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10 Popular Japanese & English Book Series for Babies and Toddlers

10 Popular Japanese & English book series for babies and toddlers

What better way to spend time with your child than by curling up together and reading a good book?

Reading is a wonderful way to establish communication between you and your young child. Books introduce children to concepts like numbers, letters, colors, and shapes in a fun way. Children also learn to use their imagination and further their understanding of the world around them through reading. In addition, reading together helps little ones develop their memory, vocabulary, language and listening skills.

Reading is also a great way to introduce your child to a foreign language. Repeated exposure to a foreign language helps it to become familiar to young ears and eyes. Japanese children’s books normally feature hiragana script. Therefore, even if you are not a master of the language, you can read out loud to your kids if you know hiragana. As a bonus, if your little one is learning Japanese, have them practice their reading skills by reading out loud to you, a younger sibling, or pet.

The books on this list are a selection of 5 English language and 5 Japanese language series. These books help babies and toddlers understand the world around them through stimulating artwork and engaging storytelling.

Further information on where to buy English books in Japan and a guide to libraries in Japan follows at the end of this list.

English Books

Yummy Yucky Series By Leslie Patricelli

Leslie Patricelli’s board books feature simple, yet bold artwork and minimal words, allowing you to engage in communication with even the littlest ears. These books are sure to grow with your child over the years.

The star of her series is a sassy toddler in a diaper on a quest to understand the big world. Both parents and children will relate to these adventures. Many of her books present opposites in a humorous light. Yummy Yucky, Baby Happy Baby Sad,  Quiet Loud, and Big Little are among her well-known titles in the series. Other books in the series present an aspect of a toddler’s routine like bathtime, naptime, and potty time. Halloween and Christmas books are also available and make a perfect companion to these holidays.

Yummy Yucky – Available on Amazon Japan – 845 yen

If You Give… Series By Laura Numeroff

The classic children’s book, If You Give a Mouse A Cookie, starts off with a hungry mouse arriving on a doorstep one night. What starts off as an act of kindness leads into a seemingly endless tale of cause and effect. Older children will enjoy figuring out “What’s next?” while very young listeners will love the very detailed illustrations. The mouse in this book has its own series which features a birthday party, Christmas, going to school, and more!

If You Give a Mouse A Cookie paved way for the If You Give series, which introduces children to an incredible variety of animals, big and small. Reading through the titles is like walking through a zoo- you’ll find books featuring a pig, moose, dog, bunny, and cat, among others.

If You Give a Mouse A Cookie – Available on Amazon Japan  – 1952 yen

Best Behavior Series by Elizabeth Verdick and Martine Agassi, Ph.D.

The Best Behavior series are a total of 10 books that aim to introduce children to appropriate behavior. You can find helpful suggestions for unpleasant behavior like kicking and yelling in this series. Teething and anger lend their way to biting, which is discussed in Teeth are Not For Biting.

Other titles in the series are Hands Are Not for Hitting, Feet are Not for Kicking, and Voices Are Not For Yelling. If you have a pet at home, you (and your furry loved one) will especially appreciate the message inside Tails Are Not For Pulling. The series also touches on graduating from pacifiers and diapers in the books Pacifiers Are Not Forever and Diapers Are Not Forever.

Hands Are Not for Hitting – Available on Amazon Japan – 1411 yen

***10 Popular Japanese & English Book Series for Babies and Toddlers***

That’s Not My… Series by Fionna Watt

The That’s not my… series helps babies and toddler develop important language and sensory skills through a perfect mixture of bright artwork with a variety of different textures to touch and feel. Vocabulary such as soft, rough, bumpy are introduced to help babies and toddlers understand the different textures in their world. The phrase, “That’s not my…” is repeated through the book, making it very easy for children to read along with you. 

Every aspect of kiddy imagination, from teddy bears, dinosaurs, monsters, princesses, fairies, robots, and lions, undergo the “that’s not my” treatment. In all, there are 50 books to this series. The newest addition to this series is That’s Not My Unicorn, perhaps as a nod to the latest trend sweeping social media.

That’s Not My Baby – Available on Amazon Japan – 977 yen

Eric Carle Books

This list isn’t complete without a mention of children’s book author Eric Carle. You are sure to recognize his iconic illustrations anywhere in the world. The simple text paired with the colorful artwork in his books makes for engaging storytelling. Japan is no stranger to his works, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar is so well known here there’s even a range of products featuring a collaboration of Hello Kitty and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Eric Carle’s timeless book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, has been translated into more than 60 languages over the years. Other books include Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You Hear?,  The Very Busy Spider, and Do You Want to Be My Friend? just to name a few titles by Eric Carle.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Available on Amazon Japan 1,335 yen

Japanese Books

こぐまちゃん (Baby Bear) Series by 若山 憲 (わかやま けん/Wakayama Ken)

The understated illustrations and use of bold primary colors allows children to focus on the story’s content. Join Koguma (baby bear) as he makes hotcakes, plays in mud, celebrates a birthday, goes to the zoo, and more. Some books feature a word or singular phrase on its pages, much like a children’s picture dictionary. Other books have simple dialogue and easy to understand narration.

Introduce your child to the world of Koguma-Chan with the book こぐまちゃん おはよう (Koguma-chan Ohayo/Good Morning, Baby Bear). The books is a great way to introduce young ones to a routine and following a routine. It chronicles the daily routine of Koguma-chan, starting with face-washing, eating breakfast, playing, toilet time, bath time, and bed time.

