I couldn’t believe my eyes. Certainly, there was a funny assortment of books in the library. I don’t know who’s in charge of acquiring books in the library but I thank God for his or her good taste, even if it’s this one time. 8) Who would have thought that I’d come across this book again after all these years? Perhaps I never thought to look but I know that it is kismet that the book found me.
Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi was one of my childhood reads. I couldn’t remember exactly when I read it but it should be between 12 to 15 years of age. My friend N got me to read it because it’s one of her favourite books.
I don’t really remember the story but I remember that I liked it. A lot. All I remember is that it’s about a little girl and her school. So, being reunited with the books after so many years made me want to catch up with it immediately.
I re-read the book with great speed. Actually, to be honest, I don’t have the time to read it but it’s not a thick novel, and it’s not complicated. So, I recommend this book with great passion to whoever who hasn’t read this. It’s really a good book and it’s based on the recollections of the author Tetsuko Kuroyanagi of when she was a child. So, it’s not exactly fiction. After reading it, it makes me want to become a better mother and a better educator. If only everywhere in Malaysia, there is a school like Tomoe that doesn’t stifle a child’s curiosity and mould a child to some society’s preconceived notions, our children would grow up with their innocence intact and be better people.
The book is also like a tribute to the man who was her headmaster, and the creativity, patience and understanding he had in dealing with children. I have to say that when reading the book, I wished I had his wisdom, and her mother’s wisdom too.
The book begins with Totto (as Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, the author, was called as a child) being happy to be at school but totally oblivious to the fact that her class teacher was unhappy and at a loss at what to do with Totto. Apparently Totto was disruptive in class and disrupted her lessons by opening and closing her desk, which opens upwards (unlike her desk at home), and stand at the window to invite street musicians to perform for her and her classmates. Totto meant no harm but the teacher couldn’t control her. So Totto was expelled from school but her mother didn’t tell her that; she only said that they were to go to a new school.
And the new school was a in a train, and the school gateposts were growing. Amazing, isn’t it? Totto-chan was most curious if her schoolmaster was a stationmaster or a headmaster. Her mother asked her to ask the man himself and those were exactly one of the first words she uttered to him.
“What are you? A schoolmaster or a stationmaster?” she asked him spiritedly.
Her mother was embarrassed but before she had time to explain, the headmaster laughed and replied that he was the headmaster of the school.
Totto-chan was delighted and said, “Oh, I’m so glad, because I want to ask you a favor. I’d like to come to your school.”
And then the headmaster asked her to tell him anything she liked (without the presence of her mother) and she talked and talked and talked until she couldn’t think of anything else to say; and he listened with rapt interest. When she stopped, he informed her, “Now you are a pupil of this school.” He had listened to her talk for four solid hours until she had nothing else to say! How many people would do that?
I don’t want to reveal much about the book but just enough to entice you to read it. It’s not just for children, but I believe parents and teachers should also read this book as it shows us that children are capable of so much, and that we shouldn’t stifle their creativity and the excitement kids have towards life. So find the book and read it. It’s a keeper.
Here are some other reviews: