“Friends” by Aiko Ikegami

15 Apr


It is no secret that our family is obsessed with books, both English and Japanese. We go to the local library every week and come home with piles of books. I often do my research online beforehand, looking up the most recent award-winners, reading Amazon reviews, etc so I know what I’m looking for.

A few weeks ago I walked by the “New Books” section at the library and this pretty book caught my eye:


It is “Friends”, by Aiko Ikegami. I was lured in by the cover illustration, and when I saw that the author was Japanese, the book immediately went into my library bag.

We were pleased to find that not only were the illustrations beautiful, but the story was wonderful as well. Here is the synopsis:

A girl from a faraway place begins her first day at school. She doesn’t speak the language and she looks different. She just doesn’t fit in. But one day, she makes an unexpected friend–a squirrel! Then a rabbit joins them. Soon the girl’s fuzzy woodland friends are followed by human ones and school becomes more fun! When a surprising new student joins the class, the girl and her new friends know just how to make him feel at home.


I don’t know about you, but I can relate all-too-well to being the new kid at school. I moved around several times as a child, and can tell you that it is nerve-wracking to begin life at a new school, and especially in a new language. My children have never moved, but they got a taste of this feeling when we visited Japan last summer and I enrolled them in school for a few weeks. My kids were shocked at how different everything was. The food–the routines–the discipline–the bathrooms–the language– ! But the wonderful thing about children is, they are great at making friends, even with a cultural or language barrier. This book shows how easy it is to reach out to someone new and help them feel welcome.


I highly recommend this book for all children. It is simple and short but can help you begin a conversation with your children about what to do if a new kid joins their class- or might help ease their worries if THEY are the new kid. I was thinking it would be nice to have several copies on hand to give out to any new kids in my children’s classes. How thoughtful would it be to gift them a book like this with a hand-written note? Might be wise for teachers to have a copy as well.

One last idea– this would make a sweet farewell gift for a Japanese student returning to Japan, or an exchange student. You could include a message about how you’re glad to have become friends!

Anyway, I liked the book so much that I looked up the author/illustrator online. She has a website at: aikoikegami.com. I was thrilled to discover that she lives in the same city as my parents and immediately sent her a note telling her how much we enjoyed her book and if we could meet someday.

Aiko was kind enough to send me a signed hardcover copy of her book to give away to a blog reader! If you would like a chance at winning this book, simply leave a comment on this blog post saying who you’d give this book to and why. (Book giveaway only open to U.S. residents). I’ll announce the winner on Monday April 18! (Don’t worry if your comment doesn’t appear right away… sometimes it takes me awhile to check and approve the comments!)

Giveaway is now CLOSED! I used Random.org, and the winner is commenter #1!!

“G”, please email hiraganamama@gmail.com within a week to claim the book! Thank you everyone else for commenting!

Thank you, Ikegami-san! We look forward to reading your future books!


“Friends” by Aiko Ikegami can be purchased at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

26 Responses to ““Friends” by Aiko Ikegami”

  1. G April 15, 2016 at 3:13 PM #

    This is wonderful! Our family can relate to this story. Our daughter would value it’s wisdom.

  2. wispsandwhatnot April 15, 2016 at 4:36 PM #

    That’s adorable. I would give the book to my son – he’s a baby now, yes, but the idea will be so important for him in the future.

    • Hiragana Mama April 18, 2016 at 12:00 PM #

      Yes! 🙂 It’s never too early to start reading to them.

  3. Heather Hiroki April 15, 2016 at 4:39 PM #

    I would give it to my daughter. We live in the United States, but my in-laws want her to go to elementary school in Japan. She is different because she will go to school in the countryside so she may be the only “hafu” at her school.

    • Hiragana Mama April 18, 2016 at 12:00 PM #

      So will you be moving just so she can attend school in Japan?

  4. americanmama April 15, 2016 at 4:47 PM #

    I would give this to my son (3) and daughter (1). We also love books by Japanese authors! This looks so cute!

