“Tottochan-the little girl at the window” is an autobiography written by Tetsuka Kuroyanagi and translated by Dorothy Britton. It is a beautiful story which touches the heart of the reader. It has all the elements that a reader needs – humour, happiness, warmth, friendship, love and realizations. This book describes the childhood activities of Tetsuka Kuroyanagi, the author of this book whose childhood name is Tottochan, the protagonist of the story. It depicts the journey of a child from what she was to what all she can become. This story poses a sharp satire on the machine like educational system in Japan.
The book describes the friends Tottochan makes, the lessons she learns, her relationship with the headmaster, Mr. Kobayashi and the vibrant atmosphere she enjoys at her new school “Tomoe Gakuen” after being expelled from her old school. Her new school combined learning with fun, freedom and love. In this school, the children led happy lives, unaware of the things going on outside the world. World War II had started and yet in the school, no signs of it were seen. There are also many moments of tragedy and despair in this book. One of those tragedies is that the Tomoe school was burned to the ground by the enemy. This is a reminder of the unfairness of war.
Another tragedy is that Tottochan’s friend who was suffering from polio dies and her dog also disappears which is very sad. But thankfully, this is a humorous and enjoyable book as well. By interspacing war and happiness, the author has succeeded in elaborating the pains of war and the gains of happiness to the readers and this is valuable since most of the readers are children. One of my favorite scenes was when Tottochan went to meet the soldiers fighting in the war. That scene was pretty emotional and I loved it. That scene educates the readers about the struggles the soldiers faced during the war. This book is also poignant. It is charming and readable and can be enjoyed by children of all age groups. For me, it was the best book I have ever read as I enjoyed reading the book a lot.