GLLI Translated YA Book Prize Shortlist: The Secret of the Blue Glass by Tomiko Inui (Japan)

A classic story about a magical miniature family’s adventures in wartime Japan

In a dusty library, in the quietest corner of a house in a Tokyo suburb, live the Little People: Fern and Balbo, Robin and Iris. Just a few inches high, sleeping in cigarette boxes and crafting shoes from old book jackets, they need only one thing from their Humans – a nightly glass of milk, served in a sparkling Blue Glass goblet, by a trusted young member of the Human family.

But when the Second World War comes to Japan, bringing a dangerous new kind of patriotism, both Humans and their beloved Little People face a world they could never before have imagined. It will take great love, bravery, and a rather loyal pigeon, to bring their unique families back together once more…

Tomiko Inui (1924-2002) was born in Tokyo and joined a publishing house in 1950, where she began working as an editor, while also writing. A pioneer of children’s fantasy literature in Japan, she published many titles over her long career, during which she won numerous prizes and was a runner-up for the Hans Christian Andersen Award. The Secret of the Blue Glass is the first of her books to be translated into English.

Ginny Tapley Takemori studied Japanese at the universities of SOAS (London), Waseda (Tokyo), and Sheffield, and now lives in rural Japan. She has translated a dozen or so early modern and contemporary Japanese authors, and her most recent publications include From the Fatherland with Love by Ryū Murakami (with cotranslators Ralph McCarthy and Charles de Wolf), Puppet Master by Miyuki Miyabe, and The Whale that Fell In Love with a Submarine by Akiyuki Nosaka.


‘The English translation has been a long but worthwhile wait… reminding us that children’s literature can both address adult concerns and provide alternatives to our failings.’ – Japan Times, Books of the Year

‘An extraordinary book… elements of the work of Oscar Wilde and Hans Christian Andersen.’ – The School Librarian

‘A tender and beautifully written story full of adventure, hardship and cultural revelations.’ – Lancashire Evening Post


The Secret of the Blue Glass
Tomiko Inui
Translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori
2018, Pushkin Press
ISBN: 9781782691846

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