日本での一年間

January 27, 2011

Goodnight Moon (Oyasumi nasai Otsukisama)

Filed under: Interesting — Tags: , , — myyearinjapan @ 12:01 am

The other day, I found myself strolling into a bookstore and as I walked past the children’s books it was not The Giving Tree that caught my eye. (The Giving Tree is all over the place right now because Haruki Murakami’s new translation of the classic was recently released.) On this visit, it was Goodnight Moon (Oyasumi nasai Otsukisama) that my eye was drawn to.

Goodnight Moon

What's that? Why is President Obama's face on Goodnight Moon?? The Japanese says "The First Book!: 44th president of the United States of America, Barack Obama"

I initially interpreted this cover as meaning that Goodnight Moon was the first book Obama ever read as a kid. Japanese drops the subjects of sentences when the context makes it clear. Doesn’t the smiling picture of the president make it seem like he just might be the subject of the sentence? Maybe?

I tried to figure out if this was really Obama’s first book, but a quick google search told me that only that many journalists thought they were clever to title their articles “Goodnight Moon mission: Obama cuts NASA funding.” I could not find any mention of the first book Obama owned, read, liked, or bought.

I did, however, find this quote from a speech he gave to the ALA (American Library Association) in 2005:

“…as parents, we need to find the time and the energy to step in and find ways to help our kids love reading. We can read to them, talk to them about what they’re reading and make time for this by turning off the TV ourselves. Libraries can help parents with this. Knowing the constraints we face from busy schedules and a TV culture, we need to think outside the box here – to dream big like we always have in America.

Right now, children come home from their first doctor’s appointment with an extra bottle of formula. But imagine if they came home with their first library card or their first copy of Goodnight Moon? What if it was as easy to get a book as it is to rent a DVD or pick up McDonalds? What if instead of a toy in every Happy Meal, there was a book? What if there were portable libraries that rolled through parks and playgrounds like ice cream trucks? Or kiosks in stores where you could borrow books?

What if during the summer, when kids often lose much of the reading progress they’ve made during the year, every child had a list of books they had to read and talk about and an invitation to a summer reading club at the local library? Libraries have a special role to play in our knowledge economy.” — June 27, 2005 Speech to the American Library Association

Obama was not describing his own past, but a hopeful future for the children of today and tomorrow. This doesn’t quite answer my question of how or why this book came to have the President on the cover. But it makes me suspicious that someone mistranslated the speech he gave in 2005 and this story that Obama read Goodnight Moon has spread. Or maybe I’m wrong to be suspicious and the publisher fact-checked their information and somehow knows the Obama’s first book.

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