Eight-year-old Japanese-American Jasmine Toguchi is tired of having to follow in the footsteps of her older sister, Sophie, who gets to do everything first.
The extended Toguchi family gathers each year to celebrate New Year’s Day. Some, like mean cousin Eddie and his family, just have to drive down from San Francisco. But beloved Obaachan flies all the way from Hiroshima, Japan. Sophie and Eddie, being the older cousins, are excited about the roles they will play this year, namely to help out with the preparations for mochi, a sweet and sticky rice dessert that traditionally is pounded by the men of the family and shaped by the women. This strikes Jasmine as unfair, so she sets out to prove to her family that she is strong enough to join in the task herself. She takes it upon herself to strengthen her muscles with weight lifting (with the baby cousins!) and hanging by her arms, but nothing seems to work. It’s a thin plotline with little tension, but to populate it, Florence paints a lovely picture of a warm, extended family whose members truly care about one another and take each other seriously. Black-and-white sketches, liberally sprinkled through 13 short, easy-to-read chapters, help make the story understandable for the newest readers. Children looking for a window into a Japanese-American family and its New Year’s customs will surely find one here. Book 2, Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth, publishes simultaneously and perhaps will more fully develop its plot now that this effort has introduced the characters. A recipe for mochi is included.
New readers thirsty for series fiction will look forward to more stories about Jasmine and her family. (Fiction. 5-9)