Welcome to the monthly children’s book review feature with a focus on diverse books here at Bird Meets Worm! My team of reviewers—Joan Charles, Laurie Young, Sarah Orgill—and I are so excited to be championing books celebrating everything from gender diversity, people of color, the LGBTQ community to ethnic, cultural and religious minorities, people with disabilities and developmental challenges to controversial topics, unique family situations and anything and everything I did not include. It is to say we take a rightfully broad view of diversity! We aim to shine a light on books that bring both familiar experiences to those who do not often see themselves represented in books and new experiences to those looking to expand their worldview. Here at Bird Meets Worm we believe in the power of story to build empathy and thus a better world for you and me and everyone. Look for a new review on the second Wednesday of every month. (PS You may have noticed that today is actually Tuesday! In deference to summer schedules at the Bird Meets Worm nest, we're posting a day early. Enjoy!)
JASMINE TOGUCHI MOCHI QUEEN
Written By Debbi Michiko Florence • Illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic
Middle Grade Chapter Book (ages 6-9) • 107 pages
Published by Farrar Straus Giroux • 2017
Jasmine Toguchi is a spunky, Japanese-American girl, who is tired of her older sister, Sophie, always getting to do everything first. Just once, Jasmine wants to be the one who gets to go first! And not with just anything—with something big, something special. Maybe even with something that no one else has EVER done before!
When Jasmine’s family gathers at her home in Los Angeles to celebrate the New Year by making the traditional sweet, gooey rice dessert, mochi, Jasmine cleverly spots an opportunity to do just that! But it turns out to be harder than it looks, and Jasmine finds herself suddenly full of doubts.
Jasmine Toguchi Mochi Queen is a delightful middle grade novel—the first in a series of four—with a bright, young voice that vividly evokes the elementary school child, much like Ivy and Bean and Ramona Quimby. Universal themes of wanting to grow up, stand out, and find belonging within your own family are woven neatly into the story against the backdrop of Jasmine’s Japanese-American family, the multiple generations represented by her relatives and their beloved food traditions. Japanese words are also peppered throughout, giving authenticity and enjoyable character to the text.
The energetic artwork by Vukovic brings it altogether and readers will enjoy the expressive depictions of Jasmine’s many moods as she goes from annoyed little sister to clever schemer to—finally—mochi queen!
Buy this book:
Barnes & Noble
Reviewed by: Jane Smith