“You’re really a good girl, you know.”
Toto-Chan, The Little Girl at the Window is a book I chanced upon during the pandemic. It’s a book that my father handed down to me and urged me to read when I find the time. And the book is a page-turner, taking you back to your childhood.
“You can do it!”
The journey is a simple one, the story of Toto-Chan, a little first-grade girl in Tokyo, Japan. Expelled from her first school for being too – how shall I put it? Expelled for being too curious, yes, she was expelled for peering out the window. Toto-Chan comes to Tomoe, one of the most unique schools, which has train cars for classrooms. From here, the journey unfolds in an entirely new direction.
It’s probably one of the most unique schools, not only when it existed, but even today. Clouded by societal and peer pressures, elementary education is completely shelved, rather than allowing children to explore on their own. But with Mr. Kobayashi as the headmaster, Tomoe has set an example of how elementary or even high schools should be.
What I loved most about Toto-Chan is that – she’s like you and me. A simple girl dreaming of becoming a spy at one time and a ballet dancer at another; she’s a girl untouched by the microscopic eye of adults around her. And Tomoe preserves her innocence while allowing her to bloom most beautifully. “You’re really a good girl, you know,” is a subtle and gentle reminder that Mr. Kobayashi gives all of us that we’re indeed good humans, irrespective of what society may judge us for.
“What kind of school shall we build next?” The most touching aspect of the book is the finale. The story is set right before the American warplanes begin dropping air bombs in 1945. So when Tomoe is blown and burning up, Mr. Kobayashi asks “What kind of school shall we build next?” Beaten, but not broken, these lines are so inspirational, especially in these difficult times. In the end, I can say that Toto-Chan has reminded me of the timeless message to really see, not just look. Listen, not just hear. And feel, rather than just passing by.
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