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The Friends by Kazumi Yumoto

The Friends

by Kazumi Yumoto

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Three twelve-year-old Japanese boys become curious about death and dead people after the death of one of their grandmothers. So they decide to spy on an old man who they believe is going to die soon. However, things don’t work out as the boys expected as they begin to make friends with the old man and they find themselves learning about life and friendship as well as death. This book treats the subject of death and children’s curiosity about it quite respectfully. The story also gives a glimpse into the life of a Japanese student, busy with the demands of school, cram school, sports, family life, and worry about the future. The characters are all subtly established and the boys grow up quite a bit throughout the book. This book, its themes, and the characters would probably resonate best with kids in fourth through seventh grade. This book is translated from the original Japanese and is the winner of the 1997 Mildred L. Batchelder Award for translated children’s books. ( )
  robincar | Nov 17, 2013 |
Curious about death, three sixth-grade boys decide to spy on an old man waiting for him to die, but they end up becoming his friends. ( )
  BiblioKleptoManiac | Jul 10, 2007 |
Title: The Friends., By: N.V., Horn Book Magazine, 00185078, Nov/Dec96, Vol. 72, Issue 6
Database: Academic Search Premier

Ages 8 to 12

Kazumi Yumoto The Friends(g)

172 pp. Farrar 10/96 ISBN 0-374-32460-3 15.00

(g) indicates that the book was read in galley or page proof. Tire publisher's price is the general retail price and does not indicate a possible discount to libraries. Age levels are only suggestions; the individual child is the real criterion.

Translated by Cathy Hirano. In this award-winning book from Japan, three boys' morbid curiosity about death is artfully transformed into a celebration of life and friendship. When the grandmother of one of the school chums dies, they become obsessed with the experience. What do dead people look like, they wonder, and what happens after they die? They find a solitary old man in a nearby neighborhood who doesn't seem long for this world and begin to stalk him (surreptitiously, they think), hoping to catch him at the point of his demise. In a plot that is laced with ghoulish humor, the boys find their task becoming ever more complicated as they get to know the man. Concerning themselves with matters that young American readers might find peculiar, they worry about his poor eating habits and his social isolation, and they help him with his housekeeping chores. The book is firmly set in another place and another culture. Scenes at soccer camp, at "cram school" (where they study for junior-high-school entrance exams), with parents, and in the marketplace will make clear to young readers that they are not at home. But some things they will recognize. A friendship develops between the man and the three boys, as we knew it would, and his death at the end is not unexpected. What may be a surprise is how much we care.


By Nancy Vasilakis ( )
  hilla | Jul 1, 2007 |
Hazel Rochman (Booklist, October 15, 1996 (Vol. 93, No. 4))
Outsiders at home and at school, Kiyama and his two awkward sixth-grade friends decide to spy on a solitary old man in their small Japanese town. They want to see what happens when he dies. For them, death is the stuff of nightmare and ghosts, a fearful unknown. At first, the old man is angry, but their attention revitalizes him, and he draws them into his home. Together they fix his house, clean up his yard, plant a garden, and every day after cram school, gather there. When he does die, there's no horror--only heartfelt grief and loving memories that give them strength to go on. The novel is long, sometimes slow-moving, and Kiyama's first-person narrative is too articulate about his fears and their resolution. But the translation from the Japanese is immediate, both lyrical and casual. The characters, including the old man, are subtly drawn. Readers will be moved by the terror of death, the bond across generations, and the struggle of those whom society labels losers. Category: Middle Readers. 1996, Farrar, $15. Gr. 5-7. Boston Globe--Horn Book Awards Winner 1997 Fiction and Poetry United States
Mildred L. Batchelder Award Winner 1997 United States
  LWsam | May 23, 2007 |
Kathleen Murphy, May 23, 2007 On summer holiday in a small Japanese village, three six grade friends: Kiyama, the pudgy one, Kawabe a tough guy, and Yamashita, a level headed youngster, decide to spy on an old man that they feel is close to death. The reason for the spying is their obsession with death after one of the boy’s grandmother dies. The three friends spy on the old man everyday and follow him throughout the village watching his every move waiting for death. As the summer progresses, the old man invites the young boys to come out of hiding and the boys and the old man become friends. The old man teaches the young boys many life lessons as they help him fixed up his old dilapidated house. When the old man dies the three boys do not think about their search for death, they are sadden by the event and reflect on the lessons that the old man had taught them. Originally written in Japanese, the story does move slowly at times. However the story teaches young readers about the Japanese culture, friendship, family and social expectations, and living and dying. Grades 5-7
  murphykathleen | May 23, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374424616, Paperback)

In this award-winning book from Japan, three young boys curious about death learn--and teach--some valuable lessons about life and friendship.

The Friends is the winner of the 1997 Boston Globe - Horn Book Award for Fiction.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:41 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Curious about death, three sixth-grade boys decide to spy on an old man waiting for him to die, but they end up becoming his friends.

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