New readers thirsty for series fiction will look forward to more stories about Jasmine and her family.

JASMINE TOGUCHI, MOCHI QUEEN

From the Jasmine Toguchi series

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)

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-30410-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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Accessible, reassuring and hopeful.

THE INVISIBLE BOY

This endearing picture book about a timid boy who longs to belong has an agenda but delivers its message with great sensitivity.

Brian wants to join in but is overlooked, even ostracized, by his classmates. Readers first see him alone on the front endpapers, drawing in chalk on the ground. The school scenarios are uncomfortably familiar: High-maintenance children get the teacher’s attention; team captains choose kickball players by popularity and athletic ability; chatter about birthday parties indicates they are not inclusive events. Tender illustrations rendered in glowing hues capture Brian’s isolation deftly; compared to the others and his surroundings, he appears in black and white. What saves Brian is his creativity. As he draws, Brian imagines amazing stories, including a poignant one about a superhero with the power to make friends. When a new boy takes some ribbing, it is Brian who leaves an illustrated note to make him feel better. The boy does not forget this gesture. It only takes one person noticing Brian for the others to see his talents have value; that he has something to contribute. Brian’s colors pop. In the closing endpapers, Brian’s classmates are spread around him on the ground, “wearing” his chalk-drawn wings and capes. Use this to start a discussion: The author includes suggested questions and recommended reading lists for adults and children.

Accessible, reassuring and hopeful. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-582-46450-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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