Goodreads: Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen
Series: Jasmine Toguchi #1
Published: July 11, 2017
Eight-year-old Jasmine Toguchi is a flamingo fan, tree climber, and top-notch mess-maker!
She’s also tired of her big sister, Sophie, always getting to do things first. For once, Jasmine wishes SHE could do something before Sophie—something special, something different. The New Year approaches, and as the Toguchi family gathers in Los Angeles to celebrate, Jasmine is jealous that her sister gets to help roll mochi balls by hand with the women. Her mom says that Jasmine is still too young to join in, so she hatches a plan to help the men pound the mochi rice instead. Surely her sister has never done THAT before.
But pounding mochi is traditionally reserved for boys. And the mochi hammer is heavier than it looks. Can Jasmine build her case and her mochi-making muscles in time for New Year’s Day?
I don’t normally review chapter books, primarily because I don’t really read them even though I love upper middle grade novels, but I received an ARC of Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen and couldn’t pass up the cute premise: Jasmine’s quest to participate in a beloved holiday tradition her family think she’s too young for.
The plot structure is pretty straightforward, as I would expect from a chapter book, but the story really shines in the details and subplots. Readers do see Jasmine plotting and planning how she can prove she’s strong enough to help making mochi, but there’s also a lot of great stuff in the book about family and relationships. The spotlight is on the relationship between Jasmine and her older sister (typically bossy!), but readers also get to know Jasmine’s grandmother, her “mean cousin Eddie,” her parents, and her next door neighbor.
The book also does a great job of introducing Japanese culture and traditions. Sometimes the explanations come across as a little heavy-handed because Jasmine or another character will directly define things. However, I can also envision some kids showing off their knowledge, and I wouldn’t be surprised to meet one in real life who literally did say something like, “We’re going to wear kimonos! A kimono is [insert definition].” I also don’t know if the target audience would overthink the dialogue the way I am. Possibly they’d just be excited they were learning new things.
This was a fun book overall, and I enjoyed meeting Jasmine and her family. There’s also a recipe for making your own mochi in the microwave, which I’m interested in trying sometime. (Currently I don’t have a microwave!)
The illustrations are light and whimsical, and you can really feel the characters’ emotions.