The Big Bath House by Kyo Maclear

Copy image for The Big Bath House.

The Big Bath House by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Gracey Zhang (9780593181959)

With a warm welcome at your grandmother’s home in Japan, this picture book firmly places children in the midst of an extended loving family filled with aunties and cousins. Change into your yukata and your wooden sandals and walk together to the bath house. Shed your clothes along with everyone else. Start with washing, washing your hair and back, do a naked dance with your cousins, until finally it is time. Everyone enters the big bath together with a sigh. Wrap in a soft towel afterwards and find a treat of shaved ice while you are waiting for the adults to finish. Walk home at night together again, holding your grandma’s hand.

Based on the author’s childhood visits to Japan in the summer, this book is so filled with warmth and love. The connection formed by bathing together, chatting, playing together and spending relaxing time together is so evident that it need not be stated outright. The writing keeps the focus on the importance of bath houses for families. It also gives stodgy Americans a chance to glimpse other ways of bathing, spending family time and respecting each other’s bodies.

The nakedness in the illustrations of this book will have some adults concerned while others will recognize it as a celebration of different body types as well as a look at Japanese culture in ways that is different from our American views. The pages are filled with sudsy, steamy, bubbly bodies, all naked and lovely.

A bubbly look into Japanese culture and the closeness of a family who may live far apart. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Random House.

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