In a recent picture book reading marathon I came out with four books under my belt. Since there was a lot to say about each one, I split the reviews into two. This is officially the second, but you can read them either way. Now, I was trying to come up with a theme for the two books I am currently writing about, Luli and the Language of Tea by Marie Aang and illustrated by Hyewon Yum, and The Pet Potato by Josh Lacey and Momoko Abe illustration. The best I could come up with is they are both picture books, they both have kids in them, and there is a diverse cast of characters.
But only one has a potato in it. Which is The Pet Potato (the other has food, but that is tea and cookies). And in this story, we have the typical child wanting a pet. But mom and dad do not have time or space for a dog, cats make mom sneeze, and so forth. And one day the dad (as only dads can do) gifts our narrator a potato. But not just any potato, but a pet potato. And our child, at first, thinks this is dumb, but soon realizes that a potato can be a friend (and not a soccer ball). And at the end, because it is a potato, (but like many pets) it is time to take care of the old moldy thing. But even in death, our potato friend can give a lot of pleasure to people.
It might sound depressing, but it is not. And while Lacey’s story is not really my cup of tea, it does work for some people. And the message is nice, as we realize our hero is learning responsibility (after all any pet needs the things that potato is given). And with Abe’s simple (not simplistic) illustrations, we get a lively background for the story.
And speaking of lively, we have several children in Luli and the Language of Tea who are less than lively, to be honest. They are children who do not speak English, but all are in a day care while their parents go to an English as a second language class. And when the last time Luli was there, all the children quietly played by themselves, she does not want that to happen again. She gets out her special tea set, cups, and pours water on the leaves and asks if anyone would like tea. However, she asks in Mandarin. And each child asks, Tea? But of course, they answer in their language. You see the word tea is similar sounding in many languages. And each of the children’s countries use tea in important culture ways. (Missing is the UK countries as their main language is English). This, and some cookies, which is one of Luli’s favorite words in English (mine, too!) we see a bunch of children learning that language is not important, but having fun is.
The author afterwards about how tea is similar and more about he names and languages presented rounds the text up. While Yum’s illustrations are fun, sweet, and colorful without being overpowering. They fit the story arc well.