Gigi and Ojiji

­HarperCollins. May 2022. 32p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780063208063. pap. $4.99. ISBN 9780063208056.
Gr 1-3–Gigi is excited to meet her grandpa, Ojiisan, who is arriving from Japan to live with her family. Even with her basic Japanese vocabulary and the drawing she made to welcome him, their introduction stumbles through several cross-cultural misunderstandings, which makes Gigi cry. Her mom helps her understand the differences between American and Japanese culture and reassures Gigi that all will be well in time. Gigi’s interiority is well represented in this wonderful early reader; her thoughts and worries are front and center. Her need for adult consolation and the child-friendly explanations of cultural context will resonate with young readers. The arc of the story is easy to follow. Diversity is well represented; readers will see in the bright, adorable art that Gigi’s dad is white, and her mom is Japanese. Readers will also have to make a few inferences about the story, but with three to seven sentences per page, the images support the text to help children understand Gigi’s feelings, her parents’ reassurances, Roscoe the dog’s actions, and Ojiisan’s mannerisms. Although some sentences are 10 to 18 words long and some pages contain up to nine six-letter words, most of the text is short dialogue. Japanese words are explained through conversation, and there is a glossary at the end to cement understanding.
VERDICT Gigi crafts her Japanese American identity in this enchanting early reader. The cuteness, inclusivity, and cross-cultural problem-solving represented will have young readers coming back again and again. A must-buy.

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