Aoi Tori Bunko(青い 鳥 文庫) is a book publication that is created for Japanese elementary school children. The books are created by the publishing company Kodansha(講談社).
There are fiction books made for the readers enjoyment as well as educational books that can be used as supplemental educational resources related to elementary school classes. In these books, all of the kanji will have furigana and the story will use simple grammar.
What is furigana? It can sometimes be found next to Japanese characters. It will give you the reading for the word and let you know how to pronounce it. In Aoi Tori Bunko, almost all kanji will have furigana. The text is also be bigger with more spacing between words and sentences, meaning there will be less words per page. There may also be pictures included through out the text.
Another feature of this publication series is that in the beginning of the book, there is often a few pages that introduce the characters from the story. If present, there could be a short written background accompanied with a illustration indicating what the character looks like. This can help new readers as they can use it as a reference to keep track over characters over the course of the story.
Here is an example that shows what the inside of Aoi Tori Bunko books look like.
What is the difficulty level of these books?
Compared to the Kadogawa Tsubasa Bunko publication series that I made a post about here, Aoi Tori Bunko book are easier and created with a younger reader population in mind. The grammar and vocabulary used in Aoi Tori Bunko books is simpler. There are also less unique words used in each book.
One great thing that stands out to me about Aoi Tori Bunko books, is that they tend to create story lines that go through out several volumes. What does this mean as a language learner? If you continue with the same story, you will see the same words again that you saw in the first book! This makes each vocabulary word feel like it has high value and worth learning. It also means that you can see the same words in different contexts and understand the term to a greater extent. Seeing the same word again and again will reinforce learning and help you both to retain it in the term long term as well as help to put it in your ‘active vocabulary’ so you can use it while communicating with others.
The lower level of unique vocabulary will also help you enjoy reading books faster as there will be less words that you need to learn per book.
One issue is the stories might seem too childish for adult readers. If you are concerned about this issue, look at Kakugawa Tsubasa Bunko books which have more mature story lines in comparison.
Will I be able to read novels based off of my favorite shows and movies with Aoi Tori Bunko?
If you are looking for books based off of anime that you have seen and know the story lines for, I recommend looking at Kadogawa Tsubasa Bunko books.
If you are looking for popular children’s books that were originally published in English? Then Aoi Tori Bunko is a great choice for you!
Who would benefit from reading Aoi Tori Bunko books?
Those who want a gentle introduction to reading books in Japanese. More important then reading difficult passages, is just plain reading in general! These books will help you make use of the beginning grammar and vocabulary that you have picked up so far in your journey. You would have the pronunciation for each word available to you and this can help you to look up the meanings of new words. Here are a few examples of series that you can find in Aoi Tori Bunko.
Lassie – 名犬ラッシー
Moomin – ムーミン
Sherlock Homes – ホームズ
Little House on the Prairie – 大草原の小さな家シリーズ
There are also many original books of Japanese origin as well. I looked though the titles and was unable to find any that I was familiar with.
What are the disadvantages of books with furigana?
As a learner, you will need to do some self-reflection on why you want furigana and if it will help you level up your Japanese. For some people, they may end up relying on furigana as opposed to really actually learning the readings. If you feel that furigana will prevent your from progressing in your Japanese, I would advise purchasing the normal publications.
How can I find these books?
Look for blue edging around the cover. Also look for the white bird icon in the corners of the cover. On the top center of the cover in the blue border, there will be white writing that says『Aoitori Bunko』in English lettering. They can be found online and at physical book stores. In America, I have seen them at Book-Off and Kinokuniya. Above I have added an example of a Aoi Tori Bunko book to help you see what they tend to look like.
I have recently read and reviewed a novel by Aoi Tori Bunko, 霧のむこうのふしぎな町(The Marvelous Village Veiled in Mist) by Kashiwaba Sachiko. You can read more about Aoi Tori books and the features that they have for language learners here.