“In the kitchen, the rice cookers set on timers were already steaming, filling the kitchen with the smell of rice. My mouth watered.” p. 53
Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen (Jasmine Toguchi #1) by Debbi Michiko Florence, illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic.
Farrar Straus Giroux, Macmillian, New York, 2017.
Elementary fiction, 115 pages.
Lexile: 560L .
AR Level: 3.6 (worth 1.0 points) .
Jasmine and her Japanese-American family are getting ready for the New Year. That means lots of cousins, mochi-tsuki, Obaachan coming to visit, and two more years before Jasmine is old enough to make mochi with the women. Rather than wait two whole years, she has an idea…
In the last few years we’ve been seeing a big rise in the number of early elementary chapter book series featuring diverse characters, and I am over the moon about it. As you’ve heard me rant before, it’s crucial to have diverse books at every reading level, including the very earliest. Working a little understanding of different cultures, cuisines, and lifestyles into early fiction also helps students out when they later encounter the same topics in middle school or high school, and it sets a foundation for tolerance and acceptance.
Series like this one are particularly great because they can be read aloud to children over a range of ages, and information about Japanese-American culture is seamlessly woven into the storyline.
“My dad was always curious about humans, how we react in different situations. He asked us hard questions at a young age, and even better, he listened carefully and respectfully when we answered.” p. 39
Yes, My Accent is Real: and Some Other Things I Haven’t Told You by Kunal Nayyar.
Atria Paperback, an Imprint of Simon & Schuster, New York, 2015 (my edition 2016).
Personal essays, 245 pages.
At only 34, Nayyar is best known for playing the role of Rajesh, an Indian immigrant and astrophysicist with selective mutism, on the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory.
I have a soft spot for diverse celebrity memoirs, especially if I happen to actually know who the celebrity is. This was one of those guilty pleasure books that you know won’t be very filling but want to read anyway.
The format was unusual – more like short essays punctuated by “A Thought Recorded on an Aeroplane Cocktail Napkin” every so often. They are roughly chronological (although this isn’t an autobiography) and roughly written, so I believe Nayyar wrote this himself (or if not, his ghostwriter owes him a big refund).
“But my friends didn’t call me Chinese, Taiwanese, or American. They called me Grace, my American name.” p. 19
The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin.
Little, Brown, and Co, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2006 (my edition 2007).
Realistic fiction, 140 pages + excerpts.
Lexile: 690L .
AR Level: 4.2 (worth 3.0 points) .
In the Year of the Dog, Pacy is supposed to find her best friend and figure out her talent. But what could it be?
This is one of those books that I’ve had for a while but didn’t pick up. I may have been saving it or planning to wait until we got another in the series, I’m just not sure. Anyway, this story tells about one year in Pacy’s life, starting with the Lunar New Year for the Year of the Dog and ending with the Lunar New Year for the Year of the Pig.
An aspect of this I didn’t expect was how there were stories embedded into the larger narrative, just like Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. These stories were realistic fiction instead of fantasy, but they worked the same way and I greatly enjoyed them. The stories allowed Pacy to be connected even if many of her relatives live far away.
“When Asians immigrated to countries like the United States and Canada, they brought these traditions with them.” page 7
Celebrate Chinese New Year by Carolyn Otto and Haiwang Yuan.
National Geographic Kids, Washington, D.C., 2009, my edition 2015 reprint.
Picture book informative nonfiction, 32 pages.
Lexile: 740L .
AR Level: 3.6 (worth 0.5) .
How Lunar New Year is celebrated around the world, especially in China.
This is a very comprehensive book. You could easily do a short unit study using just this text. The format works for a variety of ages or abilities. The book is divided into two parts – first the picture book, then the last six pages are mostly text with “More About the Chinese New Year”, a variety of supplemental activities and further information for parents, teachers, or older children.
“My dad was supposed to take care of me, but I didn’t know if he could.” page 83
Gloria’s Way by Ann Cameron, illustrated by Lis Toft.
Puffin, Penguin Putnam books for Young Readers, New York, 2001.
Realistic fiction short stories, 96 pages.
Lexile: 600L .
AR Level: 3.1 (worth 1.0 points) .
NOTE: Technically part of the Julian/Huey/Gloria series, but could stand alone.
Six short stories about Gloria, best friends with Julian Bates and his little brother Huey.
Some of the stories in this collection include Julian, Huey, their dog Spunky, or new friend Latisha while others focus on Gloria. As I usually do with short stories, I’ll briefly discuss each individual story.
Our 36th board book will be great once Baby’s a little older.
It’s Ramadan, Curious George by Hena Khan, illustrated by Mary O’Keefe Young.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, Massachusetts, 2016.
Tabbed board book, 14 pages.
Curious George is guided through Ramadan by his friend Kareem.
This is the largest board book we’ve gotten yet, almost the size of a regular picture book! The text also is fairly advanced for a picture book. Each two-page spread (there are seven, as you can see by the tabs down the side) has three full paragraphs of text following an abcb rhyme scheme.
My thoughts about this book were complicated. It has great promise but falters in some of the execution.
This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten.
Magination Press, American Psychological Association, Washington, D.C., 2014.
Informative fiction, 36 pages.
The story of Pridefest presented through a parade for family discussion.
This was one of the picture books Husband bought that I mentioned before. I struggled reviewing it since my feelings are mixed. While characters of color are included in this book, it struck me that all the couples included seemed to be either white, or of mixed race. None of the families had two adults of color.