Let’s Read!
Let’s Read! New and Noteworthy Books for Children – Winter 2003

Karen Wada is a Los Angeles-based writer and journalist. She reviewed these children books for the Winter 2003 issue of the Museum Magazine.

First Book Of Sushi by Amy Wilson Sanger.

This charming board book makes sushi into a feast fit for little eyes, if not tummies. Sanger uses cut-paper collages and mixed media to produce striking colors, shapes, and patterns. Her simple text introduces both everyday and exotic offerings, from take-out tekka maki to “tobiko, flying fishy roe.” The culinary culture tour also includes authentic details like wasabi and sushi-making mats. Even if she is too young to read the words, my two-year-old daughter can pick out images of miso, tofu, and futomaki—her great-grandmother’s specialty. Slightly older Japanese Americans—Issei to Yonsei—will enjoy seeing their favorites, too. (One big omission: inari sushi “footballs.”) Tricycle Press.

Dear Ichiro by Jean Davies Okimoto, illustrated by Doug Keith.

While they are watching a Seattle Mariners game, little Henry Lockwood tells his great-grandfather that he has had a big argument with his friend Oliver. “I’ll hate him forever,” he declares. Grandpa Charlie points to Mariner stars Ichiro Suzuki and Kaz Sasaki and says that when he was a young man fighting in World War II, he never would have believed that one day he would root for “two fellas from Japan on my hometown baseball team.” Henry asks Grandpa Charlie how he got over being enemies with the Japanese. The answers lead to Henry’s own attempts to open his heart and mind.

A designer of more than 30 books, Keith creates illustrations for Dear Ichiro which combine whimsy with enough realism to satisfy young baseball buffs. Davies, a respected author of junior and young adult fiction, has a special interest in multicultural topics, in part because she is married to a Japanese American. Her story, which is told through Henry’s eyes, is engaging and refreshingly contemporary for children’s literature; however, kids may not appreciate the book’s more complex themes unless they are prodded into a conversation about them. Kumagai Press. $16.95

Japanese Children’s Favorite Stories. Third edition – 50th anniversary edition Compiled by Florence Sakade. Illustrated by Yoshisuke Kurosaki.

An old friend comes to cheery new life in this 50th anniversary edition of one of the most popular entries in Tuttle’s catalogue of Asian children’s literature. Color illustrations brighten and enrich what used to look a bit daunting in black and white. The 20 tales from the world of Japanese folklore are delightful morality playlets whose characters include a heroic peach boy, long-nosed goblins, a greedy monkey, and a magic teakettle.

Young children will laugh at the antics of the many animals and the simple humor of the inevitable comeuppances. Older kids may feel a sense of pride at knowing that their ancestors’ myths are as rich as the more widely known fairy tales from Europe and other parts of the world. They also may enjoy seeing the similarities between stories of different cultures—the princesses and ogres who represent the hopes and taboos that we all share. Tuttle Publishing.

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