cover image Yoko


Rosemary Wells. Hyperion Books for Children, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-0395-8

Yoko the kitten has gone off to her school with her willow-covered cooler filled with sushi, looking forward to a good day. But her classmates tease her mercilessly when lunch time rolls around (""Ick!... It's seaweed!""). Even worse, during the class Snack Time Song, the two bulldogs who brought franks and beans for lunch snort, ""Red bean ice cream is for weirdos!"" A pat ending seems in sight when Yoko's wise teacher plans an International Food Day and requires the students to try everything. But only hungry Timothy (a raccoon) is brave enough to taste Yoko's sushi--and yet this proves to be enough for Yoko. By book's end, Timothy and Yoko are fast friends, planning to open their very own lunch-time restaurant featuring tomato sandwiches and dragon rolls. 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. Ages 3-7. (Nov.)