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What What What


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About the Author

Ryoji Arai was born in Yamagata, Japan in 1956. He has an illustrative style all of his own: bold, mischievous and unpredictable. Arai studied art at Nippon University. His art is at once genuine and truly poetic, encouraging children to paint and to tell their own stories. He took the Japanese picture-book world by storm in the 1990s. Since then, he has one multiple awards, including the international Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2005. Arata Tendo was born in 1960 in Ehime Prefecture, Japan. He made his literary debut under his real name, Noriyuki Kurita, winning the Yasei Jidai Literary Award for New Writers in 1986 with his first ever novel, Shiro no kazoku (The White Family). He wrote screenplays for television and film before delving into mystery and thriller novels under the pen name he uses today. He most recently won the Naoki Prize in 2008 for his novel Itamu hito (The Mourner). David Boyd holds a master's degree from the University of Tokyo and is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University. His translations have appeared in Monkey Business International, Granta, and Words Without Borders, among other publications.


"...guess what this book is about? If you think it's about how a person's greatest flaw can also be their greatest strength that would be partially correct. You'd also be right if you said it was about the dangers of child abuse and how sometimes only kids can see when a situation is truly wrong. Here's some advice on this Japanese import--do not skim it. Read it cover to cover. ...when I sat down and read it through, I realized how it was taking a very very very difficult subject, and not only making it child-friendly but empowering as well. Try it. There is NOTHING else like it out there today."--Betsy Bird, School Library Journal
"A halting and beautiful portrayal [of] one person's peeve becoming another person's rescue"--Matthew C. Winner of The Children's Book Podcast
"Under the guise of a simple story of a child posing lots of questions there is a much deeper meaning which shows that ignorance is very often a choice and that there are many things in life which challenge us to take a second look." --Outside in World
"Every one of Tendo's lines has purpose; he moves the plot along, and changes readers' feelings toward Pan at a very deliberate pace. He also handles rather mature topics with aplomb by filtering them through the lens of a child who only understands that something is wrong. Praise should be given to the translator for a translation that positively pulls at your heart strings and is flexible enough for a word like doshita (which is explained in the back). This is a third-person narrative, so Pan gets the chance to depict what he remembers through the artwork. Arai's naive style strikes that perfect balance between mimicking the mindset and capabilities of a child drawing with traditional media (including crayons) while delivering the quality expected from an award-winning illustrator. Unlike many picture books dealing with the theme of curiosity, What What What? is not just about this occasionally annoying habit. It teaches that we don't always question things enough, and that, only when we do, can we stop bad things from happening. VERDICT A powerful book that moves readers to think about their moral obligation to ask questions. A must-buy." --Rachel Forbes, Oakville Public Library, Ont., School Library Journal

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