Taro and the Tofu
Illustrator: Kazue Mizumura
Literature Based Unit Study Written By Wende
Taro and his family live in the country of Japan, a chain of islands
off the eastern coast of Asia’s mainland. If your student isn’t familiar
with what an island is, explain that it is a piece of land entirely
surrounded by water. Have student locate Japan on world map and place
story disk there.
Stars – The first page of the story says “Taro could see the evening star already twinkling in the eastern sky.” Stars are fiery balls of gas that make their own light. While they seem small because they are so far away, stars are larger than the earth, and some are even larger than the sun. Why did Taro notice the star twinkling in the evening sky? Stars do not go away in the daytime, yet we can’t see them. Try this experiment with your children to see why:
Go into a dark room and shine a small flashlight. The little light seems very bright in the dark room. Then turn on the lights and see what happens to the little light of the flashlight. It does not seem very bright now, does it? The stars are the same way. The stars are bright at night, when you see them shine in the dark sky. But you can’t see them against the bright sky.
Look at the picture of the tofu
seller carrying his crates of tofu. He is using a simple machine called
a lever, a stick with his crates at either end. A lever is helping the
man to use his muscles as if he were stronger. Have your child
experiment by attaching different objects to the ends of a pole and
carrying them over his shoulder like the tofu seller. How important is
it for the items to weigh the same? What happens if the pole is moved
either forward or backward? Have child try to hold the same objects in
front of him without the use of the pole. Which way is easier? See if
your child can find any other levers around your house. A seesaw, a
screwdriver used for prying, and a bottle opener are all levers.
Japanese Characters – The Japanese write their numbers differently than we do. Print out the Japanese counting book and have children practice writing the Japanese characters. Then have the children go on a “number hunt” through Taro and the Tofu , looking for any of the Japanese number characters on the signs.
Money/Addition – Set up a candy store. Make a display of an assortment of penny candies, raisins, peanuts, etc. and give children a handful of change. Take turns with children being the seller and buyer, practicing addition, subtraction, and money value skills. Student may like to make a sign for the store, writing out a price list giving additional practice in writing monetary amounts.
Italics – The student may notice that some words through out the story are written in a different, slanting print. This style of printing is called italics. Italics are used to bring attention to a certain word, show feeling, or in the case of Taro and the Tōfu, to show words of a foreign language. Can your student pick out these Japanese words?
Tōfu – bean curd
Ojiisan – old man
Obasan – Miss
Maybe your student would like to learn some more Japanese words:
Sayonara – good-bye
Arigato - thank you
Bonsai – art of growing miniature trees
Origami – art of paper folding
Onomatopoeia – The use of words whose sound suggests a sound referred to is called onomatopoeia. Examples would be “Crash!” or “Bang!” The author of Taro and the Tofu has used this literary device to make the story more interesting. Can your student pick out any of the onomatopoetic words? The “Pooo…Pooo…Poooooo…” of the peddler’s trumpet, or the “Pitcha…Pitcha…Pitcha…Top…Top…Top…” of the water sloshing in the tofu pan are both examples of onomatopoeia. Can your student think of any other examples?
An author will sometimes use the repetition of words or a sentence to
tie a story together. Can your student pick out the repetitive phrases
in this story? The author tells you that it is cold and windy no less
than ten times! The author really wanted to emphasize to the reader that
it was cold and windy; possibly to show us just how hard of a decision
it was for Taro to return the money to the tofu peddler. It surely would
have been one less factor in Taro’s decision if the weather were
pleasant. But Taro made the right decision, and even in spite of the
cold, windy weather, the author tells us on the last page of the story
that Taro felt warm.
There is a lot of motion in the pictures, especially the effects of the wind. Look at the illustrations of the trees with bent branches, the leaves flying, and Taro’s scarf blowing in the wind. Have students dip a feather in paint and drag it along paper as they paint to make a windy picture.
GO ALONG BOOKS
A Pair of Red Clogs by same author (this is a Five in a Row Volume I selection)
General info and unit study ideas: