Mai and the Missing Melon

Sonoko Sakai; illustrated by Keiko Brodeur
(Bala Kids)
  • Fiction
  • Set in Japan

Key words:  grandparents, food, travel, kindness

This charming story invites the reader on a journey through rural 1960s Japan following a little girl named Mai on the Enoden train, past the oceanside populated with fishers, and to the classic shrine-like home of her grandmother, or obāchama.

Loosely based on an event in Sonoko’s childhood, Mai wishes to share the gift of a sweet muskmelon with her grandmother but loses it on the train along the way. Obāchama shares the Japanese folktale of The Stone Buddhas as an example of the power of good intentions to cheer Mai up.

After the story, Mai hears from the train station master that the melon has been found, and she and her obāchama are able to enjoy the sweet muskmelon together.

This sweet story explores the cherished relationship between a young girl and her grandmother–two great friends despite the age gap–while the expressive art takes the reader through the Japanese countryside, past the sea, bamboo forests, and temples, drawn from the author’s own childhood memories.