Yoko Writes Her Name
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Yoko Writes Her Name

by Rosemary Wells
     
 

Yoko is so excited for the first day of school. She's just learned to write her name. But when Mrs. Jenkins asks Yoko to show everyone, Olive and Sylvia make fun of her Japanese writing. "Yoko can't write. She's only scribbling!" The teasing continues as Yoko shares her favorite book at show and tell, and reads it back to front.

That evening, Yoko declares that

Overview

Yoko is so excited for the first day of school. She's just learned to write her name. But when Mrs. Jenkins asks Yoko to show everyone, Olive and Sylvia make fun of her Japanese writing. "Yoko can't write. She's only scribbling!" The teasing continues as Yoko shares her favorite book at show and tell, and reads it back to front.

That evening, Yoko declares that she can't go back to school. "How can I when my reading and writing are a failure?" she asks. Luckily a little wisdom from her Mama, a little cooperation from Mrs. Jenkins, and a lot of enthusiasm from her classmates teach Yoko the most important lesson of the year: that friendship can bridge cultural differences.

Not only does Yoko learn to read and write in English and graduate Kindergarten with her classmates, but everyone's name appears in two languages on their diploma-even Olive's and Sylvia's!

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Having overcome the challenges of being the only sushi lover at the Hill Top School (in Yoko), the Japanese kindergartner faces a similar struggle when she is asked to write her name and produces it in beautiful Japanese calligraphy. Although the ever-sympathetic teacher, Mrs. Jenkins, praises Yoko's work, she can't change human nature (never mind that the cast is again rendered as well-dressed kittens, pups and so forth), and soon the class gossipmongers bruit it about that Yoko is "only scribbling" and won't be graduating to first grade. The plot essentially repeats that of Yoko: the mother lavishes love on her "little snow flower," the teacher intervenes with mixed results, and only the overtures of a classmate who wants Yoko to teach him her "secret language" redeem Yoko's spirits. Even so, readers will be glad to see Yoko's return: her character seems to bring out Wells's fascination with pattern as well as color, and her compositions, mostly framed squares set on white ground, are particularly well balanced. English and Japanese captions accompany small insets in the upper corners of the spreads; it would be hard to learn calligraphy from them, but they afford Wells miniature canvases for Japanese-inspired backgrounds, and their scale will delight young readers. Ages 3-6. (July)

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Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
From the much beloved author of the McDuff books and the numerous and wonderfully funny capers of Max and Ruby, here is another in the "Yoko" series (see also Yoko; Yoko's Paper Cranes). In this beautifully produced book, complete with gold decoration on the spine, feline kindergartener Yoko has learned to write her name—in Japanese! Her mother is proud of her and the teacher admires the sample she brings to school, but classmates tease and insist she is never going to graduate from kindergarten. No one believes she can really read and write, especially as the book she brings to school reads from right to left. In the end, the two worst offenders (and Wells can bring bad kids to the page with great zest) are shamed into hiding and Yoko demonstrates generous forgiveness. Yoko Writes Her Name is an elegantly illustrated book with trademark Wells animal characters playing out their desires and conflicts in the small kindergarten world. Rosemary Wells is known to have said of children's books, "What is in them is in all of us: guilt, fear, devotion." Not surprisingly, she nails young children's clarity of thought and charming eccentricity in her animal characters. Even so, there is something to the Yoko books that makes them a little more self-conscious than Wells at her best, and perhaps a tad more message-driven. Reviewer: Uma Krishnaswami
School Library Journal

PreS-Gr 2

The endearing kitten introduced in Yoko (1998) and Yoko's Paper Cranes (2001, both Hyperion) returns in this lovely story illustrating the challenges facing young children who are bridging two cultures. Life for Yoko in the first week of school is anything but positive. In the eyes of the other children, her Japanese characters look like "baby marks," her numbers are just lines, and she "pretends" to read a book as she pages through it right to left instead of left to right. Olive and Sylvia decide that Yoko won't graduate from kindergarten, and soon the child is unhappily refusing her favorite sushi. Even with the considerate assistance of insightful Mrs. Jenkins and the support of her mother, the situation is not improved until a fellow student steps in. Angelo recognizes Yoko's characters as a secret language, and when she writes his name in Japanese, he shows her how to write the ABC's. After only a bit more classroom drama, all ends well with a kindergarten graduation and bilingual diplomas. This is a carefully crafted picture book with Asian-inspired illustrations that delight the eye just as the gentle story soothes the soul.-Piper Nyman, Brookmeade Elementary School, Nashville, TN

Kirkus Reviews
Wells's familiar kitten Yoko is in kindergarten, and she's just learned how to write her name in Japanese. Olive and Sylvia, two catty (also kitten) schoolmates, claim that Yoko is only scribbling and that she will not be able to graduate to first grade. Despite stars from her teacher, comforting words from her mother and help from her friend Angelo, Yoko worries, particularly when she is excluded from a schoolyard game of Graduation. Then other members of the class want to learn some Japanese, and Yoko is glad to teach them. Her teacher's inclusion of Japanese as a second classroom language further helps to dispel her fears. By the time the end of the year rolls around, it is Olive and Sylvia who are worried, because they are the only ones who haven't learned their names in Japanese. Can Yoko save the day? English language learners in particular will savor Yoko's accomplishments. As always, believable characters, familiar struggles and warmth fill Wells's work, which teaches a subtle lesson on acceptance and maturity with great clarity. (Picture book. 3-6)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780786803712
Publisher:
Disney-Hyperion
Publication date:
07/29/2008
Series:
A Yoko Book Series
Pages:
32
Product dimensions:
9.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.30(d)
Age Range:
3 - 6 Years

Meet the Author

Rosemary Wells is the award-winning author of numerous books for children, including Carry Me!; My Kindergarten; the New York Times best-selling Emily's First 100 Days of School; the critically acclaimed Wingwalker, illustrated by Brian Selznick; Yoko; Yoko's Paper Cranes; and the beloved McDuff series, illustrated by Susan Jeffers.

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