This book reminisces Totto-chan's initial school life from year one where she was expelled from a public school and then enrolled into Tomoe Gakuen which had changed her life inevitably. Tomoe was no ordinary school. It's syllabus and teachings were different from the conventional school thus every single student, there were 50, who joined this school felt appreciated, valued and allowed freedom of choice. Due to the special ways, the students were happy and never left the school until WW2 came and downed the school. Such education syllabus was frowned upon then but it actually helped build characters and minds of each student. Even their lunch time was well thought of... it must consists of something from the sea and the hill to ensure a balance diet!
The founder and headmaster, Mr Kobayashi, was a very dedicated man, always thinking of ways to manage and educate the students creatively and properly. The school ground was special, made of unused trains with railway tracks. The students do have a free hand in most anything, allowing them to discover and decide on their own. They were guided by the specially trained teachers and I definitely adored their curricular activities. Truly inspiring and beneficial to the growing children. Regardless of their curiosity and hyperactiveness, these students have no issue in this school, not judgemental, well behaved and disciplined. Totto-chan was expelled due to the ruckus she created then such as talking to the people who passed by the school and being noisy. In short, the teachers in her old school just didn't know how to handle a curious and hyperactive girl with the conventional and dull syllabus they had.
I know I'll benefit greatly in such school but then, alas, there's nothing like it in Malaysia. All according to the textbooks, nothing out of the box, no creative learning. If there is one and affordable, I would definitely enroll my Angels there. On the other hand, I think if there is one, it'll costs a bomb as knowing the Malaysian ways... they'll think of making more money first and not for the love of children's education.
Anyway, back to the book, it's Totto-chan's tribute to the headmaster, the school and the teachers plus her many friends as Tomoe Gakuen was one of a kind. She had made a pack with Mr Kobayashi then to be a teacher in Tomoe but it didn't happen so she has wrote this book in honour of him and Tomoe Gakuen.
It was translated in a simple and easy to understand manner but I do wish it was originally written in English instead of Japanese. It somehow captured only some, if not all, of the juice of the creative writing and I do find it a little bored at times. Thankfully, I can imagine the funfilled era, I can relate to the happiness and sadness Totto-chan had but it did not translate fully in English. You know those kaleidescope of feelings one would have in a memoir. This is why I didn't like reading books which have been translated, always preferring the original language. Mind you, it is not the translator's fault, don't get me wrong as she had done her best. Perhaps it's the OCD in me :-p
Well, if you are looking for a light, memoir read and not bothered by lost in translation, this is a good book to venture into. Believe it or not, Totto-chan has blossomed into a celebrity in Japan. The happiness, the sadness, death and war maketh a successful woman. So to end this post with a quote... 'make love not war'.
Goodreads rating: 4.31
My rating: 4/5
My rating: 4/5
Author: Tetsuko Kuroyanagi