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The Funny Little Woman

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  3,417 ratings  ·  325 reviews
In this Caldecott Medal-winning tale set in Old Japan, a lively little woman who loves to laugh pursues her runaway dumpling--and must outwit the wicked three-eyed oni when she lands in their clutches.

"The pictures are in perfect harmony with the humorous mood of the story. . . . It's all done with a commendable amount of taste, imagination, and style."--School Library
Paperback, 40 pages
Published February 14th 1993 by Puffin Books (first published 1972)
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Average rating 3.95  · 
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 ·  3,417 ratings  ·  325 reviews

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What a strange and amazing book. This is so different from the other Caldecott’s I’ve been reading recently and I love this story. Where has this book been hiding. It’s obvious to me that I’m drawn to Asian mythology right now and I want to learn more about it. This is perfect.

A little old woman lives by herself making little rice balls. She has a beautiful little home. One day her rice ball rolls off the table into a crack. The floor gives way and the woman falls down into a tunnel. The neat
Feb 24, 2018 rated it liked it
This review was a partial family affair.
My 7-year-old: "Scary."
My 9-year-old: "Weird."
Me: "The Caldecott??"

I have been reading many folktales from Japan for many years now, but if there was one Japanese folktale that I was pleasantly surprised in liking, it would be “The Funny Little Woman,” retold by Arlene Mosel along with illustrations by Blair Lent and has won the Caldecott Medal. This story is truly fun and fascinating to read for anyone who is a fan of Japanese folktales!

In this story, there was once a little woman who had the habit of laughing at every single thing. One day, she was making
Andrea Cox
Sep 10, 2017 rated it liked it
by Andrea Renee Cox

This was a cute Japanese legend about a little woman who likes to make rice dumplings. There were mentions of Japanese gods and evil mythical creatures. Great conversations about the cultures of different countries could be started because of this book.

I was not compensated for my honest review.
Jade Lovgren
Feb 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrens-books
I loved this book when I was girl, and my children have enjoyed it too. It's a great story read aloud with an animated voice. Be creative in your storytelling, your children will love it.
I read this to students K-6 grade. I told them to watch for the second story-line told just in the illustrations involving a little man and his dog. We discussed the wordless scene when the little woman arrives at the house where the wicked Oni live. I asked them to tell me what the artist did to show the reader that it was underground. Their replies: "There are tree roots." "You can tell its dark because the lanterns are glowing." "He used the color of dirt, brown not black." And my favorite, ...more
This book was kind of random. It's called The Funny Little Woman, but they never did explain why she was so funny, she laughed a lot, but that's not really very funny. When reading this book and the funny little woman is running after her rice ball, I am wondering why she is not heeding the advice of all the statues, warning her of the evil Oni, wouldn't you at least take that into account and just go home to make another rice ball? I didn't really see the point of this story, it was kind of ...more
Yolanda Smith
Dec 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
This story is unusual and quirky enough to call for multiple readings.
Jennifer Honahnie
Mar 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Funny Little woman is a story that takes place in old Japan. A woman who liked to laugh made dumplings out of rice, one day she dropped a dumpling and it fell into a hole in the ground. As she tried to get it the hole got bigger and she fell in it, underground were statues of gods who saw her dumpling roll by. The gods warned her not to get her dumpling because at the end of the road lived a wicked god “Oni”. As the woman laughed she kept going and was captured by the wicked god, he kept her ...more
Paige Scott
Sep 22, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-summaries
1) This book is about a little old woman who is cooking rice and she drops a rice ball down into a big hole in the ground. She is determined to go and get her rice ball so she climbs down into the hole and is greeted by many Jizo. They all warned her of the oni that would come and find her if she was not careful, but she kept on going trying to find her rice ball. When all of the sudden an oni smelt her and snatched her up, taking her back to the oni houses. He said he would not hurt her unless ...more
Apr 02, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading "Funny Little Woman", I found the story to be entertaining. The woman in the story loses her dumplings and attempts to get them back but falls into a hole on the ground. The illustrations in the story also got my attention where the main focus of the story is in color (the lady underground and dealing with the onis), whereas the less focus of the story is in black and white (the lady's house above the ground). As the story progresses, the seasons changes and you can see the lady's ...more
Casey Richard
The Funny Little Woman was making dumplings when one of them rolled out of her kitchen and into an unknown hole in the ground. She went into the hole and realized she was in a ‘new world’ that she had never known before. She meets the scary Oni, whom brings her back to his house. She was given one grain of rice and a magic spoon that multiplied the grains to create enough rice to feed the house full of Onis. After the woman had spent many days at the Oni’s house, she decided to escape, taking ...more
Shoaa Aljohani
Sep 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
My review for this book will look at both the positive and negative aspects.Firstly,in terms of positive it is a funny story as the cover shows it attracts the attention of children in terms of intended audience the book is aimed at kids 5-12 years of age.The main character is from Japan so the glimpse into her world promotes cultural awareness.The author used both narrative and dialogue,which is a very important point for each story.It is enjoyable,not prolonged the plot is feast-paced complete ...more
Nov 14, 2016 rated it really liked it

I laughed a whole lot during this book, but mostly because I was thinking in my head, "what is going on?" It starts out with the little woman's dumpling, and then her laugh "tee-he-he-he" on every other page, to her escaping from the wicked oni and becoming the richest woman in Japan that kept me smiling all the way through. The book is light-hearted and easy to read and follow. The pictures were done well with detail, but the oni reminded me of the illustrations in "Where the Wild
Mar 01, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
This is a funny little story, tee he he he, about a little old woman who outsmarts some wicked oni. It's an interesting story, and thankfully the illustrations do not portray the oni as being too scary. Otherwise, it might not have been a good choice to read at bedtime. Our girls liked the story, especially how the old woman laughs all the time.

