The Analysis Of The Book “The Girl At The Window” By Tetsuko Kuroyanagi

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

The Girl at the Window, by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, translated by Dorothy BrittonWritten by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, a well-known Japanese actress and talk show host, Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window was a bestseller when published in Japan in 1981. I knew nothing at all of this book until I picked it up at a free corner library, August 2016. Having worked at the Albany Free School, read Summerhill, earned a Master’s degree in education, and taught for a decade at a Waldorf school, I suppose I should not have been surprised at finding another example of a heart-centered school.

The story is about a first grade girl, Totto-chan, expelled from a mainstream Japanese school. Her mother discovers the Tomoe school, where Totto-chan blossoms. From an “overactive” child calling street musicians to play at her classroom window, Totto-chan is adopted wholeheartedly into a funky school of 50 students in grades 1-6, where classes are held in old train cars, and love is the overriding method.The book is a memoir Ms. Kuroyanagi’s own experiences, though told in story form.

Occasionally the chapters lapse into some more adult explanation of the headmaster’s educational beliefs or the dark historical events of the time, but most of the book proved enthusiastically readable to my almost first grader. To a child of the 21st century, this is a book from a bygone era, where the fact that the children ride the train themselves and don’t have TV is as foreign as the fact that they live as far away from Colorado as earthly possible.There is something similar in character Chris Mercogliano’s Making It Up As We Go Along: The Story of the Albany Free School. Both books utilize stories to illustrate educational methods.

The schools at the center of each book focus on love and freedom. Both schools are small and live on the fringe of acceptable education. While the Albany Free School is the longest living such institution in the United States, the Tomoe school lasted just eight years before being burned to the ground by B29 bombers flattening Tokyo in 1945. There is a great sadness in this loss and the fact that the headmaster Sosaku Kobayashi never managed to start another similar school, dying in 1963. It is a great gift that Ms. Kuroyanagi has written this book as a record of her experiences.What stands out throughout the book is Mr. Kobayashi’s love for the students.

Totto-chan’s “interview” for admission when she first comes to Tomoe consists of Mr. Kobayashi inviting her to tell him anything she wants. She talks for four hours, until she runs out of things to say. Later in the book, when she has lost a favorite purse down the outhouse toilet and is fishing for it through an access door, the headmaster merely asks that she put all the slop she’s fished out back.This book was such a success in Japan because the implicit suggestion is that rigorous academics count out children like Totto-chan. At the end of the book there is an epilogue to describe what some of the characters did with their lives. Totto-chan and her classmates did very well in their lives, successful by any standard.

Unfortunately, the sort of education, even the sort of living that this little girl experienced, without screens and medication, without hovering parents (her mother comes looking for her at some point because it is getting dark, and finds her stuck in a pile of wall plaster), without the fear and violence which march hand-in-hand through every vein of our society, this sort of existence must still exist on the fringes of society while children in mainstream schools lose out on music, art, recess, real food, medicated to their desks and standardized tests. This is the kind of book that offers a glimmer of hope that maybe those corners where education is humanizing will yet hold sway, even if they must live on the edge.

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