A Rabbit's Eyes Paperback – Sep 1 2005
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"A Rabbit's Eyes is a satisfying boy-and-his-pet tale, as well as a peek into the weirdly dichotomous world of Japanese schools, where Mary Kay Letourneau—esque flirting and student whackings happily coexist." - Robert Ito, The Village Voice
"Haitani has created a very rich and moving book populated by a very worthy group of characters."- Pacific Dreams
About the Author
Kenjiro Haitani is the recipient of the Andersen International Award for Excellence in Childrens' Fiction. He founded a nursery school- Children of the Sun- twenty years ago and is a member of UNESCO and a tireless activist for chidren's rights. A Rabbit's Eyes marks his stateside debut.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The story of an inexperienced though extremely earnest young elementary school teacher in a bad part of Kobe who sets out to turn the homeroom from hell into a class of little angels; this book is quite a tear-jerker.
The story is set on 'the wrong side of the tracks' at a dirty and neglected elementary school situated right next door to a garbage disposal plant. Most of the students are the children of the disposal plant workers, and they live and play amidst the filth and squalor of the plant; catching rats and pigeons, scrapping with each other, and sometimes scamming the other students for money to buy food when Dad gambles or drinks away his pay check. The view this book offers is a far cry from the spic and span, regimented image most people have of Japanese schools.
The story begins with young Miss Kotani taking the reins of a first grade classroom only to retreat to the teachers' room before the end of the day in tears, after a student named Tetsuzo kills the pet frog the children were raising for a nature project. Although terrified of the boy (who later attacks her and one of his classmates as well) she is determined not to see him as a bad child, and with the help of a gruff but loveable senior teacher Mr. Adachi (known as the Yakuza teacher); she sets out to befriend him and the other disposal plant children.
Over the course of the book she becomes close to the plant children, by listening to them and treating them with respect where previous teachers had thought of them as human garbage and refused to allow them to help at meal times for fear they would contaminate the school lunches. She shares their lives and learns that even the seemingly bizarre and uncommunicative Tetsuzo (he rarely says more than yeah, no, or uh-huh) has something to offer in the form of an encyclopaedic knowledge of flies which he later puts to good use to help a local business.
Although the characters are somewhat cliched, the dialogue rather contrived (or perhaps just badly translated), and the plot as a whole sappy in the extreme, there's no denying that this is a very touching, heart-warming, and affirming book that will have you in tears for pages at a time. I recommend it highly to anyone who wants to have a good cry.
Mr.Haitani is a man who knows the reality of life deeply. His background make him understand people in a difficult situation of life, and he also knows how love can help people and give them hope.
Now his books are giving me hope and teaching me what to teach at school.
Basically, this is a book about tolerance and not judging people, as well as trying to help people who are less fortunate. In this respect Haitani is very much like Kenzaburo Oe. The good teachers in this book don't give up on their "problem students" and are rewarded for it, just as the family members and friends who care for disabled people are rewarded in Oe's books.
One of the minor characters in the book "the samurai" reminded me of a Mark Twain or Steinbeck character.
It is good to read a book which presents another side to Japan, although I have to wonder, are there really schools in Japan situated next to waste disposal plants? The author reminded me of a gentler Natsuo Kirino and Murakami Ryu, in that like those authors he wants to show the truth or the darker side of how some people live in Japan but unlike them he doesn't delve into sex or violence (which I suppose is not surprising as he is writing about children not adults as Kirino and Murakami do).
Some people have criticised the translator of this book but it is obviously very hard to translate from Japanese to English.