Natsumi! illus. by Priscilla Burris. 32p. Putnam. Mar. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399170904.
PreS-Gr 2—A little girl with a big personality finds the perfect way to channel her energy in this cheerful picture book. Natsumi is constantly on the go, despite her family's admonitions that she's too fast and too loud. Her enthusiastic efforts to join them in practicing traditional Japanese arts for the upcoming village festival result in minor disasters. Her grandfather is the only one who understands her; in a satisfying conclusion, he guides her toward taiko drumming, a thunderously loud activity that allows her to express herself while taking part in the festival. Bright, bold illustrations deftly capture Natsumi's exuberance, and the prose is sprinkled with sound effects, making for an engaging read-aloud. The author occasionally relies on tropes to indicate the contemporary Japanese setting; references to sumo wrestling, samurai warriors, and "ninja moves" feel designed for a Western audience with limited exposure to Japanese culture. Although the setting lacks some nuance, this book presents a positive introduction to traditional arts such as tea ceremony and flower arranging, and has a great deal to offer in its affirming message about being oneself. Many young readers will relate to Natsumi's experience of being told to keep herself in check, and will cheer her on when she finds her niche in taiko drumming.
VERDICT An appealing addition to picture book collections and a good conversation-starter about individuality.

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