-hour is similar to miles-per-hour as a measurement tool. Just enough information given to us in the text so that we know what is going on but aren’t overwhelmed with commentary on the two cultures.

End Matter: But wait! There’s more! The final pages of the book have all sorts of information about baseball in the two countries. Incidentally, the informational pages continue the same blue/red palette. There’s a glossary complete with the Japanese characters for words (one page of baseball-related words and one of “other fun words”). The next two pages give a short history of baseball in both countries and some other information related to baseball in both countries. And don’t miss the final yin-yang illustration!

Have you seen this book? What did you think? 
What did I miss?

Next week’s PBOW: Journey (I’d said I wouldn’t do one the week of T’giving, but I couldn’t resist!)
Cover image from publisher’s website; book from local library

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