A Chicago Public Library Best Book of 2018
Jasmine's best friend, Linnie, has just gotten a puppy. And now Jasmine wants a pet of her own—a flamingo! So when her grandmother sends Jasmine a daruma doll as a surprise gift, Jasmine colors in one doll eye and wishes for a flamingo to keep.
Next, Jasmine tries to convince her parents that she’s responsible enough for a pet. She cleans her room, brushes her teeth, takes out the trash, and, most importantly, researches everything she can about flamingos. But soon it becomes clear that her wish may never come true! Will Jasmine's daruma doll ever get its second eye? Luckily her big sister, Sophie, has a surprise planned that fulfills Jasmine’s wish beyond her wildest dreams.
Debbi Michiko Florence is at her best in Jamine Toguchi, Flamingo Keeper, a sweet, special story of sisterhood and new responsibilities, with illustrations by Elizabet Vukovic!
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About the Author
Elizabet Vukovic received her MFA from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, California. She specializes in children's book illustration, but enjoys experimenting with character design, concept art, fashion illustration, and decorative art. She currently resides in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Read an Excerpt
SATURDAY FUN DAY
I, Jasmine Toguchi, love Saturdays because Saturdays are super-fun days. Sometimes we have family time, when Dad, Mom, my sister, and I go to the zoo or the movies. Sometimes I play in my neighbor Mrs. Reese's garage. Today I get to have lunch with my best friend, Linnie Green, at her house.
"Jasmine, are you ready?" Mom called to me from the living room.
No, I was not ready. I was looking for my special rock. Linnie collects rocks, and she gave me her favorite pink rock because it looks like a flamingo egg. Flamingos are my very favorite animal in the world. I wanted to bring the rock with me so she could see it again. I looked on my desk, but it wasn't there. I looked under my bed, but it wasn't there either.
"Why are you in your closet?" My big sister, Sophie, poked her head into my room. "If you don't get in the car right now, you're going to make me late for my soccer game."
"Walnuts! I can't find my rock," I said.
"Maybe you should check your head," Sophie said, and laughed. This was her way of joking, even if it wasn't very funny.
Ever since Sophie started fifth grade, she seemed to get bossier every day. Sophie was always telling me what I couldn't do. Like go into her room or touch her things. Sometimes I wondered if I had done something to make her mad at me. Or maybe she just didn't like me anymore. That made my chest feel tight and sad. But even having her say not-funny jokes to me was better than feeling invisible.
"Ha-ha," I said.
"Jasmine Toguchi," Mom shouted. "We're going to be late!"
"Hurry up!" Sophie said.
I took one last look around my bedroom and then ran after my sister. My flamingo-egg rock would have to stay behind.
* * *
"You're here!" Linnie shouted as she flung open her front door.
I turned to wave at my parents, and they drove off to take Sophie to her soccer game. I followed Linnie into her house.
There was a little blanket in the middle of the living room. That was different. Linnie is very neat and never leaves things lying around. Then we walked through to the kitchen.
"What's that?" I asked, pointing to a bowl of water on the floor. Mrs. Green is also very neat. She doesn't even leave her cooking things out on the counter, so it was strange she would leave something on the floor.
"A surprise," Linnie said, giggling.
I like a good surprise, but I wasn't sure about this one. What if the surprise was that we were going to clean up? Or maybe eat lunch on the floor? Actually, that might not be so bad. It could be fun, like a picnic. I hoped the surprise was a picnic and not cleaning. I am not a fan of cleaning.
I have been to Linnie's house a million times, so it feels like a second home to me. I walked down the hall to her bedroom because that's what we always do. We always go to her room for her special suitcase that's filled with a bunch of old Halloween costumes. We play dress up and pretend we are princesses, ballerinas, knights, and bunnies. But Linnie didn't follow me.
"Where are you?" I called out.
"Over here," she said, laughing. "Come this way!"
Linnie stood at the sliding glass door to the backyard. This surprised me, since Linnie doesn't like playing outside. She is afraid of dirt and heights and bugs. Okay, maybe not afraid. But she doesn't like those things as much as I do. Linnie is trying to be braver these days. Maybe this was her surprise, that we were going to play outside!
