Claire Youmans has traveled extensively in Japan since 1992, and likes it there. The culture is unlike any other human culture she's run across, and the Meiji Era a particularly unique and fascinating time period, lending itself to stories and adventures. The wilder things seem, the more likely they are to be true. Born, raised and educated .... more
Claire Youmans has traveled extensively in Japan since 1992, and likes it there. The culture is unlike any other human culture she's run across, and the Meiji Era a particularly unique and fascinating time period, lending itself to stories and adventures. The wilder things seem, the more likely they are to be true. Born, raised and educated in the Pacific Northwest, she now lives in California, but hopes to relocate to Japan soon. She's a retired lawyer who has been writing her whole life and publishing non-fiction and fiction books since 1992. She's found her literary niche in The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series, and enjoys it very much.
Youmans says, "Japan was suddenly thrust onto the world stage, its isolation at an end. Refusing to accept a colonial or secondary role, Japan leapt from a decaying feudalism to major world power in an incredibly short period of time. I don't think any other country could have done it. That's the result of its deep and continuing culture, which may be the oldest continuous human culture in the world."
Azuki, the Toki-Girl, and Shota, her Sparrow-Boy brother, derive directly from Japanese folklore. Their dual-natured abilities are both blessings and curses as they try to navigate this chaotic period when history was made with nearly every meal. Yet they strive first for the right to be uniquely themselves and befriend others like them. They discover their talents, using and being run over by the technological advances of the times. The cultural clash between the new foreigners and the Japanese brings national questions of how much Japan should adapt, what might Japan give up, and the direction of the nation as a whole. The children's remaining human relative, their human father's brother, leaves his monastic life to take up their guardianship, and must cope with not only the civil upheaval but the domestic upheaval caused by his sparrow nephew and his toki niece and their dual-natured friends, who happen to include a Dragon Princess -- and her parents. Together with the not-so-mythical Crane-girl and other folkloric beings they've met along the way, they just might save the world, one adventure at a time.
The Toki Girl and the Sparrow Boy, Book One: Coming Home (2014) is the first in a series of books recounting those adventures as the children flee those who killed their human parents and wanted to keep Azuki captive for her beautiful feathers. The Toki Girl and the Sparrow Boy, Book Two: Chasing Dreams (2015), joins them with their uncle, safeguards their human status and reveals important resources the foreigners want and Japan can profit from providing. Book Three: Together (2016) introduces the Crane-woman as the group encounters semi-mythical monsters out to expel the foreign presence from their watery homes. The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow Boy, Book 4: Uncle Yuta has an Adventure (2017) lays the ground work for further tales even as Uncle Yuta journeys to Tokyo for an Educational Conference in a city he barely recognizes. He rides Japan's first passenger train, discovers the new jinrickishaws, gets a Western suit, investigates local and labor questions, and takes up with an underemployed Ninja. Oh, yes, there will be more.
"These books are so much fun!" Youmans continues. "The mix of folklore and history gives ample opportunity for obstacles to throw themselves in the paths of the main characters as they are affected by dual-natures, advancing technologies, and social change. I hope to bring authentic Japanese culture to life for readers so they can learn about it and from it. Japanese readers tell me I have done so, which makes me very happy."
These books are garnering great reviews and an expanding readership among readers from middle-grade through adult. The books advance as the children grow, like Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books. Reminiscent of Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Watership Down, The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series addresses real-world issues in a context of the real history, culture and folklore of Japan.