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Kodomo No Hi Videos

5 May

May 5th is Kodomo no Hi (Children’s Day) in Japan. Here are some videos to help your children learn about this holiday.

A great interactive video by Benesse, 「しまじろうとこどもの日を楽しもう!」<こどもちゃれんじ>4月ライブ授業:

“What is Kodomo no Hi?” (こどもの日ってなあに?)by CHK名古屋:

The classic children’s song associated with Kodomo No Hi by キッズボンボン, 【♪うた】こいのぼり〈振り付き〉【手あそび・こどものうた】Japanese Children’s Song, Nursery Rhymes & Finger Plays:

Read-Alouds about Kodomo No Hi:

A Just-For-Fun Koinobori Stop-Motion animation:

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Book Review: Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen

23 Feb

My sister recently asked me,

“Have you read the Jasmine Toguchi series– beginner chapter books about a Japanese-American girl?”

I had not heard of it, but I immediately got a copy to read. And I loved it!

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The book I read was the first in the series, called “Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen“. It is written by Debbi Michiko Florence with illustrations by Elizabet Vukovic. I was immediately enamored by the main character– a spunky 8-year old girl who is a member of a warm and loving (and sometimes annoying) Japanese family, living in the United States. She reminded me of my own 9-year old daughter, sometimes so much so that I found myself laughing out loud and saying to my husband, “Listen to this! It’s just like our kids!”.

The book has won numerous awards including:

A Junior Library Guild Fall 2017 Selection
An Amazon’s Best Children’s Books of 2017
An Evanston Public Library’s 101 Great Books for Kids List 2017
A Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best Books 2017
A 2017 Nerdy Book Club Award Winner

There are currently 2 books in this series with 2 more coming soon (Read about them HERE). They are recommended for grades 1-4 (or ages 6-9). My daughter who is in 4th grade (and is a higher-level reader) said she liked the book but “it’s better for 2nd graders”. It is a great way to learn a little bit about Japanese culture in a very relatable way.

I personally would have loved to have had this series when I was a child. There is such a lack of children’s books starring Japanese American families. Author Debbi Florence is a third generation Japanese American and native Californian. She currently resides in Connecticut. If you are interested in having her visit your schools to talk about Japanese culture and the writing process, you can find out how HERE!

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Author of the “Jasmine Toguchi” series, Debbi Florence

You can purchase “Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen” HERE, via Amazon (affiliate link).

This post was not sponsored by Debbi Florence or Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers. All opinions are unbiased, honest, and completely my own. 

“Once Upon a World” : Fairy Tales Reimagined!

17 May

 

Have you happened upon the “Once Upon a World” series yet?? If not, you must! It is a refreshing, delightful new take on the classic fairy tales. The stories are the same, but the characters and illustrations reflect a different culture. So far in the series, there’s Snow White, Rapunzel, and Cinderella.

We are especially in love with “Snow White“, by Chloe Perkins. The illustrations inspired by Japan are just lovely to look at. I love that my little girl can see that someone who looks like her can be a princess too.

Here’s what the Simon & Schuster website has to say about Snow White:

The classic tale of Snow White gets a fresh twist in this debut title of a brand-new board book series, Once Upon a World. With Japan as the backdrop, and beautiful artwork from Japanese illustrator Misa Saburi, Snow White is still the same girl who meets seven dwarves and accepts a shiny red apple—but she’s totally reimagined. Once Upon a World offers a multicultural take on the fairy tales we all know and love. Because these tales are for everyone, everywhere.

You can purchase “Once Upon a World: Snow White” HERE. (Currently less than $5 on Amazon! I might stock up for baby shower gifts)

These are nice board books– perfect for little ones!

(This is not an endorsed post. We found this book at our local library and loved it so we wanted to share. If you use my amazon link to purchase a book however, we will earn a few pennies to help keep this blog running! Thanks!)

“Are You An Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko” book review

9 Nov

I was sent this beautiful book to review. To be honest, it sat on our bookshelf for awhile because we have experienced a death in the family and unexpected busy-ness recently.

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Today I finally had a quiet afternoon to explore “Are You an Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko” by David Jacobson, Sally Ito, and Michiko Tsuboi.

And… WOW. I don’t think I can adequately describe how beautiful this book is. Not only is it a book (full) of poetry, but it’s also a biography, a history lesson, a peek into the life of an incredible woman. We learn about the poet Misuzu Kaneko’s life, little by little, followed by an accompanying poem.The language of the poems are simple enough for children to enjoy yet rich enough for adults to ponder as well (I found my 3rd-grader immersed in this book the other day). The second half of the book includes the original poems in Japanese, as well as the English translation. At times like this, I am so grateful to be bilingual, so I can enjoy both languages!

