Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The East-West House: Noguchi's Childhood in Japan

The East-West House: Noguchi's Childhood in Japan

Christy Hale
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 10
Lee & Low Books, 2009   ISBN: 978-1600603631

Yonejiro Noguchi was a Japanese poet who went to America in 1901 where he met and fell in love with Leonie, an American editor and teacher. Soon after Leonie found out that she was pregnant, Yone went back to his homeland, and after her baby son was born, Leonie joined him in Japan.

It was hard for Leonie and her son Isamu to fit in, and they felt “Unwelcome,” shunned because they were foreigners. Isolated by their situation, Isamu and his mother depended on each other, growing very close. Together they traveled around Japan exploring many picturesque places, and Isamu grew to love nature’s beauty. When Isamu was ignored or teased by his classmates he created “a different kind of joy” for himself. He learned how to model clay with his hands, making something beautiful.

When Isamu was eight, he drew up plans for a house that his mother wanted to build on some land that she had bought. The house was unique in its design, containing both Western and Eastern elements so that it was a mix, just as he was.

Once the construction was finished, Isamu made the decorative details himself, apprenticing to a carpenter so that he could learn how to carve wood. Though he was still a child, this was the beginning of Isamu’s artistic journey, a journey that would lead him to become a famous sculptor, furniture inventor, and designer of public spaces.

As they read this fascinating book, young readers will see how Isamu’s creative life was influenced by his childhood. They will understand why and how Isamu chose to combine influences from both his heritages, west and east, to create a style that was all his own.

At the back of the book the author provides the reader with further information about Isamu Noguchi’s life and work.