Me and Alves: A Japanese Journey


32 pages
ISBN 1-55037-222-X
DDC j895.6'35





Illustrations by Yurkio Oido
Translated by Susan Matsui
Reviewed by Kelly L. Green

Kelly L. Green is co-author of The Ethical Shopper’s Guide to Canadian
Supermarket Products and associate editor of the Canadian Book Review


Annick deserves kudos for publishing this well-translated 1985 Japanese
picture book. On the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, a farm family
is asked to host a foreign-exchange student in their home. They agree
reluctantly, and father and grandfather worry about the time this will
waste during a busy season. The young boy from whose perspective the
story is told, however, is ecstatic. When they go to the town square to
meet their student, they are matched with a young Brazilian man named

Alves quickly wins the family over by working hard on the farm, and by
asking questions about the village and the family’s history. Having
been an exchange student in Japan myself, I found both the villagers’
initial reticence and their later acceptance of, and enthusiasm about,
Alves quite authentic. Alves does all the exchange-student “things,”
including visiting schools, telling stories about Brazil, teaching the
children a Brazilian game, and visiting religious shrines. I must admit
that I found his participation (and victory!) in a sumo wrestling match
a little hard to swallow, but the children to whom I read the book loved
it. I can imagine that the Japanese children for whom the book was
originally written loved it too.

The book’s illustrations, by renowned printmaker Yuriko Oido, are as
beautiful as anything I have seen in a picture book, and very much in
the tradition of historical Japanese printmaking. This very good picture
book is also a cultural artifact, and could well convince children not
only of the possibilities for personal growth through travel, but of the
fascination of Japan as well. Highly recommended.


Akio, Terumasa., “Me and Alves: A Japanese Journey,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 23, 2024,