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Module 2 – Caldecott/Picture Books/SLIS 5420


Wells, Rosemary (1998). Yoko. New York: Hyperion.


This book is fun for child and adult alike.  It’s about a kitten whose mother sends her to school with her favorite lunch – sushi – and how the kids at school give her a hard time for being different.  Yoko’s teacher  has an idea to help her – an international lunch day where everyone brings something from another country.  Unfortunately, the kids still won’t try sushi.  Finally, Timothy gets hungry and raids Yoko’s lunchbox.  He loves sushi,

and he and Yoko become friends and decide to share their lunches everyday.  It’s a great book about struggling with being different while being true to yourself, sharing, and making friends.  I’m in love with Rosemary Wells’ illustrations of cats, rabbits, badgers, pigs, and raccoons at school eating knishes,

enchiladas, and spaghetti.  Yoko is adorable.  The colors of the book are lovely, and so is the story, which is told expertly by the Wells trademark illustrations.


#85: Yoko by Rosemary Wells (1998)
15 points (3 votes) (#5, #9, #10)

“’It’s about multiculturalism and acceptance, yet manages to be totally engaging and not preachy or pedantic. Plus, I love these characters.”’– Amy Kraft

Case in point, Yoko. First off, I think I should get credit for not giving into my baser needs and writing, “You’re breaking up the list, Yoko!” or something along those lines.  Hee hee hee. Yoko is a Rosemary Wells title, and in spite of the fact that she has built an empire on Max and Ruby, Yoko is a worthy adorable successor to the bunny pair.

A summary of the book from my Amazon review: ‘It’s a normal school day and for lunch Yoko’s mother is packing her daughter all her favorite foods. She gets sushi containing, “the crispiest cucumber, the pinkest shrimp, the greenest seaweed, and the tastiest tuna”. At lunch, Yoko enjoys her food but her fellow classmates are deeply disgusted. Mrs. Jenkins, the teacher, tries to convince poor Yoko that by snack time everyone will have forgotten to tease her about her food. Unfortunately, Mrs. Jenkins is underestimating the power of ridicule. Poor Yoko and her red bean ice cream don’t stand a chance. The minute she gets a chance, Mrs. Jenkins decides to have an International Food Day at school. Everyone will bring in a dish “from a foreign country” and Yoko’s classmates will taste just how good sushi is. Everyone makes a dish, and at this point the reader has probably come to the comforting conclusion that everyone will try Yoko’s sushi, decide it’s good after all, and be her friend forever. Not so much. By the end of lunch everyone has tried almost everything, but not a single piece of Yoko’s sushi has been touched. Fortunately, hungry little Timothy is just curious enough to want to try a bit of Yoko’s food. Finding he likes it (and Yoko finds she’s fond of Tim’s coconut crisps) the two happily create their own ‘restaurant’ at school the next day. Yummy tidings for all.’

I guess that’s what I’ve always loved about the book.  It doesn’t follow the standard picture book rules.  Normally the tale is someone is different + someone teaches others about differences = peace and freedom reign.  Not so much.  I love me my Yoko because kids are cruel little beasts and it takes more than a single teacher’s good intentions to change that.  In this case, it just takes a seriously hungry kid.

Said Publisher’s Weekly about the book, ‘As usual, Wells demonstrates a remarkable feel for children’s small but important difficulties. Like the just-right text, her expressive watercolors, both panels and full-scale, capture a distinctive variety of animal children as well as the nuances in Yoko’s expressions. Wells’s message is clear without being heavy-handed, making this brightly colored schoolroom charmer a perfect book for those American-melting-pot kindergartners who need to develop a genuine respect for one another’s differences.’

School Library Journal was a bit more succinct with, ‘Just as Yoko’s mother carefully crafted the delectable sushi, Wells, too, has tucked a real treasure in this tasty morsel of a tale.’

And Kirkus agreed with everybody by saying, ‘The lesson might have been labored; instead, Wells offers some trusty guidance and a light touch, and leaves the conclusions to readers.'”

Bird, Elizabeth. (2009, April 4). Top 100 Picture Book Poll Results (Review of Yoko). Retrieved from

An idea:

This book would be great for use as part of an international week or other heritage event.  It would be fun to have an international-themed storytime with several books about different cultures and their foods or traditions, and then have activities that were talked about in the books and maybe some “different” snacks.


About mary's summer bookshelf

I'm studying to be a librarian at the University of North Texas and loving it. This blog is a class project and the first one I've ever written. The world of children's literature is diverse and rich. This class is opening up many worlds for me to traverse - I am a total YA fan now.

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