This book was selected as one of the books for the October 2015 - Quarterly Caldecott discussion at the Picture-Book Club in the Children's Books Group
Kristine Hansen
I'm not sure what's so funny, or if this woman is one of those people who laugh at everything (I'm suspecting this, which annoys me. I like when people have reason to laugh because otherwise she seems rather mindless) but this story was definitely very random. Chasing a dumpling into the underworld seems like a bad idea from the get-go, and then ignoring all the troll warnings leads to the inevitable capture by trolls. There is a certain amount of cleverness to the ending, and I do like the ...more
Jun 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture
I loved this book! The story was funny and kept me interested. I loved how when I read the book, I kept saying Te-he-he-he becuase it started to make me laugh which made the audience also laugh. I think this aspect made the story a lot of fun to read and get the kids interested. The pictures gave me mixed feelings. I loved the black and white pictures because they seemed so simple but still very pretty. The colored ones seemed rushed and not nearly as simple. I found the pictures with color hard ...more
Jan 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I like this folk tale about an old Japanese lady that travels to the underworld in search of her missing dumpling. There is mention of the oni demons and the Jizo (talking statues of deities).
Matthew Hunter
"Tee-he-he-he." Trust me, you'll remember the funny little woman's giggle.This one's further proof that folk tales can be weird. It's all about the oni. Oni kidnapping a woman so she can make massive amounts of rice dumplings for them. Oni drinking up an entire underground river to keep their kidnappee from fleeing by boat. Oni vomiting up their water when they laugh back at the giggling woman. Blair Lent lends the folk tale interesting illustrations. We enjoyed reading The Funny Little Woman ...more
Apr 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
An odd little book but definitely a hit with Daughter who enjoyed looking at the pictures and narrating the story out loud. The illustrations have a "Where the Wild Things Are" feel to them.

Q: What's your favorite thing about this book?
A: The Oni! (Oni are trolls in Japanese folklore)

Q: Would you make dinner for the Oni?
A: No way!

Q: If a hole opened up in our kitchen, would you go down the tunnel to check it out?
A: No . . . unless I had a Batman flashlight!

Oct 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: traditional, asian
This is a Japanese folktake about a "funny little woman" who find herself in a bit of trouble after she decides to chase one her rice dumplings that rolled away out of her kitchen one day. As I started to read the story, I thought is was going to be a different version of "The Gingerbread Man" but it turned out to be quite different.
Jun 05, 2008 rated it liked it
Very clever illustrations that include the funny little woman's house while she is away underground cooking for the evil oni.
Nov 01, 2010 rated it liked it
This one was okay. I love seeing how stories are the same and still different in other cultures. For more:
Dec 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a weird fun little book.
Jan 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: children
Recommended to Relyn by: I love TIki Tiki
It's not TikiTiki, but it's still fun and worth reading.
Dec 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: second-exam
I liked The Funny Little Woman because it utilized humor and the Japanese culture into the folktale. It was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1973. The vocabulary words such as dumpling, rice, and Japan, supported the culture within the book. It incorporated all the characteristics of a folktale such as an ending that was happy, "So she sold them and soon became the richest woman in all of Japan." I thought this book was appropriate as a picture book for young children. The text was limited to one ...more
The Funny Little Woman by Arlene Mosel tells the story of a little old Japanese woman who liked to make rice dumplings. One day, when she is cooking, one of her dumplings falls and rolls down a hole. The little woman goes after her dumpling and falls down the hole herself. At the bottom of the hole there is a road lined full of statues of the gods. She asks each of these gods if they had seen her dumpling. They tell her yes, but to turn back because the wicked oni are up ahead. The little woman ...more
Cassandra Gelvin
Feb 04, 2017 rated it liked it
In the absence of their dumpling maker, they formed the Plastic Oni Band.

This is a weird book. It is based on a tale by someone else and retold by the author. It's about a woman who lived in Japan and liked to make rice dumplings. She loses a dumpling and starts chasing it. It falls down through the earth and she follows and gets captured by oni (basically Japanese demons) and forced to make dumplings for them using a magic paddle that turns one grain of rice into two and so forth, keeping her
Kiah Albritton
Mar 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: exam-1
Written by Arlene Mosel and illustrated by Blair Lent, The Funny Little Woman won the 1973 Caldecott Medal. This was my first read of the book; I am not a fan of the illustrations of the story itself. Both seemed very dark for a children’s story. This book is intended for early elementary school children. It’s age appropriate because although it’s a picture book, the story includes a complex plot and some difficult vocabulary like “frightened” and “humankind.” Additionally, the book is pretty ...more
Nicole Grote
This story starts with the funny little woman making dumplings, one rolls away and when she goes to reach it, both her and the dumpling fall into the ground. The woman chases the dumpling and along her way meets statues of the gods who tell her to watch out for the evil Oni. Eventually the woman comes face to face with the Oni and is taken to be their chef. Eventually she missed her house and leaves while the Oni are gone. She isn’t far up the river when the Oni see her and suck all of the water ...more
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Arlene Tichy Mosel was a American author of children's literature who was best-known for her illustrated books Tikki Tikki Tembo, a retelling of a Chinese folk tale, and the award-winning The Funny Little Woman, which was the recipient of the Caldecott Medal for illustration in 1973.

She was born as Arlene Tichy on August 27, 1921, in Cleveland, Ohio to Edward J. Tichy, an engraver and Marie