Linnie held a tennis ball. Were we going to play catch? I didn't really love to play catch. It was boring throwing a ball back and forth, but because Linnie is my very best friend in the world, I am happy to do things that she likes to do.
Linnie opened the sliding door, and I followed her into the yard. And that's when I heard a strange sound.CHAPTER 2
Before I could ask Linnie what that sound was, a little black-andwhite dog galloped toward us.
"Wowee zowee, Linnie!" I said. "Is that a puppy?"
Linnie sat down, and the dog scrambled over and licked Linnie's face. "Sure is," she said. "And she's my puppy! Her name is Trixie."
I sat down next to Linnie on the grass and the puppy leaped into my lap and started licking my face, too. It tickled and I laughed. But I closed my lips quickly, because as much as I liked dog kisses, I did not want dog slobber in my mouth!
Linnie threw the ball across the yard. Trixie ran after it.
"My parents finally got me a dog," Linnie said with a huge smile. "I've been asking for one for a long time!"
"You're so lucky," I said.
Trixie bounded back over with the ball in her mouth. Linnie took the ball and threw it for her puppy again. Now I knew why there was a bowl on the kitchen floor and a blanket in the living room. They were for Trixie.
As we played fetch, the ball got wetter and wetter with dog slobber, but I didn't mind. I just wiped it off onto my jean shorts.
"Trixie is so cute with her black spot and waggy tail," I said. "How did you convince your parents to get you a dog?" Maybe I could try some of Linnie's tricks to convince my parents to get me a pet flamingo, even though Mom says flamingos belong in the wild.
"I had to show my mom and dad that I was responsible enough to take care of a pet," Linnie said. "That means I had to take care of myself without being told, like keeping my room clean, brushing my teeth, and clearing the table after meals."
That sounded like a lot of work.
"I also showed them how much I knew about taking care of a dog, like feeding it and taking it for walks. I read a lot of books about dogs."
I liked to read.
"The truth is," Linnie said with a smile, "my mom really wanted a dog, too, so it didn't take a lot of convincing."
I was pretty sure I was the only one in my family who wanted a pet flamingo. I would have to work hard to make my parents believe I would be a good flamingo keeper.
* * *
Mom picked me up after lunch.
"Linnie got a puppy named Trixie!" I told her. "She is so soft and fluffy. We played fetch and then we walked her around the block on her leash. Then I got to feed Trixie some dog cookies. She loved those! Linnie is going to teach her tricks like roll over and sit up!"
"It sounds like you two had a lot of fun," Mom said. "I'll bet Linnie's very happy with her new puppy."
"She is," I said. And soon I'd be very happy with my own pet flamingo. I just wasn't sure how to go about getting one yet.
When we pulled into our driveway, Sophie was waiting for us. That was strange. She had changed out of her soccer uniform and into her regular clothes. That was not so strange. As soon as Mom stopped the car and turned off the engine, Sophie ran over to Mom's side and opened her door. That was strange.
Mom must have thought so, too, because when she got out of the car she asked, "Is something wrong?"
"Quick!" Sophie said, and started pulling on Mom's arm.
"What's going on?" Mom asked, tripping as Sophie tugged her toward the house.
I ran after Mom and Sophie. Had Sophie broken something in the house? No, if she had, she wouldn't rush to show Mom. Was Dad hurt? A tickle of worry wiggled its way through me, making my stomach feel funny. I caught up to them just as they walked through the back door into the kitchen.CHAPTER 3
Sophie dashed to the kitchen table and pointed to two small boxes wrapped in brown paper. "Dad said I had to wait till you and Jasmine got home."
Mom put her hand to her heart. "You scared me, Sophie! I thought something was wrong."
"Can I open mine now?" Sophie picked up one of the packages.
"What is it?" I asked. I scooted around the table and peeked at the other box. "This one has my name on it!" "Who sent them?" Mom asked.
"Obaachan!" I said, reading the return address from Hiroshima, Japan.
"Why is your grandma sending you packages?" Mom smiled. "It's not your birthdays or Christmas."
"It must be just because," I said.
