Although my youngest children are twins entering fourth grade, I still take notice of new books by Rosemary Wells, one of our favorite storytellers and illustrators. Her latest is Yoko Writes Her Name. Yoko, who is Japanese, worries that she won't graduate from kindergarten after her classmates pronounce her Japanese writing "scribbling." Things get worse when Yoko shares her favorite book with her classmates, who tease her about reading from right to left. Luckily, Angelo comes to the rescue, complimenting Yoko on her "secret language," and asking her to share her knowledge. Mrs. Jenkins catches the excitement, adopting Japanese as her class' second language. As always, Wells' illustrations are bright, fun and filled with heartfelt characters. An added bonus is Japanese calligraphy, so young readers can try Japanese writing themselves. Copyright 2008 BookPage Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2009 Spring
Kindergartner Yoko ([cf2]Yoko[cf1]; [cf2]Yoko's Paper Cranes[cf1]) has learned to write her name and some numbers--in Japanese, not English. Teacher Mrs. Jenkins warmly congratulates her, but classmates Olive and Sylvia tease her, telling her she'll never graduate from kindergarten. Wells's familiar animal characters cheerfully illustrate this gentle story of how a small act of kindness can turn things around. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2008 June #2
Wells's familiar kitten Yoko is in kindergarten, and she's just learned how to write her name in Japanese. Olive and Sylvia, two catty (also kitten) schoolmates, claim that Yoko is only scribbling and that she will not be able to graduate to first grade. Despite stars from her teacher, comforting words from her mother and help from her friend Angelo, Yoko worries, particularly when she is excluded from a schoolyard game of Graduation. Then other members of the class want to learn some Japanese, and Yoko is glad to teach them. Her teacher's inclusion of Japanese as a second classroom language further helps to dispel her fears. By the time the end of the year rolls around, it is Olive and Sylvia who are worried, because they are the only ones who haven't learned their names in Japanese. Can Yoko save the day? English language learners in particular will savor Yoko's accomplishments. As always, believable characters, familiar struggles and warmth fill Wells's work, which teaches a subtle lesson on acceptance and maturity with great clarity. (Picture book. 3-6) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2008 May #1
Having overcome the challenges of being the only sushi lover at the Hill Top School (in Yoko ), the Japanese kindergartner faces a similar struggle when she is asked to write her name and produces it in beautiful Japanese calligraphy. Although the ever-sympathetic teacher, Mrs. Jenkins, praises Yoko's work, she can't change human nature (never mind that the cast is again rendered as well-dressed kittens, pups and so forth), and soon the class gossipmongers bruit it about that Yoko is "only scribbling" and won't be graduating to first grade. The plot essentially repeats that of Yoko : the mother lavishes love on her "little snow flower," the teacher intervenes with mixed results, and only the overtures of a classmate who wants Yoko to teach him her "secret language" redeem Yoko's spirits. Even so, readers will be glad to see Yoko's return: her character seems to bring out Wells's fascination with pattern as well as color, and her compositions, mostly framed squares set on white ground, are particularly well balanced. English and Japanese captions accompany small insets in the upper corners of the spreads; it would be hard to learn calligraphy from them, but they afford Wells miniature canvases for Japanese-inspired backgrounds, and their scale will delight young readers. Ages 3-6. (July)[Page 63]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
PreS-Gr 2-- The endearing kitten introduced in Yoko (1998) and Yoko's Paper Cranes (2001, both Hyperion) returns in this lovely story illustrating the challenges facing young children who are bridging two cultures. Life for Yoko in the first week of school is anything but positive. In the eyes of the other children, her Japanese characters look like "baby marks," her numbers are just lines, and she "pretends" to read a book as she pages through it right to left instead of left to right. Olive and Sylvia decide that Yoko won't graduate from kindergarten, and soon the child is unhappily refusing her favorite sushi. Even with the considerate assistance of insightful Mrs. Jenkins and the support of her mother, the situation is not improved until a fellow student steps in. Angelo recognizes Yoko's characters as a secret language, and when she writes his name in Japanese, he shows her how to write the ABC's. After only a bit more classroom drama, all ends well with a kindergarten graduation and bilingual diplomas. This is a carefully crafted picture book with Asian-inspired illustrations that delight the eye just as the gentle story soothes the soul.--Piper Nyman, Brookmeade Elementary School, Nashville, TN[Page 105]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.