Words to Make a Friend: A Story in Japanese and English

Random House Studio. Nov. 2021. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593122273.
PreS-Gr 1–This deceptively simple book celebrates communication and friendship through luminously detailed illustrations and a sparse bilingual text. A little girl (presumably Japanese) and her mother move into a new home during a snowstorm. As the little girl unpacks, she sees the neighbor girl outside playing. She puts on her coat and boots, and heads outside. “Konichiwa,” she says. “Hello” the girl responds. The two play together outside, each communicating in simple words of their own language, finally heading inside for origami and snacks, ending with their sharing of the universal language of laughter. The text consists entirely of one to two words in each word bubble, symmetrically, first one girl and then the other. The illustrations tell the rest of the story here. Mixed-media illustrations, created on plywood and finished digitally, depict a beautiful snowy scene. Stoop strategically allows the texture of the wood to show through. The neighbor has darker skin and brown curly hair, while the protagonist has straight black hair framing her paler face. The girls are painted simply, in a style reminiscent of the work of Ezra Jack Keats, with oval eyes, rosy cheeks, and colorful clothes.
VERDICT The story is universal, celebrating diversity and friendship despite differences. A lovely book.–

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