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Suki’s Kimono

by Chieri Uegaki, Stéphane Jorisch, illus.

It’s the first day of school and Suki chooses to wear her favourite cotton kimono, a gift from her visiting grandmother. Obachan had taken Suki to a street festival where they danced, ate slippery noodles, and heard taiko drummers. Despite discouragement from her older, more fashion-conscious sisters, Suki dons her kimono and sets out for school. At the schoolyard there are some sniggers and finger-pointing but Suki defends her attire to questioning friends. When her new teacher invites her pupils to tell of their summertime adventures, Suki proudly relates how Obachan took her to the festival and shows the class how they danced in their kimonos – swaying her arms, stamping her feet, and clapping. Soon the whole class is smiling and applauding her. Suki floats home triumphant, her lovely cotton kimono catching the wind like sails.

A finalist in The Writers’ Union of Canada’s Writing for Children competition, Uegaki’s first picture book is a joyful tribute to a little girl’s inner and outer sense of style. Uegaki conveys Suki’s determination to honour her grandmother and remember a favourite day with language as colourful as the all-important kimono. When Suki listens to the taiko drummers she feels as if she has “swallowed a ball of thunder.” When her kimono flutters in the breeze, she thinks she’s “grown her own set of wings.” She’s a delightful heroine and a believable role model for young readers who are pressured too soon to conform. Two-time Governor General Award-winner Stéphane Jorisch’s illustrations match Suki’s spirit perfectly. The delicate watercolours capture her changing emotions and especially her charming dance steps.

Suki’s Kimono successfully achieves that delicate balance between plot, language, illustration, and design that is so critical when creating memorable picture books. Read for its engaging story or used as a tool to discuss themes of multiculturalism, grandmothers, back-to-school, and personal choices, Suki’s Kimono is sure to please.