The Funny Little Woman

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The Funny Little Woman
CM funny little woman.jpg
The Funny Little Woman
Author Arlene Mosel
Illustrator Blair Lent
Country United States
Genre Children's picture book
Publisher E. P. Dutton
Publication date
ISBN 0-525-30265-4
OCLC 549397
398.2/0952 E
LC Class PZ8.1.M8346 Fu

The Funny Little Woman is a book "retold by" Arlene Mosel and illustrated by Blair Lent. Released by E. P. Dutton, it was the recipient of the Caldecott Medal for illustration in 1973.[1]

"The Woman who Lost her Dumplings" was the title of the original tale from Lafcadio Hearn's collection Japanese Fairy Tales, which Mosel had adapted.[2][3]


The story is set in "Old Japan." The title character likes to laugh ("Tee-he-he-he") and make rice dumplings.

One day, one of her dumplings rolls down a hole. The funny little woman follows the dumpling and ends up in a strange place underground lined with Jizo (guardian statues). The Jizo warn her not to go after the dumpling because of wicked oni (monsters) who live there, but she does anyway. An oni grabs the woman and takes her in a boat across a river to the house of the oni.

The oni force the woman to cook rice for them. They give her a magic paddle to make a full pot of rice from a single grain. After many months with the oni, the woman becomes homesick, takes the magic paddle, and escapes on a boat. Because the oni cannot swim, they drink all the river water in an attempt to stop the woman. Her struggling to run in the river mud makes the oni laugh, which causes the water to flow back into the river, which allows the woman to finish crossing to the other side in the boat.

The funny little woman returns home, sells rice dumplings made with the magic paddle, and becomes "the richest woman in all of Japan."


  1. ^ American Library Association: Caldecott Medal Winners, 1938 - Present. URL accessed 12 January 2013.
  2. ^ Hearn, Lafcadio (1918), Grace James、Basil Hall Chamberlain, "The Woman who lost her Dumplings", Japanese Fairy Tales, Boni and Liveright, pp. 21–28 
  3. ^ Lacy, Lyn Ellen (1986), Art and Design in Children's Picture Books: An Analysis of Caldecott Award-winning Illustrations, American Library Association, p. 183 
Preceded by
One Fine Day
Caldecott Medal recipient
Succeeded by
Duffy and the Devil