June 21, 2021 New Book Explores Views of Japan Over Time through American Children's Books

‘Japan and American Children’s Books’ Features Rare Collections from Library of Congress, History of Children’s Book Publishing

Press Contact: Brett Zongker, Library of Congress, bzongker@loc.gov | Courtney Brach, Rutgers University Press, courtney.brach@rutgers.edu

“Japan and American Children’s Books: A Journey” documents the evolving portrayal of Japan in American children’s books over nearly 200 years.

Beginning in the 19th century, children’s books provided American readers with their first impressions of Japan. Packed with fascinating details about daily life in a distant land, these publications often presented a mixture of facts, stereotypes and complete fabrications.

“Japan and American Children’s Books: A Journey” documents the evolving portrayal of Japan in American children’s books over nearly 200 years, highlighting the shift from fanciful accounts by travelers and missionaries to personal narratives by Japanese American authors and illustrators that provided a more accurate and respectful presentation of Japanese culture. Written by Sybille A. Jagusch, chief of the Library of Congress’ Children’s Literature Center, the book is published by Rutgers University Press in association with the Library of Congress.

The book features selections from some of the Library’s rare and prized materials, including the illustrated diary of a boy, William Speiden, who accompanied Commodore Matthew Perry on his historic voyage to Japan in the 1850s, a 38-foot rice paper scroll documenting Perry’s gunboat diplomacy with ink and watercolor drawings, and Meiji-period crepe paper books published by Takejiro Hasegawa.

Jagusch draws on a wide variety of travelogues, histories, picture books, folk tales and magazines to illustrate how international politics and growing cultural exchange influenced authors and publishers throughout the 20th century. American children’s books about Japan gradually became more realistic with more Japanese American authors entering the field. Writers such as Taro Yashima and Yoshiko Uchida created authentic and serious books, touching on subjects like the immigrant experience, internment camps and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Woven throughout the narrative is a history of children’s book publishing in the United States that highlights the contributions of influential editors, publishers and children’s librarians.

With 194 color and black-and-white illustrations, “Japan and American Children’s Books” provides a fascinating look at the changing relationship between two cultures, as reflected in two centuries of imaginative, informative and provocative children’s books.

“Japan and American Children’s Books” is available in hardcover ($120.00), softcover ($49.95) and e-book ($49.95) formats from booksellers worldwide. Softcovers are available for purchase from the Library of Congress Shop at library-of-congress-shop.myshopify.com/.

About the Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States, and extensive materials from around the world, both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov, access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov, and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.

About Rutgers University Press
Rutgers University Press is dedicated to the advancement and dissemination of knowledge to scholars, students, and the general reading public. The Press reflects and extends the University’s core mission of research, instruction, and service. We enhance the work of our authors through exceptional publications that shape critical issues, spark debate, and enrich teaching throughout the world for a wide range of readers.


PR 21-030
ISSN 0731-3527