Kamishibai Man

An elderly kamishibai (paper theater) man decides to return to the city and spend the day on his former rounds. His wife makes candies for him, just as in the past, and he sets off on his bicycle. Things have changed-there’s traffic with honking horns and he wonders, Who needs to buy so many things and eat so many different foods? when he sees the shops and restaurants replacing beautiful trees that have been cut. He sets up his theater and begins to tell his personal story of being a kamishibai man in a flashback sequence. Soon he is surrounded by adults who remember him and his stories from their youth. Ironically, that night he is featured on the news on television-the very technology that replaced him. Say’s distinctive style and facial expressions are especially touching. A foreword gives readers a glimpse of the importance of the kamishibai man in the author’s early life, and an afterword provides a historical look at the forgotten art form. The power of the story and the importance of the storyteller are felt in this nostalgic piece that makes readers think about progress. Those interested in storytelling and theater will be especially impressed with this offering, but it will have broad appeal.-Helen Foster James, University of California at San Diego
Year of Publication
Number of Pages
Houghton Mifflin Company
ISSN Number
Average: 4.8 (4 votes)


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Kamishibai Man: An Endearing Story for Elementary School Students

Field of Interest/Specialty: Pre-K
Posted On: 12/17/2019

Name: Kimberly Adams
School: Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh
Grade Taught: second grade
Subjects Taught: language arts and social studies
Appropriate Grade Level for this Book: 1-4
Kamishibai Man is an endearing story that is about an older gentleman who reminisces about when he used to go around on his bicycle telling Kamishibai tales to children. The tales became less popular over time as children became attracted to a new invention, the television. Later in years, the man decides to go back to the part of town where he used to live to tell one more story. He is surprised to see that the area has changed, but that doesn’t stop him from using wood blocks to make noise and call people to gather around to hear the story of his life. At the end of the story, the adults who gather around him turn out to be the grownup children who used to come and listen to him long ago.
This is a wonderful story that can be used to teach a part of Japanese culture and history in a way that is relatable and appropriate for elementary students. The illustrations are detailed, colorful, and would easily help students follow along with the events occurring in the story. In my opinion, this story would best be suited for a read-aloud activity, as some of the wording and the actual events may be difficult for younger students to understand without some discussion. At the end of third grade or fourth grade, this book could be read independently by most students. Regardless as to whether or not this book is used independently or as a read-aloud, the illustrations alone make it a worthwhile book to have in a classroom library.
Classroom Use:
This book could be used to teach many different literacy skills. Some of the skills that could be taught with this book are, making inferences about a text, making predictions, sequencing, comparing and contrasting, and identifying the author’s purpose for writing. It could also be used as a gateway book to teach students about Kamishibai writing. After reading and discussing this text, students could look at Kamishibai stories. They could also work together to create their own Kamishibai stories.

Kamishibai Man for Kindergarten

Field of Interest/Specialty: teacher
Posted On: 01/12/2018

Review by Anna Zubrow
Mother of Sorrow School
Murrsyville, PA
Kamishibai Man is about a Japanese story teller who uses a paper theater to tell his story. The book has beautiful illustrations that take you back to the Kamishibai man's early days as a story teller . The illustrations also capture the fast paced city and the changes that Kamishibai encounters when he decides to try his story telling many years later. The television has changed the art of story telling but the author does an amazing job with words and pictures to capture the heart of the Kamishibai's art of story telling.
I would recommend this book for K-3. Many lessons can be taught and created from this book.

Lovely Story

Field of Interest/Specialty: early childhood/ elementary
Posted On: 11/21/2013

Kamishibai Man
By Allen Say
Review by: Jessica Glenn- Elementary Substitute- Central PA
This book is about a grandfather (Jiichan) who used to be a Kamishibai Man. The story starts in the present and shifts to long ago when Jiichan used to travel around the town to tell stories to all the little boys and girls. He used story cards in a small wooden frame mounted on the back of a bicycle. In exchange for stories the children would buy candy from him. One day on his way home from telling a story, he passed a store front where a lot of people were gathered. Jiichan was curious to find out what the people were looking at. He then saw that they were watching television. The next thing Jiichan knew, the little boys and girls who used to come to hear his stories did not show up. Only one boy came. Jiichan asked him why he was there and the child replied that he did not like television. Jiichan then told the story that the little boy requested but after that he gave up his story telling. In the end the book flashes from past back to the present with a great surprise involving those children (who are now adults) who used to come to hear Jiichan’s stories!
I really loved this story and the amazing pictures in it. This story would be great to be used as an introduction to different types of storytelling from around the world and also to start a discussion about how inventions and innovations change the way stories are told. The book has a great underlying message about not always following the crowd, and that it is okay to stand up for yourself. I think this story really could be read to any grade from 1st to 4th grade.

Kamishibai Man Review

Field of Interest/Specialty: AP World History & World Religions
Posted On: 04/19/2012

Amy Swartz
Grades 9-12
Courses: AP World History, AP US History, World Cultures, Global Issues, World Religions
Warrior Run High School, Turbotville, PA
Kamishibai Man, written and illustrated by Allen Say, presents the life of a traveling Japanese story-teller who uses “paper theater” to entertain children. Kamishibai used illustrated cards mounted on a wooden box, that was attached to a bicycle. Children gathered to listen to the stories and paid for sweets provided by the kamishibai man. In Say’s story, the kamishibai man experiences the impacts of technology and modernization, namely in the form of television, when fewer and fewer children are interested in his stories and candies. After a few year hiatus, the elderly kamishibai man returns to the city, which he sadly realizes is transformed almost beyond recognition. However, the story comes full circle when adults who remembered the kamishibai man from their childhood gather around and beg him to tell their favorite stories and to purchase the familiar sweets.
Say’s realistic illustrations are rendered in pen and ink, as well as, watercolors. He is known for mixing traditional Japanese styles with Western techniques. The afterward of the book presents a short history of kamishibai, including how it was used during the Great Depression & World War II, and highlights the fact that the illustrators who created the story cards were later employed to create manga and anime.
Kamishibai Man is a children’s book most suited for the elementary classroom or library, however it can be adapted for use with older students. It would be useful as an introduction to the history behind manga and anime As in the story, many young (and “old”) children could easily connect to being a spectator entertained by a storyteller. Like many folktales, stories told by kamishibai entertainers usually contained moral lessons for their audience.
In order to introduce this aspect of Japanese culture from the early 1900’s to my high school students I use Say’s Kamishibai Man, rather than film or video. I purposely avoid these forms in order to keep the lesson aligned with one key aspect of Say’s book – the impact of modernization and technology. As a class, we discuss and relate this theme to other forms of entertainment, technology, or modes of transmitting information. Depending on their age and ability level, I either read the storybook to my students or show them key illustrations while explaining the purpose and history of Kamishibai. After discussing the history of Kamishibai, I allow students to form two groups in order to experience a sample Kamishibai story, purchased from the Kamishibai for Kids website (also included in the resources of the NCTA Teacher Portal). The two titles I have used are Kon and Pon and Hats for the Jizos. Students reflect on the stories by journaling or discussing the moral message intended for children, and relate these lessons to stories from their own childhood. Usually, I have a few students who have a great interest in manga and anime, so we discuss the significance of kamishibai artists adapting their talents for those genres. If time does not permit for this supplementary lesson during the course of the regular curriculum, I use this lesson on the day before a holiday or break.