KidLit: Yuko-Chan and the Daruma Doll: The Adventures of a Blind Japanese Girl Who Saves Her Village
Written and Illustrated by Sunny Seki, Yuko-Chan and the Daruma Doll: The Adventures of a Blind Japanese Girl Who Saves Her Village is a gentle story about an adventurous little girl who wouldn’t let others’ perception of disability shape her world. In stores March 10, 2012, this charming 32-page hardcover storybook introduces a determined girl, Yuko-Chan, and a society with which many children are not familiar. The book is printed in both English and Japanese. Following the story, Seki offers “Cultural Notes” that help the reader understand customs described in the book.
The story begins with the eruption of Mount Asama 200 years ago. The volcano did not destroy Takasaki, Yuko-Chan’s home, it did cover the village in ash and damaged all the crops. Yuko-Chan lived at the Daruma Temple and, although she wasn’t permitted to attend school, she sat outside the classroom every day absorbing the lessons being taught. Being blind did not stop her from being a contributing member of her community; she caught a burglar who was stealing from the Temple’s offering box and she helped deliver food to those in need. She also taught herself to play the taiko.
After a mercy mission, she and her guide dog get lost and disoriented in a snowstorm. It is during the storm that she is inspired to create a doll that will honor Daruma and help her village earn money, saving it from ruin.
Following her rescue, Yuko-Chan fabricates the doll, presents it to the head monk, and soon has the entire town involved in the manufacture of the dolls, which did, indeed, save the town. The dolls continue to be made to this day.
Yuko-Chan and the Daruma Doll emphasizes cooperation, altruism, and the importance of community. Through her studies, Yuko-Chan learns the value of not giving up as taught by Daruma. Her optimism and inventiveness are inspiring. She represents a positive role model for children, and illustrates the idea that people are valuable no matter what their different abilities.
Entertaining as a story, Yuko-Chan and the Daruma Doll also offers adults opportunities for positive interaction with kids, discussing ideas in the book and how they relate to everyone’s life.