Totto chan - Tetsuko Kuroyanagi.3:30:00 PM
Author- Tetsuko Kuroyanagi
Translated in English by Dorothy Britton.
Totto chan, a lively young girl is expelled from her first school. Her mother, worried about her daughter's future, takes her to a new school called "Tomoe Gakuen" which has an unconventional method of teaching started by the principal Mr Kobayashi.
The school had made use of six abandoned railroad cars as classrooms! The principal was a kind man who treated children seriously and understood them well. On the very first meeting a friendship is formed between the headmaster and his pupil. He listened to her for straight four hours as she answered his question, "Tell me more about yourself".
Set in the times of world war II in Japan, this book is the true account of the author about her childhood, her elementary school and the novel ways in which she was taught.
Now it was time for "something from the ocean and something from the hills," the
lunch hour Totto-chan had looked forward to so eagerly.
The headmaster had adopted the phrase to describe a balanced meal--the kind of food
he expected you to bring for lunch in addition to your rice. Instead of the usual
"Train your children to eat everything," and "Please see that they bring a nutritiously
balanced lunch," this headmaster asked parents to include in their children's
lunchboxes "something from the ocean and something from the hills."
"Something from the ocean" meant sea food-- things such as fish and tsukuda-ni
(tiny crustaceans and the like boiled in soy sauce and sweet sake), while "something
from the hills" meant food from the land--like vegetables, beef, pork, and chicken.
Sometimes a mother had been too busy and her child had only something from the
hills, or only something from the ocean. But never mind. As the headmaster made his
round of inspection, his wife followed him, wearing a cook's white apron and holding
a pan in each hand. If the headmaster stopped in front of a pupil saying, "Ocean," she
would dole out a couple of boiled chikuwa (fish rolls) from the "Ocean" saucepan,
and if the headmaster said, "Hills," out would come some chunks of soy-simmered
potato from the "Hills" saucepan.
No one would have dreamed of saying, "I don't like fish rolls," any more than
thinking what a fine lunch so-and-so has or what a miserable lunch poor so-and-so
always brings. The children's only concern was whether they had satisfied the two
requirements - the ocean and the hills--and if so their joy was complete and they
were all in good spirits.
I first came to know about this book while I was in school. We had a small chapter from this book describing the episodes which led to Totto chan's expulsion from school and her entry into the new one. It was comical to read about the naughtiness of this enthusiastic girl and I adored her. When I read this book last week I came to know why this book has been such a classic book ! It explores the innocence, the thoughts of the young and how the principal made use of this energy to build the characters of these students.
During the course of reading, there were several times I wanted to be in Tomoe , the elementary school.
Don't we all remember our childhood when we were so fascinated by the chalks and wanted to scribble everywhere? When we drew patterns on the wall and got chided by our elder?
Imagine the principal giving 2 days a week, a period for students to scribble!! They could scribble to their heart content, but he made sure that they would clean it up. This not only checked the urge of the students to scribble but also made them realise the pain that went behind to clean if they scribbled on anybody's property! How cool is that!
The walks that the children took , when teachers taught them effectively about pollination, rivers etc, the library that was built in a car, the swimming lessons, the camps and the freedom to start with whatever subject the student wants all these things just fill your heart with joy and make you feel, "Why was there no Tomoe when I went to school?"
The book has a universal appeal. To the young it gives out values and to the grown ups a chance to go back to childhood, to enjoy the simplicity of life, to understand the psychology of a kid.
Life would have been so much better if each one of us could have attended a Tomoe!
The last part of the book where the writer, herself a famous television personality, traces the success of all the 10 students in her class (there were only 50 students in Tomoe given the unconventional methods) and shows how the novel ways and values inculcated in them by the Principal was of prime importance in making them what they are.
Rating: This has to be 5 on 5 from me.
Price: I read it online so I give you the link. :)
P.S Does this count as under 18 stuff or classic?? I m confused :(