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The Friends

by Kazumi Yumoto
Translated by Cathy Hirano

Published by U.S. edition: Farrar Strous Giroux, 1996

Ages 10 - 13

In search of answers to questions about death, three Japanese boys learn about life and living in a beautifully unfolding novel from Japanese author Kazumi Yumoto. Kiyama, Kawabe and Yamashita are sixth grade friends who want to know what happens when someone dies, in that very moment of life's passing. They begin spying on a reclusive old man near their school: the most likely candidate for death that they know. But the old man, whose life is spare and lonely, who is, indeed, physically alive but barely engaged in the act of living, catches them. As if to defy the very thing the boys hope for, the old man begins to embrace life in a new and vigorous way, challenging the boys to come out from behind the wall where they spy and close the distance between them as he does so. What began as a death watch slowly transforms into a deeply felt friendship between the boys and the old man, a friendship that encourages them all--children and adult alike--to live life more deliberately. A novel set in contemporary Japan and providing a realistic portrayal of the busy, active schedules which many Japanese children maintain to meet the expectations of family and society acknowledges the ways lives are enriched when people risk coming out from behind their walls to meet the hearts and minds of others. Co-Winner, 1996 CCBC Batchelder DiscussIon CCBC categories: Fiction for Children; Contemporary People, Places and Events. 1996, Farrar Straus Giroux, 170 pages, $16.00. Ages 10-13.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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