Middle Grade Review: How Do You Live? (Genzaburo Yoshino)



About This Book:

The first English translation of the classic Japanese novel, a childhood favorite of anime master Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle), with an introduction by Neil Gaiman.

First published in 1937, Genzaburō Yoshino’s How Do You Live? has long been acknowledged in Japan as a crossover classic for young readers. Academy Award–winning animator Hayao Miyazaki has called it his favorite childhood book and announced plans to emerge from retirement to make it the basis of a final film.

How Do You Live? is narrated in two voices. The first belongs to Copper, fifteen, who after the death of his father must confront inevitable and enormous change, including his own betrayal of his best friend. In between episodes of Copper’s emerging story, his uncle writes to him in a journal, sharing knowledge and offering advice on life’s big questions as Copper begins to encounter them. Over the course of the story, Copper, like his namesake Copernicus, looks to the stars, and uses his discoveries about the heavens, earth, and human nature to answer the question of how he will live.

This first-ever English-language translation of a Japanese classic about finding one’s place in a world both infinitely large and unimaginably small is perfect for readers of philosophical fiction like The Alchemist and The Little Prince, as well as Miyazaki fans eager to understand one of his most important influences.


*Review Contributed by Bethany Wicker, Staf Reviewer*

Valuable message to Children
Copper is your ordinary 15-year-old boy who is trying to cope with the hard times life offers. Between school, losing his father, and discovering true friendship, he learns that not everything is easy but it’s how you react to it that matters the most. Thankfully, he still has his mother and uncle to help him. Then, there’s the other point of view of his uncle who’s trying to help Copper understand what living and humanity is all about. Copper writes to him and his uncle has lots of great advice.

HOW DO YOU LIVE is a thought-provoking coming of age novel that teaches children how to navigate through life. The uncle’s advice is something all children can learn from. Copper is a relatable character and I look forward to the movie Hayao Miyazaki is going to make of this, but I’m sure it’s a long time coming. The writing is beautiful and I’m happy it was translated into English because it’s one that will teach children how to become a good member of society.

Final Verdict: I would recommend this book to all children ages 10 and up because it’s engaging and an eye opener that teaches us life lessons. Genzaburo Yoshino gives the tools a teen will need to become a kind and functional person who will also stand up for those in need. The inner themes of friendship and family are another positive the author incorporates.


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