Review of Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen

Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen
by Debbi Michiko Florence; illus. by Elizabet Vuković
Primary    Farrar    115 pp.
7/17    978-0-374-30410-2    $15.99
Paper ed.  978-0-374-30834-6    $5.99
e-book ed.  978-0-374-30412-6    $4.25

Jasmine’s favorite holiday is New Year’s. Relatives gather at her home in Los Angeles to celebrate, and her beloved Obaachan comes all the way from Japan to visit. For two days, everyone pitches in to make mochi, the Japanese sweet rice cakes that are good luck to eat on New Year’s. Everyone, that is, who is at least ten years old. This year, older sister Sophie will get to help the women roll the mochi, while cousin Eddie gets to help the men pound the rice in a stone bowl with the special (and heavy) wooden hammer. Eight-year-old Jasmine, however, will only get to baby-sit her little cousins. Bossy Sophie does everything first: school, learning to read, piano lessons (not that Jasmine wants to play the piano, but still). “Just once, I wished I could do something first.” Deciding to break with tradition and be the first younger-than-ten helper and the first girl to pound the rice, Jasmine sets out to prove she’s strong enough to lift that huge hammer and, with her sister’s unexpected help, finds where her real strength lies. This first in a series handily introduces a plucky, strong-willed girl whose family traditions may be new to many readers but whose frustrations will be familiar to nearly all. Humorous illustrations help young audiences picture the mochi-making process, which is further explained in an author’s note. Also appended: a recipe for “microwave mochi.”

From the September/October 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Jennifer M. Brabander

Jennifer M. Brabander is former senior editor of The Horn Book Magazine. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature from Simmons University.

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