“Come gather around me, little ones, your kamishibai man is here again!” Clack, clack! “Come get your sweets and listen to my stories!” Clack, clack, clack!
Before the advent of television, kamishibai (or “paper theater”) was a common form of entertainment for children in Japan. The kamishibai man would ride into town every afternoon on a bicycle that had a wooden box in the back. The box contained candies the kamishibai man would sell to the children, and a stage on the top of the box allowed the storyteller to present the day’s story. Allen Say described these stories as “one never-ending tale, with each installment ending with the hero or heroine hanging from a cliff or getting pushed off it.”
Allen Say’s book Kamishibai Man tells the story of Jinchan (or “Grandpa”), a storyteller whose days as a kamishibai man ended when children started to prefer television to traditional storytelling. One day, he decides to come out of retirement and tell his stories once again. The town has changed since Jinchan told his stories, but once he starts to speak, he is greeted by adults who visited him as children, eager to hear the stories of their childhood.
Say brings his story to life through vivid illustrations that resemble carefully crafted portraits. Kamishiabi Man is a poignant depiction of an era and art form that will appeal to older children as well as adults who are interested in the craft of storytelling.
Check the WRL catalog for Kamishibai Man.