Sometimes we got just because presents. Just because Sophie and I behaved well at the store, or just because Mom or Dad saw something we'd like, or just because they love us. They were usually fun little gifts. Once, Mom got me an eraser shaped like a flamingo. Sophie got one shaped like a soccer ball.
"Mooooooom, please can we open them?" Sophie waved the box in Mom's face.
Mom laughed. "Yes, you both may open your packages. Together."
Dad walked in as Sophie and I sat at the table. Sophie tore the paper off her package, tossing bits and pieces to the floor.
"Sophie Toguchi," Mom said. That was a change. Usually Mom said my full name like that.
I liked to savor a surprise. On her birthday, Sophie always tore through her gifts. But I took my time opening each present.
"Sophie, wait till your sister unwraps hers before you open the box."
"Jasmine!" Sophie said. "Hurry!"
Instead of hurrying, I moved super-slowly. Everyone was always telling me what to do. Mom. Dad. Sophie. I carefully peeled back the tape from the brown paper.
"What's taking you so long?" Sophie asked.
"I want to save these," I said. I was going to cut out the stamps from Japan and put them in a collage.
I shot a grin at my sister. But Sophie was giving me such a glare, it felt like a laser sizzling right through my brain.
"I'm going to open my box," Sophie announced.
Dad chuckled. "Patience, Sophie."
I sped up, partly because I didn't want Sophie to be mad at me and mostly because I wanted to see what Obaachan had sent us. I slid off the brown wrapping paper and gripped the white cardboard box. Knowing Obaachan, she got me and Sophie the same thing, whatever it was. I didn't want Sophie to know before I did.
"On three, okay?" Sophie said to me as she grasped her box. "One. Two. Three!"
We both lifted the lids at the same time.
I peeked into my box. It was something rounded and red. Maybe Obaachan got me a ball? That didn't feel very special. My heart sank to my toes, but I tried not to show my disappointment. That would be ungrateful, and Mom has a rule that we have to be gracious when receiving gifts.
"What is this?" Sophie asked.
I reached into my box and pulled out a whatever-it-was. It was light like a ball, but not round like a ball. It felt like it was made from thick paper or cardboard. It was oval-shaped with a flat bottom.
"It looks like a doll," I said, thinking Obaachan probably didn't know that Sophie had stopped playing with dolls.
"It has no eyeballs!" Sophie screeched, and she threw the doll-thing in the air.CHAPTER 4
MAKE A WISH
Sophie's doll-thing flew through the kitchen. Dad caught it.
"Oh," he said. "It's a daruma!"
"What's that?" I was much braver than Sophie. I wasn't afraid of a strange- looking present. I peered at the odd thing in my hand. It had a peach-colored face with black eyebrows and a beard. A boy doll, then. He had a red slash for a mouth. Not quite happy, but not quite mad either. Gold lines radiated out around his face. The strangest thing was that the doll had blank white circles instead of eyes.
"It's a wishing doll," Mom said. "You make a wish and color in one eye. When the wish is fulfilled, you color in the other eye."
"Wowee zowee!" I said. "That's super-cool!"
"I think you mean super-creepy," Sophie said. She stood behind her chair, looking like she wanted to run away. Even though she didn't play with dolls anymore, this one seemed different, not so much for playing with.
"Are these only for kids?" I asked, glancing at Sophie.
Dad gave me a smile like he knew what I was up to. "No, Jasmine. Even adults like daruma. In fact, I had one in college."
"Obaachan used to give me one every year when I was a teenager," Mom said.
Sophie reached for her daruma, and Dad handed it back to her.
"What did you wish for?" I asked my parents. "And did you get to color in both eyes?"
"I can't remember all of mine," Mom said. "But I think I eventually colored in all the eyes. Some wishes took longer to come true."
"Like what?" Sophie asked.
"Once, I wished for a dictionary," Mom said. "I got one for my next birthday. Another time, in high school, I wished to be the editor of the school newspaper. That took two years, but I became the editor in my senior year."
"Oh," I said. "It has to be a serious wish?" That didn't sound like much fun. I didn't want to wish for good grades or anything like that.
Dad patted my shoulder. "Wish for whatever you want. Just know that some wishes can take a while to get."
