The Favorite Daughter

illus. by author. 32p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine. June 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-17662-0. LC 2012026830.
K-Gr 2—Whereas Drawing from Memory (Scholastic, 2011) revealed a slice of Say's youth, this title is seen through the lens of fatherhood, although the narrator is omniscient. As the story opens, "Yuriko came to stay with her father on Thursday that week." Readers follow the flaxen-haired child through homework assignments that involve bringing a baby picture to school and, later, creating a model of the Golden Gate Bridge. A photograph of Yuriko clad in a red, flowered kimono becomes a source of confusion for her classmates, who associate Japanese appearance with dark hair. When the art teacher mispronounces her name, and the students follow suit, her day goes from bad to worse; miserable, she seeks a new identity upon arriving home. Father and daughter visit a familiar sushi restaurant, Golden Gate Park, and the bridge (shrouded in fog), all of which help the troubled girl process her feelings and inspire a unique response to the art project. Their banter pits paternal teasing mixed with loving support against childlike swings between melodrama and earnestness. Say's command of watercolor, ink, and pencil develops the visual narrative through a combination of uncluttered interiors; peaceful, restorative gardens; and emotionally complex portraits. The concluding photograph of Yuriko as a young woman in Japan (also wearing a kimono) conveys an acceptance and pride regarding her heritage and adds impact to the message. A sensitive addition to the canon of picture books about children coming to terms with being "different."—Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library
Say's autobiographical picture books about members of his family (including Tree of Cranes, rev. 11/91, and Grandfather's Journey, rev. 9/93) have successfully told very specific, deeply personal stories bolstered by universal themes, and this one, featuring his favorite (and only) daughter, is another fine example. Young Yuriko is unhappy when her classmates make fun of her Japanese name and her appearance (she's biracial, with Asian features and blond hair). She's also unhappy with her art teacher's assignment to do yet another project on the Golden Gate Bridge. Everyone else is drawing the bridge, but Yuriko wants to do something different. Her father sagely uses her desire to be unique to help her see that her name and physical appearance set her apart in a good way. Filled with light, the realistic illustrations reflect the narrative's upbeat mood and tell the story in tandem with natural-sounding dialogue in which a dad handles his daughter's difficulties with both respect and humor. Say's adult fans will enjoy this inside look at the artist and his child -- who, at thirteen, wrote an essay about her father for this magazine (published in the July/August 1994 issue, to accompany his Caldecott Medal acceptance speech). Photos of Yuriko in a kimono as a young child and as a young woman add verisimilitude to a story that celebrates both creativity and individuality -- traits Say has clearly passed on to his daughter. jennifer m. brabander

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