Cover image for Tasty baby belly buttons
Tasty baby belly buttons
Sierra, Judy.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Knopf : Distributed by Random House, [1999]

Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 26 cm
Urikohime, a girl born from a melon, battles the monstrous oni, who steal babies to eat their tasty belly buttons.
Reading Level:
AD 810 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 5.0 0.5 34565.

Reading Counts RC K-2 3.4 2 Quiz: 21830 Guided reading level: O.
Added Author:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PZ8.1.S573 TAS 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PZ8.1.S573 TAS 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



According to legend, Japanese villagers once lived in fear of great hulking ogres called Onis who considered babies' belly buttons the tastiest of all treats. When they raided a village it was the babies they stole. In a delightful retelling of the folktale, Judy Sierra has added a feminist twist in the person of a fearless young heroine, determined to stop them. Little Urikohme, or Melon Princess, was born inside a watermelon and has no bellybutton. She travels to the Onis' fortress island, and with the help of some animal friends, rescues the babies, leaving the Onis crying for mercy. A wonderful short tale to read aloud, children will gleefully join in the Onis' chant and cheer at the triumph of small over large. In cleverly inspired watercolors, Meilo So outfits the Melon Princess in a watermelon-designed kimono and her humorous depiction of the oversized bullies is sure to elicit giggles. An author's note discusses the origin of the tale and its place in Japanese folklore.

Author Notes

Judy Sierra was a puppeteer, a storyteller, and a professor of children's literature before becoming a full-time writer of children's books. She is the author of Antarctic Antics, Counting Crocodiles, Nursery Tales Around the World , and other highly acclaimed books. She lives in Eugene, Oregon.

Meilo So was born in Hong Kong. She attended secondary school and Brighton College of Art in Great Britain, returning to Hong Kong to begin her career. She is the illustrator of the award-winning The Beauty and the Beast: Poems from the Animal Kingdom , selected by Jack Prelutsky. She now lives on the south coast of England.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ages 5^-7. Sierra retells a Japanese folktale in a narrative so lively it begs to be read aloud. A childless woman finds a melon floating in a stream. When her husband cuts it open, he discovers a perfect baby girl in its center. No ordinary child, Uriko-hime, "the melon princess," grows quickly, developing talents that far surpass those of other children. When the evil oni kidnap village babies (baby belly buttons are their favorite food), Uriko travels to the monsters' kingdom to reclaim the children. Graced with occasional delicate brushwork that seems distinctly Japanese, So's fluid, sweeping watercolors add freshness to a traditional tale of swashbuckling heroics. The clever female protagonist is a nice change from the ordinary as well. An author's note is appended. --Stephanie Zvirin

Publisher's Weekly Review

Despite the implications of its title, Sierra's retelling of a Japanese fairy tale is full of sweetness, and stars an engaging, pint-size heroine. Uriko, born from the middle of a watermelon, has no belly button. Found by a couple who become her adoptive parents, Uriko learns how to cook millet dumplings from her mother, and her father teaches her how to wield a sword. Both skills come in handy when the town is raided by oni, the red- and green-faced giant ogres who kidnap babies in order to feast on their tasty navels. Brave Uriko comes to the infants' rescue with the help of her dog, a monkey and a pheasant she meets along the way. So's (The Beauty of the Beast) irresistible watercolors effectively combine traditional elements of Japanese paintings, such as apple blossoms and verdant landscapes, with modern girl-power. The drawings are delicate yet contain plenty of boisterous, even slapstick action. Sierra (Antarctic Antics) liberally sprinkles the narrative with Japanese wordsÄthe oni tromp into town, zushin zushin, and the babies cry, boro boro. Both art and text contain just enough mirth to leaven the scariness of the monsters; when Uriko and her friends fight the oni, the scene seems more comic than violent (e.g., the oni attempt to hit the pheasant as it flies around them and knock each other out instead). In the end, it is the oni who sob, boro boro. Distinctive cultural details coupled with a universal story line make this a solid read-aloud choice. Ages 5-8. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 3-Some people may quake at the idea of giants kidnapping babies so that they can eat their belly buttons, but these things happen in Japanese folklore. This tale is a variation of "Momotaro," the tale of the boy born from a peach; in this story, it is a brave melon princess, Uriko, who uses her talents and her bravery to save the babies from the oni (giants). She gradually collects animals to help her, luring them with millet dumplings. Throughout the narrative, Sierra incorporates descriptive sound words traditionally used in Japanese storytelling to draw readers into the action and uses just the right combination of droll and dramatic elements. An author's note explains how this story came to be. The pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations, both detailed and fluid, are the perfect accompaniment to this deliciously scary adventure.-Carolyn Jenks, First Parish Unitarian Church, Portland, ME (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.