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image from the Poetry for Children blog

 

One of the poems in particular struck a chord with me given our recent circumstances:

 

COCOON AND GRAVE

 

A silkworm enters its cocoon–

that tight, uncomfortable cocoon.

 

But the silkworm must be happy;

it will become a butterfly

and fly away.

 

A person enters a grave–

that dark, lonely grave.

 

But the good person

will grow wings, become an angel

and fly away.

 

Copied from the Misuzu Kaneko website:

Misuzu Kaneko charmed 1920s Japan with the child-like sincerity and empathy of her poetry. But despite her success, she suffered tragedy in her private life and committed suicide at age twenty-seven, after writing 512 short poems. Nearly forgotten for the next fifty years, Misuzu’s work was rediscovered in 1982 and she soon became one of Japan’s best-loved children’s poets. The appearance of her poem “Are You an Echo?” in a public service announcement after the 2011 tsunami achieved instant fame, reminding Japanese of their shared humanity at a time of great national crisis.

The illustrations by Toshikado Hajiri perfectly complement the soft, beautiful words of the book. One could learn a lot about Japanese culture simply by studying the artwork.

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I would love to see this book in every school and library. It would perfectly complement any lesson about Japan, Poetry, or the March 11, 2011 Earthquake/Tsunami in Tohoku. I would recommend it to any parent who wants to widen the world view of their children. It is one of those books that you’ll want to read over and over– one time through won’t be enough! I am a self-proclaimed fanatic of children’s picture books– and can honestly say that this one stands out from the others in its beauty and uniqueness. The purity of her poems really struck a chord with me.

Like I mentioned earlier, I wish I had the words to adequately describe this book. Please read the review by Elizabeth Bird in the School Library Journal— she does a much better job putting her thoughts into words.

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon, HERE. The hardcover version would be perfect for gift-giving (the paper is high-quality and there’s full-color illustrations cover to cover). It is also available on Kindle and Nook, with an Apple version due out soon.

Thank you, Chin Music Press, for this jewel of a book.

 

NEW Gakken Go Go Workbooks!

10 Sep

I believe learning should be fun, motivating, and rewarding. If you believe that too, you should check out the new Go Go series by Gakken!

Gakken has been creating educational materials in Japan for years. Go to any bookstore in Japan, and you will see shelves lined with workbooks by Gakken. Just recently, they have started branching out and creating workbooks for sale in the United States. They reached out to me to see if I’d like to review the new books, and I said SURE! because I knew they create good-quality books.

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The books arrived and my children (even the ones who are too old for them) couldn’t wait to flip through the colorful pages and admire the cute stickers.

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Hmm which sticker to use next?

The first thing that impressed me was the quality. Every page, front and back, is full-color. The pages are nice and thick so you could use pencils, crayons, or markers. The stickers are high-quality and the illustrations are adorable.

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2-4 year old tracing book

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Go Go Tracing 2-4 (Gakken Workbooks)

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from the 4-6 year old mazes book

I also liked that the books are very age-appropriate. I received several books for 2-4 year olds. My almost-2-year-old could do some of the beginning pages, but the rest of the pages were a bit too advanced. I know they will be just perfect in a few months! However, she wants to use up all the stickers NOW! 🙂

Right now they also have books for 3-5 year olds and 4-6 year olds. I hope that as the company keeps expanding, they will publish more books for older kids too! (See all the currently available books HERE). I would also love to see their Japanese language books (like hiragana) here too.

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cute stickers galore!

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As someone who is passionate about Japanese culture, I was thrilled to see that pieces of Japanese life are included in the books. People who don’t know anything about Japan may be confused by things like Koinobori (carp fish) and Hinaningyou (Girls Day Dolls), but I LOVE it!

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Gakken workbooks are available for purchase NOW! And I think they are very affordable, ranging from $5 to $8 on Amazon. Totally worth it to keep my kids busy and learning. The stickers are definitely motivating and rewarding for little ones.

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Here are the Amazon links to purchase the books.

