I really like this delightful book which showed me what 'education' means in the truest sense of the word. The role of educators is to identify each child's unique traits and talents and develop them to their full potential through meaningful activities, and not to force a formulaic style of teaching on them. Discipline is always a consideration in education, but sometimes people forget that children are children. Totto-chan's precociousness means that she risks being labelled with a complex, when she is actually just inquisitive and eager to learn. Her supposed behavioural problems also make her teachers overlook her strengths, namely her kindness. The headmaster of Tomoe Gakuen (the school she transfers to) recognizes this fact, hence his common refrain, "You're really a good girl, you know."
The book ends with a feeling of sadness as Tomoe burns down during an American air raid, and a sense of the unknown regarding what is to come. This is the excerpt, which is simple but eloquent:
"Totto-chan was lying down in a crowded evacuation train, squeezed in amongst adults. The train was headed northeast. As she looked out of the window at the darkness outside, she thought of the headmaster's parting words, "We'll meet again!" and the words he used to say to her time and time again, "You're really a good girl, you know." She didn't want to forget those words. Safe in the thought that she would see Mr. Kobayashi again, she fell asleep.
The train rumbled along in the darkness with its load of anxious passengers."
A Beauty Minute with Gwyneth Paltrow
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