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December 15, 2003

Moore's first errand: Put children's books on shelves

Midori Matsuzawa
Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

Long-term Japan resident John Moore found the reluctance of Japanese publishers to promote their children's books overseas so disappointing that he decided to do it himself.

While involved in producing international editions of the popular Guri and Gura illustrated book series for his previous employer, Moore came to regard it as his "mission" to bring these books to a wider audience. To that end, he set up his own publishing firm - RIC Publications Asia Co., an affiliate of an Australian educational publisher - about a year ago.

"I wanted really to bring the best of Japan to the overseas world and to show them that Japan has fabulous books," the Briton said. "They have gorgeous characters and heartwarming stories that kids anywhere in the world will love."

Moore, president of the newly setup firm, personally selected the first title to translate into English.

It was Hajimete no Otsukai, a "modern classic" that has remained popular since it was first released nearly three decades ago by the Fukuinkan Shoten publishing company. The story follows an adventure that a little girl takes when her mother asks the heroine to go out shopping by herself.

The book's English version, titled Miki's First Errand, is now on bookstore shelves inside and outside Japan, accompanied by a CD.

Considering the growing interest in encouraging younger children to learn English in East Asian countries, Moore has no intention of publishing an English-language version without an accompanying CD. "Because basically most Asian mothers have a little bit of a complex with their pronunciation," they need support like this kind of audio tool, Moore explained.

New English translations set to be released next year include Soramame-kun no Beddo (Broad Bean's Bed), which Moore describes as "probably the most popular book at the moment" in the children's book sector in Japan.

Moore believes there is a strong market for translating Japanese illustrated books into English. He receives many requests from international schools in Japan, which are eager to offer students stories that their Japanese counterparts are familiar with. In addition, "There's a strong interest in Japanese culture in Australia in the elementary school market," he said, because learning the Japanese language is popular at the primary school level in that country.

In this country, under the revised curriculum that officially kicked off in April last year, public primary schools can now offer English lessons, a new movement that Moore believes his company can take advantage of.

"A library at the moment in a (primary) school...needs to have an English corner where the kids can self-access," the president said, describing it as his goal to see the characters from his company's children's stories come to life on shelves in such corners.

(This article was originally published in the December 2nd edition of The Daily Yomiuri)

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