Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Review: Hiromi's Hands

by Lynne Barasch. Lee & Low Books, 2007. Hiromi Suzuki's father was born and raised in Japan. He was trained in the male sushi tradition in Japan and came to New York in 1964 to work at his company's NY restaurant. He married and had a daughter. His American life influenced the way he raised his daughter. When she began to beg him to take her to fish markets and let her help in the restaurant kitchen he was persuaded. He ended up training her to be a sushi chef and Hiromi became one of the first female sushi chefs in New York.

Hiromi's Hands is a delightful picture book telling her story. The author, Lynne Barasch tells in the final note that she first met Hiromi as a kindergarten student in her daughter's class. She gives us a brief history of the development of sushi along with an outline of Hiromi's life.

The story is told in Hiromi's voice and is filled with intersting details about traditional Japanese life as well as daily events in their family life. In February, for example, they celebrate "Setsubun, the day before the first day of spring." The third of March is "Girl's Day", when everyone prays for the health and happiness of girls and dolls and peach blossoms are displayed. When I was a young girl I had some Japanese dolls that were given to my mother by my grandmother and I always delighted in the idea of celebrating a Girl's Day. What I really like about this book is that it shows how a family moves from the traditions and ways of the past that limited their roles into a future filled with hope and prosperity. When Hiromi's father comes to New York he finds it "abundant and plentiful in so many ways." His prosperity and enjoyment carry over into his daughter's life and bless all of us in the story.

This is a picture book for all ages. The fine watercolor illustrations are intricately detailed portrayals worthy of long study. It's perfect for reading this Spring on Girl's Day, Women's History Month, or any time!

booktalk at Lee & Low and author's biography
interview with Barasch at cynsations
review in The Edge of the Forest
review at The Well Read Child and supplimental teaching ideas


Tricia said...

I really liked this book when I reviewed it for the Cybils. My only complaint is related to the note about Japanese characters. The author notes that her drawings look like Japanese characters, but have no meaning. Why the heck not take the time to use REAL characters? I didn't understand. This is such a little thing that would have added more authenticity to the text.

Despite this minor drawback, I thought it was a lovely and inspiring story.

Cloudscome said...

Wow Trisha I somehow missed that. It certainly changes my feelings about the book too. I wonder why she didn't take the time to use the real characters? Her editors should have caught that.