A fun read that explores Japanese culture and culinary history—just don’t expect a literary tour de force.

THE DISCOVERY OF RAMEN

From the Asian Hall of Fame series

A time-traveling red panda gives two American schoolkids a tour of the history of ramen.

In this first installment in the Asian Hall of Fame series, Emma, a girl with brown hair and light brown skin, and Ethan, who appears to be Asian, are on a school field trip when they meet Dao for the first time in a ramen-ya, or ramen restaurant. The talking red panda invites them to discover the history behind this delicious noodle dish, and with a bang on Dao’s gong, all three find themselves in 19th-century Japan, where vendors are selling ramen from pushcarts. After World War II, ramen became even more accessible because an abundance of wheat drove the cost of production down. At a ramen factory, they watch how the noodles are made with salt, eggs, and kansui (alkaline water). Then they travel to the 1950s, when Momofuku Ando invented (and popularized) instant ramen, flash-fried noodles with seasonings already added. Today, 100 billion packages of instant ramen are sold annually, but fresh ramen is rising in popularity again, in the United States and all over the world. Calle’s illustrations are undeniably adorable; cute characters and dynamic scenes elevate the sometimes heavy-handed and confusing text, which too often relies on didactic dialogue to provide the fascinating facts and information.

A fun read that explores Japanese culture and culinary history—just don’t expect a literary tour de force. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59702-134-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Immedium

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions.

HOME

Ellis, known for her illustrations for Colin Meloy’s Wildwood series, here riffs on the concept of “home.”

Shifting among homes mundane and speculative, contemporary and not, Ellis begins and ends with views of her own home and a peek into her studio. She highlights palaces and mansions, but she also takes readers to animal homes and a certain famously folkloric shoe (whose iconic Old Woman manages a passel of multiethnic kids absorbed in daring games). One spread showcases “some folks” who “live on the road”; a band unloads its tour bus in front of a theater marquee. Ellis’ compelling ink and gouache paintings, in a palette of blue-grays, sepia and brick red, depict scenes ranging from mythical, underwater Atlantis to a distant moonscape. Another spread, depicting a garden and large building under connected, transparent domes, invites readers to wonder: “Who in the world lives here? / And why?” (Earth is seen as a distant blue marble.) Some of Ellis’ chosen depictions, oddly juxtaposed and stripped of any historical or cultural context due to the stylized design and spare text, become stereotypical. “Some homes are boats. / Some homes are wigwams.” A sailing ship’s crew seems poised to land near a trio of men clad in breechcloths—otherwise unidentified and unremarked upon.

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6529-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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