Mmm, Yoko’s mom has packed her favorite for lunch today-sushi! But her classmates don’t think it looks quite so yummy. "Ick!" says one of the Franks. "It’s seaweed!" They’re not even impressed by her red bean ice cream dessert. Of course, Mrs. Jenkins has a plan that might solve Yoko’s problem. But will it work with the other children in class?
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Hyperion Books
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Average: 3.5 (2 votes)


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Yoko by Rosmary Wells: suitable for children ages 4 to 7

Field of Interest/Specialty: East Asia
Posted On: 01/19/2018

Jayme Hadley – 1st grade teacher, self-contained classroom, Mary Queen of Apostles
Yoko by Rosmary Wells: suitable for children ages 4 to 7
In this delightful story, Yoko, a young Japanese girl, requests her favorite Japanese foods to take to school in her lunchbox. However, she is ridiculed for her “unusual” choices by her classmates. In an effort to help, her teacher creates an International Food Day celebration at school where the children are exposed to food from many different cultures around the world. In the end, this leads to acceptance and friendship for Yoko.
In a world that is increasingly more and more unaccepting of differences, I am constantly in search of ways to promote kindness and respect for others into my classroom. I thought this was a cute story for young children to introduce and have a classroom discussion on acceptance, empathy, respect, and diversity. It also sends a great message to children that people should be proud of their background. This, of course, easily lends itself to having a food sampling in class – allowing children to be exposed to Japanese customs and cuisine.

Yoko for Preschool/Kindergarten

Field of Interest/Specialty: Music Education
Posted On: 11/23/2014

Yoko is a children’s story about a young Japanese girl, Yoko, who experiences difficulty at her English-speaking school because of her Japanese lunch and snacks. Yoko appears to be either a preschool or Kindergarten student. The characters in the story are depicted as animals.
The book begins with Yoko’s mother preparing sushi for Yoko’s school lunch. At school, the other children exclaim that sushi it is disgusting. Afterwards, the children leave for playtime while Mrs. Jenkins assures Yoko that the children will forget about her lunch by snack time. At snack time, Yoko opens her thermos of red bean ice cream and the other children once again insult her. Mrs. Jenkins’ solution is to have the children sing the Friendly Song. When this does not work, the teacher declares Monday International Food Day.
On Monday, Yoko and the other children bring in food from a wide variety of cultures. Much to Yoko’s dismay the other children devour everything except for her sushi. After the children once again rush outside for playtime, she hears a child who is still hungry attempting to use her chopsticks. She shows him how to use them and the child eats all of her sushi. Afterwards, he offers Yoko a coconut crisp from his pocket and they become friends. The next day they push together their desks and play restaurant.
While this story is appropriate for early childhood and Kindergarten students, I have no plans to use it in my own preschool classroom. The story abruptly shifts from one event to another and too much time is spent focusing on the negativity of the other children while the teacher fails to address the situation. Later, the teacher intentionally organizes International Food Day to help solve the problem, but Yoko still finds herself rejected by her classmates. The teacher is of no assistance and the only thing that even remotely saves the story is a young raccoon boy with a voracious appetite.
If one was interested in using this story, I would recommend using it in conjunction with an event such as International Food Day. Perhaps the teacher could use this story this to demonstrate how hurtful it would be if the children treat a student this way. Similarly, this book could be used to facilitate a discussion on cultural diversity.