15 Book Set Available on Amazon Japan 12,960 yen

いないいないばあ (Peek-A-Boo) Series by Mitsutani Miyoko (松谷 みよ子)

These books by Mitsutani Miyoko are a staple of Japanese childhood. The soft, watercolor artwork is expressive and the dialogue repetitive and easy to follow. Peek-A-Boo, the first book in this series, is frequently given as a present for newborn babies. The story is a peek-a-boo game with several animals. You and your child play peek-a-boo with a cat, a teddy bear, a mouse and a fox. The book ends with playing peek-a-boo with a human baby. Replace the baby’s name with your own child’s name and this book is sure to be a favorite in your home!

Peek-A-Boo remains a childhood favorite even after its publication some 45 years ago. In fact, it’s the first picture book in Japan to sell more than 5 million copies. Other memorable books in the series by Mitsutani Miyoko are いいおかお (Smiley Face) and もうねんね (It’s Nap Time).

3 Book Set – Available on Amazon – 2,268 yen

***10 Popular Japanese & English Book Series for Babies and Toddlers***

だるまさん (Daruma san) Series by かがくい ひろし (Kagakui Hiroshi)

You’ll immediately recognize the series’ hero, Daruma san, the red and round Buddhist doll. Daruma are typically sold at temples. They are bringers of good fortune in Japanese culture. Older kids may be familiar with Daruma if they know the game “Daruma-san ga koronda (だるまさんがころんだ), the Japanese version of “Red Light, Green Light.”

Young language learners will be able to pick up Japanese grammar usage through the particles が (ga, subject marker), と(to, with), and の (no, of). In だるまさんが (Daruma san ga), Daruma moves around before performing an action. In だるまさんと (Daruma san to) the Daruma doll engages in various actions like hugging with friends. だるまさんの (Daruma san no) introduces readers to body parts.

3 Book Set Available on Amazon – 2,754 yen

いやだいやだ (I Don’t Like It) Series by せな けいこ (Seina Keiko)

Another popular series, these books by Seina Keiko portray little ones having meltdowns. What makes this series stand out that it doesn’t give suggestions for alternative behavior. Instead, it gives children an opportunity to reflect on their own outbursts at the end of each story.

Its signature book いやだいやだ , tells the story of Ruru chan, a little girl having a temper tantrum. Little ones can develop an understanding of cause and effect by looking into what happens when Ruru chan says, “I don’t like it.”

Naptime woes can be quashed with the book ねないこだれだ (nenaiko dareda/who’s not sleeping?). The ghost in this book has done such a good job of scaring kids to sleep that it even has its own series!

4 Book Set – Available on Amazon Japan – 3,024 yen

***10 Popular Japanese & English Book Series for Babies and Toddlers***

Guri and Gura Series by なかがわ りえこ (Nakagawa Rieko)

Guri and Gura are two mice who hold a special place in the heart of Japanse adults and children. In the first book, the pair discover a giant egg and take it upon themselves to whip up the largest castella in the forest. The Japanese spirit of “Ganbatte (You can do it)!” is evident in these books as Guri and Gura complete a variety of tasks while overcoming obstacles.

ぐりとぐらの1ねんかん (Guri to Gura no ichi nen kan/Guri and Gura’s Songs of the Seasons) introduces your little one to the months of the year, seasons, and Japanese holidays like Tanabata. Other books in the series are intended to introduce your child to aspects of daily life through Guri and Gura’s whimsical adventures. You can also find the books in  multiple languages as well as on audio CD recordings.

Guri and Gura 7 Book Set – Available on Amazon – 6,804 yen

***10 Popular Japanese & English Book Series for Babies and Toddlers***

Finding English Books

Online and In-Store

When it comes to sourcing English language books, you can’t go wrong with Amazon Japan and Book Depository. You’ll find a wide variety of English language books in large bookstores such as Kinokuniya. The children’s floor of Takashimaya and Isetan will also have select titles in English available for purchase. Facebook groups like Japan Garage Sale and Tokyo Garage Sale are also worth checking out.

Local Library

When it comes to children’s books, your local library must not be forgotten. It is very easy to apply for a library card. Simply present a photo ID and fill out the necessary paperwork. Depending on your residence or place of work, you may opt to apply for an additional library card to increase your access to books.

Below are links to the homepages of libraries in Tokyo’s 23 Wards. All links are in English unless specified.

Adachi (machine translation) || Arakawa (Google translate button) || Bunkyo || Chiyoda (Japanese only)

Chuo (Japanese only) || Edogawa || Itabashi || Katsushika 

Kita || Koto || Meguro || Minato  

Nakano  || Nerima || Ota   (English page link is broken) || Setagaya

Shibuya || Shinagwa  (Japanese only)|| Shinjuku (machine translation)  

Suginami || Sumida (English page under construction) || Taito  (Search available in English) || Toshima 

Lastly, the National Diet Library International Library of Children’s Literature in Ueno holds all children’s books printed in Japan. There are about 100,000 foreign books in its collection. 

Address: 12-49 Ueno Park, Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0007 Japan 03-3827-2053

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10 Popular Japanese & English Book Series for Babies and Toddlers

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P.S. Read our Top Recommended Japanese BABY PRODUCTS Posts.

And our Baby Care Guide.

 

Written By: Teni Wada – Originally from the Southeastern United States, Teni Wada now resides in Tokyo, her home of ten years. She writes about her experiences as a new mom on her blog
babykaiju.com.

 

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