Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Juna's Jar by Jane Bahk, illustrated by Felicia Hoshino

Lee & Low does some absolutely lovely books, but they tend to be very text-heavy. This is understandable - it's difficult to balance between providing enough context for kids who aren't familiar with the diverse cultures portrayed and writing authentic stories for diverse kids themselves. Although this has a little more text than I usually look for in picture books, it's such a lovely story and so beautifully written and illustrated that I think kids will sit through it.

June loves her kimchi jar. She uses it to collect things with her best friend Hector. But then one day when she visits Hector's apartment his Abuelita tells her that Hector's parents have taken him to live in a big house. Juna is devastated and her big brother, Minho, gets her a fish for her kimchi jar to make her feel better. That night Juna goes on a magical adventure with her fish....but the next morning it's too big and has to move out of the jar. Her brother has another idea and they plant a seed, which takes Juna on an adventure to the rainforest. When they put a cricket in next, June rides it across the city to Hector's new house, where she sees him tucked up with his own kimchi jar full of treasures. Juna is ready for new treasures - and a new friend - to help her put them in her jar.

Softly colored drawings express Juna's sorrow at losing her friend and her wonder in the magical world she inhabits. I loved the expressive blues and greens swirling about the pages, especially in the dream sequences. It would be a lovely inspiration not only for kids to find their own jars and treasures but also to create their own imaginative landscapes.

Diversity is smoothly mixed into the story, teaching the reader a few phrases of Korean and Spanish and presenting a family life that will be familiar to many children - closely-knit siblings and friends who move quickly or live with grandparents.

Verdict: Although this is a longer story and will need an older audience to truly appreciate it, it's also a lovely, diverse journey into imagination and feelings. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781600608537; Published 2015 by Lee & Low; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

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