Japanese children’s book review: “It might be an apple” 「りんごかもしれない」by Shinsuke Yoshitake

By | October 27, 2015

Me and my wife stumbled on this book in a Kinokuniya bookstore (either New York or San Jose, I forget which), and decided to purchase it to read to our son who we are raising bilingual Japanese/English.

This book is based on a simple premise – imaging up various possibilities for a apple which the narrator, a young boy, happens to stumble upon one day.

Is the apple really made up of a fish wrapped up tightly? Or will it gradually grow, such that you can nibble away pieces of it and create a large house? Or is it simply a normal apple? Does the apple have any relatives, and if so what would their names be?

We were pleasantly surprised by the author’s creativity in stretching out this theme across over 30 pages while keeping things interesting until the very end. Like many famous children’s books (for example several of Dr. Suess’s masterpieces), the results are absurd and wacky, and these are the very reasons young ones will become interested, asking you to re-read again and again.

I could not find an official recommend age range, but my guess is this would be most appropriate for elementary school children. However, the simple but skillfully-drawn illustrations filling each page make it appropriate for younger children as well. As always, the listener’s enjoyment is influenced by the passion of the person doing the reading.

Despite the fact that this work seems to be written for a young audience, it takes a good amount of knowledge of Japanese to fully understand it. There are some words like 調節 (chousetsu) and 装置 (souchi) which are not likely on your average Japanese 101 vocab lists, though there is Furigana reading hints used for much of the Kanji to help out those unfamiliar with it. Another reason “It might be an apple” has increased challenge is because some of the text is written in a handwritten script which can be difficult to decipher for those unfamiliar with handwritten Japanese. However, despite the difficulty level, I think most if not all the words used in this book are applicable to daily life, so it’s a good way to beef up your lexicon while enjoying a good story. Grammatically, there are few if any sentences that are particularly long, or expressions which are hard to comprehend, given you have a dictionary to look up words you aren’t familiar with.

You can get the book on Amazon Japan for around 1500 Yen (roughly $12 as of the time of this writing), and there is an English translation as well in case you want to buy both and study side-by-side. While I haven’t read the English version, assuming the translation was done well I’m sure this book is a great read even for those not interested in learning Japanese.


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