Book: Suki’s Kimono

Suki’s Kimono
Chieri Uegaki
Illustrated by Stephane Jorisch

This book follows a little girl on her first day of first grade. She insists on wearing her traditional kimono to school because it is her very favourite outfit. Her older sisters warn her that she will be laughed at, but she wears the kimono anyway. When she gets to school, the other children do indeed laugh at her, except for her friend who just kind of keeps quiet. The teachers asks Suki about the kimono and she talks about how her obachan (grandmother) took her to a traditional festival and gave her the kimono. She dances for the class the way she danced with her obachan that day and the teacher and class enjoy her performance. They don’t suddenly accept her, or at least, there is no evidence of it, but they do stop laughing and Suki is happy. On the way home from school, her sisters mourn that no one noticed their cool new outfits. The story is fairly simple, but pretty cute.

The writing is simple and unembellished. It works well to create a believable and memorable story. There are few details given about anything but the kimono itself, about which we hear a great deal. The story isn’t exactly from Suki’s point of view, but it does let us hear what she is thinking. The descriptions of her dance for the class are wonderful and the memories of the festival are descriptive and full of childlike excitement. The writer clearly has a great appreciation for beauty.

The illustrations are very nice. They are very understated so that the bright blue kimono is always the most colourful thing in every picture. There is a wonderful sense of movement in the illustrations of Suki dancing and the pictures of the festival are bright and cheerful. The illustrations are completely enchanting and do a lot for the book.

This is a cute book that I would definitely recommend. It would make a great read for a class or a good book for a child that needs reassurance that being different is ok. It is especially nice that the “difference” isn’t Suki’s race, it’s her costume. That is a lot easier for a child to relate to and a lot less likely to offend anyone. The book is excellent and many children (as well as adults) would very much enjoy it.

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