Go Go Intellectual Skills 2-4 (Gakken Workbooks)

Go Go Life Skills 2-4 (Gakken Workbooks)

Go Go Cutting and Pasting 2-4 (Gakken Workbooks)

Go Go Tracing 2-4 (Gakken Workbooks)

Go Go Drawing 2-4 (Gakken Workbooks)

Go Go Life Skills 3-5 (Gakken Workbooks)

Go Go Mazes 3-5 (GakkenWorkbooks)

Go Go Cutting and Pasting 3-5 (GakkenWorkbooks)

Go Go Mazes 4-6 (Gakken Workbooks)

Go Go Intellectual Skills 4-6 (GakkenWorkbooks)

Want to try out a few pages before deciding to purchase? Gakken has generously provided free sample pages from each book, which can be downloaded HERE. Enjoy!

 

Gifts for the Pokemon Go! Fanatic

21 Jul

 

Never in a million years would I have guessed that my family would be addicted to a Pokemon app on the phone. My kids have never even seen the TV show (and neither have I) but we downloaded the game (Pokemon Go!) to see what all the fuss was about and… we love it. Most electronic games tend to isolate individuals but we have found that our family has bonded over hunting for Pokemon. We have visited many parks and attractions in our city and have walked more than usual! My 6-year old son will talk your ear off about Pokemon Go! if you will let him. I have never seen him so passionate about something, lol. I am thinking we might have to dress up as Pokemon for Halloween, haha!

Thinking ahead to back-to-school shopping, birthday gifts, and holidays, I already have some Pokemon-related gift ideas for my kids. I added some of these things to my Amazon Store. Take a peek if you also have a Pokemon fanatic in your life! Here are some of the items I’m considering purchasing:

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Pokemon Colored Pencils, 24-Pack

We have some other colored pencils by Showa Note and they are very high-quality (much better than the generic kinds you find in the stores here!). They come in a durable tin container.

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Pokemon Furikake (rice seasoning)

My kids LOVE furikake on their rice. I love these individual-sized packs. They’re perfect for including in bento lunches.

 

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Pokemon Name Stickers

I use these every year for labeling all my kids’ back-to-school supplies. They’re great for pencil boxes, water bottles, notebooks, etc.

 

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Pokemon Opposites Card Game

This game will teach children hantai-kotoba (opposites), in Japanese. Looks cute! I need all the help I can get in the teaching-vocabulary department.

 

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Pokemon Chopsticks-Spoon-Fork Set

I love these things. They are the perfect size for little kids. No more using disposable utensils for lunch boxes! And at just $5, a great price.

 

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Pokemon Deluxe Essential Handbook

I know my son would eat this book right up.

 

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Pokemon Japanese-Style Pencil Box

I loved these pencil boxes when I was little. They have a magnetic closure and hold pencils, erasers, etc securely inside.

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Pokemon Hat

Just cute for your Pokemon-lover!

 

Lots MORE Pokemon gift ideas at my store!

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I am an Amazon Affiliate and will receive a small percentage of each purchase. ありがとう!

My Amazon Store also has Japanese School Supplies, Japanese Food, Books, etc!

 

よつばと!(Yotsuba&!) Book Review

28 Jun

Do you know what I LOVE? I love to see my children reading books. And I especially love it when they read Japanese books!

My oldest, now 8 years old, is getting a little bit old for our Japanese picture books. But her reading skills are not strong enough for a lot of Japanese chapter books. So I have been on the hunt for books that she can easily read by herself, and ones where the content would be interesting enough to keep her engaged. We tried Doraemon, Yokai Watch, and Chibi-marukochan, but she was like, “meh”. They didn’t hold her interest (she is picky).

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I came across a review by Japan Info about how a comic book series called よつばと!/Yotsubato by Kiyohiko Azuma is great for people learning Japanese. I researched a little bit more and decided to give the series a shot. I got a great deal on  Yotsubato Comic set Vol.1 to 12 (Japanese)through Amazon but they are sometimes available on eBay as well, and you can always get them from amazon.co.jp (but the shipping is expensive). There is an English translation of this series too, so make sure you are getting the right language when ordering.

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ANYWAY… the よつばと!comics were a huge hit with my 8-year old! She read one, sometimes two books per day. Sometimes I found her laughing out loud as she read. As soon as she completed the entire series (books 1-13), she started reading book 1 again. She told me she likes the series because “Yotsubato is like me. A foreign girl who knows Japanese, and she’s silly.” I’m reading the books too (I’ve only read up to book 5 so far) but even I find them very engaging and fun to read.There’s not too many kanji, nothing inappropriate for a child, and you learn about Japanese culture as you read! 2 thumbs way up from my daughter and I!

Official Yotsubato website is HERE.

Preview some pages HERE.

