Yoko is eager to learn how to read, and Mama wants to help her. But they only have three picture books at home, all in Japanese. Yoko is worried that she'll be left behind when she sees the other kids in school earning leaf after leaf on the classroom book tree. Yoko and her Mama begin taking books out of the library. Mama can't read the English words, but by looking at the pictures, sounding out letters, and recognizing words from the wall at school, Yoko gradually teaches herself. In a poignant ending, Mama asks Yoko to show her how to read.
About the Author
Rosemary Wells is the award-winning author of numerous books for children, including Carry Me!; My Kindergarten; the New York Times best-selling Emily's First 100 Days of School; and several other stories about the character in this book: Yoko; Yoko's Paper Cranes; Yoko's Show-and-Tell; and Yoko Writes Her Name, which Booklist called "meaningful and delightful in equal measure" in a starred review. For more information, visit her Web site, www.rosemarywells.com.
Praise for Yoko Learns to Read…
When Yoko's teacher begins giving out "book leaves" to students who have finished a book, young Yoko initially earns only three, for the three Japanese books that she owns and knows by heart. Yoko's mother (who cannot read English) takes her to the public library, where Yoko checks out a book; Yoko and her mama "read" the story by following the pictures, and Yoko earns another book leaf. With encouragement from her teacher (" Words are like faces,' said Mrs. Jenkins. Easy to remember'") and her mother (" I am so proud of my little snow flower'"), and despite discouragement from some of her peers (" I bet you can't read my book!' said Sylvia"), Yoko soon begins to learn to read signs and other short books, and she can't wait to teach her mother how to read English, too. While many young listeners will find Yoko's success encouraging, some, especially those for whom reading is difficult, may be put off by the ease with which Yoko learns to read and by the teacher's viewpoint that words can simply be remembered visually. It's also not clear if Yoko is actually reading in Japanese already, and if so, why no one is pointing her toward books in that language. Wells' oil pastel and collage illustrations feature her trademark bright, cuddly animal characters and are here accented with what looks like patterned origami paper. The resulting art is friendly and cheerful, but the patterns sometimes make the compositions overly busy. Despite these flaws, Yoko's plucky perseverance is admirable and her mother's unconditional love and support is heartwarming, and Yoko fans may well enjoy her journey towards literacy. JH—BCCB
Wells' winsome kitten experiences a milestone sure to bring smiles to the faces of teachers and librarians everywhere. Learning to read is a momentous development in a child's life, but it can be difficult to depict in an interesting way. Luckily, previous familiarity with Yoko's can-do spirit should ensure that readers will be rooting for this clever kitten. Like her classmates, Yoko yearns to see her name on the "book tree" at school. She gets credit for the three stories that she and her mother share at home but despairs of adding any more. Her mother only reads Japanese, and, oddly, they own just the three books. A trip to the library solves at least one of these problems, and Yoko's determination carries her along as she sounds out words and uses pictures to predict plot. Cross-cultural details add interest: sushi for dinner, cozy on-the-floor seating at the tea table and the fact that books in Japanese read back to front. The final picture shows Yoko beginning to teach her mother the English alphabet. As always, Wells' illustrations enchant. Oil pastels and collage showcase rich colors and beautiful designs, evocative of traditional origami papers, while emotions shine through the characters' expressive eyes and energetic body language. A perky paean to the joys of literacy, with a bit of library love thrown in for good measure. (Picture book. 4-7)—Kirkus
K-Gr 1 Yoko's class is learning to read, and Mrs. Jenkins gives her students a beautiful leaf for each book they finish. Yoko has only three books at home (all in Japanese) and is feeling glum because her classmates boast about how many more leaves they have put on the class book tree. After Yoko discovers the library and increases the books available to her, she earns as many leaves as her classmates. As she reads at home, her mother begins to learn to read in English, too. The story is very simple; the audience may be somewhat limited to emerging readers who are eager to share the wonder of the reading experience. The beautiful papers and patterns in the illustrations, including those on the kimonos Yoko and her mother wear, and the sweet cast of cat characters are sure to appeal. Mary Hazelton, Elementary Schools in Warren & Waldoboro, ME—SLJ