"What did you wish for?" I asked Dad.
He flashed a grin at Mom. "I wished that the prettiest and smartest woman in college would go out with me."
"Oh, brother." Sophie groaned.
"And she said yes when I asked her out." Dad smiled at Mom again. "My wish came true very quickly."
Okay, so it didn't have to be a serious wish about school or work. Good.
"I know what I'm going to wish for," Sophie said.
"What?" I asked.
"I'm not telling." Sophie put her doll on the table and rummaged through the pen drawer for a black marker.
"Are you not supposed to tell?" I asked Mom and Dad.
Dad shrugged. "I don't think there are any hard-and-fast rules."
I looked at Mom because she was the one with all the rules. If there was a rule, she would know it. She shook her head. "If you want to tell, you can, Jasmine. But you don't have to."
"I'm not going to tell," Sophie said.
"You said that already," I replied, and Sophie made a face at me.
My sister uncapped her marker and sat down at the table. She stared at her daruma. I hoped she would whisper her wish to her doll so I could hear it. No such luck. After a minute, Sophie picked up the daruma and drew a round eyeball in one of the blank circles on her doll's face. When she capped her marker, she waved it at me, but I shook my head. I wasn't ready to color in my doll's eye. There were so many things I could wish for.
"I'm going to put this right next to my bed." Sophie smiled at her doll, which she carefully held in her hands.
I followed Sophie down the hall. "What did you wish?" I asked.
"I said, I'm not telling!"
"Did you wish for a good grade on a test? Or maybe a new soccer ball? Did you wish for something like a birthday party at Disneyland?" I asked. "Or maybe dinner at a fancy restaurant?"
"Stop following me." Sophie faced me when she got to her room.
"Mom and Dad said it was okay to tell your wish," I said.
"I know, but I don't want to tell you. Now go away."
Sophie closed the door on me. I stood there blinking. I didn't know why she was so mean to me. It wasn't like I'd make fun of her wish or tell anyone if she wanted to keep it a secret. I crossed my arms. She didn't want to tell me her wish? Fine! I wouldn't tell her mine!
But first I needed to figure out the best wish ever. It didn't matter if I didn't know Sophie's wish. My wish was going to be better and bigger and more special than anything she could wish for. This was going to take some serious thinking. I knew just where to go.CHAPTER 5
After I told Mom and Dad where I was going, I ran to Mrs. Reese's house. Mrs. Reese is our neighbor two houses away. She's my friend even though she's older than Mom and Dad. She bakes me brownies without nuts, lets me play in her garage, and says it's okay for me to climb the apricot tree in her backyard. It's my special thinking spot.
I scrambled over Mrs. Reese's gate and ran to my tree. The branches waved in the breeze like the tree was greeting me.
"Hello, Tree," I said.
"Hello, Jasmine." It was not the tree that answered, because that would be silly. Trees can't talk. It was Mrs. Reese.
I turned around. Mrs. Reese sat on a chair, reading. Usually she sat on her front porch to read, but today was especially hot and sunny. Her backyard had more shade.
"Do you need to do some thinking this afternoon?" Mrs. Reese asked.
"Go ahead, then," she said. "I won't bother you."
That's another thing I like about Mrs. Reese. She lets me do my thing without lecturing me or giving me a bunch of rules.
I climbed the tree up to my favorite spot, in the crook of a branch. I could sit with my back against the trunk and think. I stared at the leaves. What should I wish for? There was a whole wide world of possibilities. How would I be able to choose just one thing? I grinned so hard my cheeks hurt. This was very exciting!
I loved chocolate. I could wish for a lifetime supply of chocolate. Or I could wish for Mrs. Reese to bake me brownies without nuts every week. I rubbed my tummy. Then again, maybe that would be too much chocolate. Was there such a thing?(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Jasmine Toguchi, Flamingo Keeper"
Copyright © 2018 Debbi Michiko Florence.
Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. Saturday Fun Day,
2. Linnie's Surprise,
3. Special Delivery,
4. Make a Wish,
5. Thinking Tree,
6. Pet Store,
7. A Project,
9. Obaachan's Less,