Wikipedia article HERE.
Buy Volume One here: Yotsubato! Vol. 1 (Yotsubato!) (in Japanese) (Japanese Edition)

Buy books 1-12 in a set here: Yotsubato Comic set Vol.1 to 12 (Japanese)

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This is a totally unbiased, unsponsored post about Yotsubato, but I will receive a small portion of any purchases made through Amazon to help fund my website. Thanks!

Dino Books Review! Read Bilingual Stories Online

2 May

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You’ve probably heard of Dino Lingo, a company that has made a language-learning program for kids. If not, I have blogged about that program HERE.

Well, they have recently launched a brand-new site called DINO BOOKS (dinolingo.com/books). If you’re teaching your child a second language, you’ll want to learn more about this site!

Dino Books is a site where children can read hundreds of stories (they currently have 5000+ books) in 20 different languages. In addition to stories, there are some nursery rhymes, songs, tongue twisters, and games. There’s also “stories” where the kids can build their vocabulary too (colors, numbers, things in the house, etc.).

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So for example, we can pick a story, and then choose “Japanese” and “English” as our languages of choice. Then as we click through, we can have the story read to us in both languages. This was so nice because if my kids heard a word they didn’t understand in Japanese, they could simply listen or look at the English version right below to figure out the meaning of the unknown word.

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Ideally, I would be sitting right by my kids and reading books to them for hours every day, giving them my undivided attention. But in real life, that doesn’t happen. I’m often trying to multi-task, helping one kid with homework while helping the other fold laundry while keeping another child from climbing onto the countertop while trying to make dinner… LOL. Can you all relate? So sometimes, it is nice to just be able to say “Hey, read some books on Dino Books!”. My kids can easily navigate the site themselves and read several stories in one sitting while I finish making dinner. You can even use a tablet to read the stories.

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Does this sound like something you need in your life? A Dino Books membership is normally $99/year (less than $10 per month…less expensive than buying hundreds of bilingual books for sure). But you can visit the site and read the first few pages of most books for free first before you decide.

They also have a Mother’s Day special going on right now for 20% off with code MOM20 !

Here is a sample video:

 

 

Dino Lingo has generously offered to give away a FREE YEAR of Dino Books  to one lucky Hiragana Mama reader! To enter this giveaway, simply visit Dino Books, then leave a comment on this blog post with the following information:

  1. Why do you want to win this giveaway?
  2. What languages would you choose to read the stories in?
  3. Your email address (if you don’t want to leave your email address, just make sure you come back to see if you were the winner and then email me. Sometimes people win my giveaways and I have no way to contact them!)

Sometimes it takes me awhile to check and approve the comments so please don’t worry if your comment doesn’t show up right away.

A winner will be chosen at random on MONDAY, May 9th, 2016 and will be announced on this blog post. Be sure to check back to see if you were the winner!

The winner of this giveaway is JOANNA WISE! Please send me an email at hiraganamama@gmail.com and I will forward your name on to Dino Lingo so they can award you the prize. Thanks to all who commented. Best wishes to all of you in your language adventures!

P.S. Don’t forget, Children’s Day/ Kodomo no Hi is on May 5th!

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Thank you Dino Lingo for this giveaway. Dino Lingo did ask me to try out Dino Books in exchange for a review, but all my opinions expressed above are honest and my own.

“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:

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

Japan-Inspired Gift Ideas!

12 Dec

Recently, I frequently find myself gifting Japan-related things! For example, my daughter took a bag full of Japanese candy for a birthday party. For Christmas, my older kids are getting a Yokai Watch DVD set and my toddler is getting a Mel-chan doll. It is a good way to be unique! Here are some gift ideas for the Japan-lovers in your life:

Melissa and Doug Sushi Slicing Set (a fun alternative to “traditional” food!)

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Kendama Toy (great for all ages!)

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Vive Le Color! Japan Coloring Book for Adults

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Yakusen Bath Roman Bath Salts (Japanese bath salts are sooo relaxing)

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Making Tape Gift Box (the mt brand from Japan is simply the best. I use it for everything!)

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Mitsubishi 100 Colors Colored Pencil Box (my kids have this set and it is awesome. Every color you could ever want, durable, and the color glides onto paper so smoothly)

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Nintendo Hanafuda Card Game (great for older kids, teens and adults)

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Yokai Watch Karuta (for your Yokai Watch fanatic)

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Kracie Pop N Cookin Candies (oh so-unhealthy but so fun to make and eat)

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Pack of Japanese Snacks

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Uncle Goose Hiragana Wood Blocks

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Go to my online Amazon store to see more ideas!!

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