Former Rotary Scholars publish children’s book
From left, Momo Nishimura, Gabriela Bracklo, and Keiko Funatsu attended the 2010 Bologna Children’s Book Fair
in Italy. Photo courtesy of Gabriela Bracklo
Two former Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholars are introducing cultural understanding and communication to young German children through the retelling of a popular Japanese fairy tale.
Gabriela Bracklo, a 1992-93 scholar from Germany, and Keiko Funatsu, a 2004-06 multiyear scholar from Japan, worked with illustrator Momo Nishimura to produce Dank des Kranichs (The Grateful Crane), a German version of the Japanese story Tsuru no Ongaeshi . Since its release in October 2009, Dank des Kranichs and its illustrations have been featured at libraries, book fairs, and festivals throughout Munich, where Bracklo lives.
“From the beginning, the idea of improving cross-cultural communication by introducing Japanese fairy tales to German children appealed to me,” says Funatsu, who edited and translated Tsuru no Ongaeshi into German. Bracklo conceived the idea for the book and served as its publisher.
The two met while Funatsu was studying German culture and literature at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. Bracklo, a member of the Rotary Club of München-Bavaria and chair of District 1840’s Rotary Foundation alumni subcommittee, often took her daughters to alumni events, where they were captivated by the stories told by Funatsu and fellow Japanese scholars.
Unable to find German translations of the stories, Bracklo approached Funatsu with the idea for the book. She also contacted friends in the publishing business, many of whom volunteered their time and expertise to the project. Both Bracklo and Funatsu credit their years as Rotary Scholars with giving them the confidence to pursue this project.
“It’s not in my upbringing to do this kind of thing. But I had the chance to live in an open-minded, positive, and outgoing environment, and I brought that home with me,” says Bracklo, who studied journalism at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Before beginning work on the story, the women had to choose which version to tell because Japanese folk tales, unlike their German counterparts, can have a number of variations.
“One of the reasons we chose this version,” says Bracklo, “is because it focuses on the Japanese New Year, one of the most important holidays in Japan. Through Nishimura’s illustrations, German children can see a typical Japanese home, how they dress, what they eat, and how holidays are celebrated.”
Each copy of the book is accompanied by origami paper and a folding diagram that includes instructions for making a crane.
Although not a scholar herself, Nishimura also has a Rotary Foundation connection. In 2010, she married former Rotary Scholar Keiji Nishikawa, whom she met at a Foundation alumni meeting in Munich.
In addition to introducing Japanese culture to Germany’s youth, Dank des Kranichs is raising money to help eradicate polio. For every book sold, €1.50 (US$2) is donated to PolioPlus. To date, about €700 ($944) has been raised.
Funatsu, who teaches German at the Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan, says she is looking for the right German folk tale to translate for Japanese children. In the meantime, the three literary colleagues have already started work on a new book, Momotaro, the Peach Boy , which is planned for release in Germany later this year.
Says Bracklo: “Our first book was set in the winter and featured a graceful woman and crane. The second book is set in the summer and is about a Japanese boy who fights demons. It’s more of a boy’s book.”
As with the first book, a portion of sale proceeds from Momotaro will be donated to PolioPlus.
Written for Reconnections