  5. Joanna Wise April 15, 2016 at 5:16 PM #

    What a lovely book! I would give this to my son, who is entering kindergarten this year in a Japanese immersion program. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hiragana Mama April 18, 2016 at 12:01 PM #

      Oh I’m jealous you have a Japanese immersion program!

  6. Amanda April 15, 2016 at 6:06 PM #

    I am a Primary Japanese Teacger in Sydney, Australia. I would love to win this book so that I could share it with all of my classes!

  7. Ashley April 15, 2016 at 11:40 PM #

    Love this! We have friends in our preschool (Japanese preschool) who are returning to Japan. Would definitely love to give this as a going away gift. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful find.

    • Hiragana Mama April 18, 2016 at 12:02 PM #

      You’re welcome! Books make the best gifts.

  8. Lynn April 16, 2016 at 7:41 AM #

    I know my family is a little beyond the picture book stage, but I love your post and will probably go check the book out from the library (when you return it. 😉). Thanks for the recommendation.

    • Hiragana Mama April 18, 2016 at 12:03 PM #

      Yes, the book is definitely geared toward younger children but worth a look for everyone else.

  9. Ariel H. April 17, 2016 at 3:41 PM #

    I’d save it and read it to my future kids someday. It seems like a cute and sweet story, and I’m sure they’d learn from it. Until then I’d use it for babysitting material. 🙂

    • Hiragana Mama April 18, 2016 at 12:03 PM #

      Great idea to use it as babysitting material.

  10. Claire Taniguchi April 17, 2016 at 4:35 PM #

    My son is going through the fears and nervousness right now and he’s only 4 1/2 years old. It’s difficult to explain why changes happen to a child so young. It seems all we are able to do is comfort him through his tears and listen to his thoughts of losing his friends and teachers.

    It’s a wonderful idea to write such a story. I never thought of looking for a book that would comfort a child’s fear of starting a new school. Thank you for sharing Hiragana Mama.

    • Hiragana Mama April 18, 2016 at 12:04 PM #

      My kids all went through that stage as well (my daughter, several times). It’s a part of growing up and so hard.

  11. ケイテイ April 17, 2016 at 9:49 PM #

    I found your blog just a few weeks ago. My husband is Japanese but my son has taken to English a lot more than Japanese. It’s my birthday today and my sons 3rd birthday on the 25th!! We will be making our 3rd trip to Japan this summer! Love your blog about おみやげ!!Thank you for all the important info on your blog! We really enjoy your ideas! We would love to read Friends!!!

  12. Sayaka April 17, 2016 at 11:00 PM #

    I would love this book for my kids. They’ve gotten a taste of being the different kids here in Coney Island, where it is a mostly black community and no other Japanese people in sight. They will also be starting a new school next year so then they will be the new kids.

    • Hiragana Mama April 18, 2016 at 12:06 PM #

      Hopefully they will learn to be compassionate and flexible as a result of those experiences!!


  1. Off-topic… | myadventures720 - April 15, 2016

    […] https://hiraganamama.wordpress.com/2016/04/15/friends-by-aiko-ikegami/ Looks like an interesting book Yes, indeed. […]

  2. Off-topic… | myadventures720 - April 15, 2016

    […] https://hiraganamama.wordpress.com/2016/04/15/friends-by-aiko-ikegami/ I think I can relate to this. First time I had encountered racial prejudice. The character in the book did not face discrimination. She had trouble fitting in. Just like me. I certainly can relate to that feeling. I did not like it at all. The nicest teacher I had was the one who could speak Japanese. I really wanted to speak Japanese to him but I didn’t want the others to hear me speak it. I really should’ve expressed my concerns to him when I had my chance. I dearly regret it. Sometime after, the whole class turned against us. They held us down. I wasn’t sure what they were going to do next. After a while, they let us go. I wanted to get even with them but I let it go. I’m not sure but I think I made a friend of a sort. He was in school for awhile but I think he dropped out. Years later I saw him sitting on the bleacher when the school played sports. I really wanted to thank him for being nice to me, but I never got the chance. […]

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