Words to Make a Friend: A Story in Japanese and English

by Donna Jo Napoli (Author) Naoko Stoop (Illustrator)

Reading Level: K − 1st Grade

A clever and innovative bilingual English/Japanese picture book about a Japanese girl and an American girl who prove you don't need to speak the same language to understand each other.

When a young Japanese girl moves into her new house, she is happy to see a girl her age playing in the snow just outside her window. The only problem is the Japanese girl doesn't speak English and the American girl doesn't speak Japanese. How will these two girls have any fun at all? As it turns out, it's not that hard when both girls are looking for a friend! What starts with a simple hello and konnichiwa becomes a day filled with fun in the snow.

Each girl's love of play, snow, and making a new friend transcends the need to speak the same language, and by using simple words in their own languages, along with a bit of charades, the girls find they have all they need to build a snow creature. An important book to show children that speaking the same language isn't a prerequisite to making a new friend.


This sweet read about finding a sense of belonging in a new place emphasizes openhearted friendship and how learning and teaching a language can build connection. A great choice for group storytimes or one-on-one reading.

Copyright 2021 Booklist, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

Spare, dialogue-only text by Napoli allows Stoop's detailed textural vignettes, done in mixed media on plywood and finished digitally, to take center stage in this simple yet heartwarming picture book, showcasing two children bridging the language barrier on a snowy day. As a Japanese child in a Fair Isle sweater unpacks boxes in a new bedroom, they see a brown-skinned child in a light fuchsia puffer coat running out into the falling snow outside. After the first child dons snow gear as well, an enchanting spread surveys the duo from above as they approach each other over a layered white expanse of snow. Color-coded speech bubbles distinguish Japanese words, including "Konnichiwa," "Gojira," and various onomatopoeia, from their English counterparts as the duo builds a snow creature--and a friendship--in this sweet bilingual tale. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)

Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
Donna Jo Napoli
DONNA JO NAPOLI is a professor of linguistics and social justice at Swarthmore College, mother of five, grandmother of two, and the author of more than 80 books for children and young adults. While her undergraduate major was mathematics and her graduate work was in linguistics, Napoli has a profound love of mythology, folklore, and fairy tales. Her books have won the Golden Kite, Sydney Taylor, Parents' Choice Gold, and many other national and state awards, and have been translated into 19 languages. She lives in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. Web: donnajonapoli.com.

CHRISTINA BALIT is a graduate of the Chelsea School of Art and the Royal College of Art, London. An award-winning dramatist and illustrator, she has illustrated over 20 children's books, including the following titles for National Geographic: Zoo in the Sky, Once Upon a Starry Night, Treasury of Greek Mythology, Treasury of Egyptian Mythology, Treasury of Norse Mythology, Treasury of Bible Stories, and Tales From the Arabian Nights. Balit's author titles include Escape From Pompeii, Atlantis: The Legend of the Lost City, and An Arabian Home. Her plays include Woman With Upturned Skirt, The Sentence, and Needle (winner of the Brave New Role award). She lives in England. Web: christinabalit.com.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
November 20, 2021

Subscribe to our delicious e-newsletter!