Friday, March 18, 2022

Luli and the language of tea-starred review


Luli and the Language of Tea.

By Andrea Wang. Illus. by Hyewon Yum
Apr. 2022. 40p. Holiday/Neal Porter, $18.99 (9780823446148). PreS–Gr. 2

Ten young children gather in a classroom for supervised play while their immigrant parents attend the ESL class next door. Since the children speak different languages, each is playing alone. But Luli, a Chinese American girl, has a plan. After unpacking a teapot, teacups, and tea leaves, she makes tea. When she calls out “Chá,” the children respond in their own languages (Russian, Hindi, Persian, Turkish, Arabic, Spanish, German, Swahili, and Portuguese) with their words for tea, which are amazingly similar to hers. Gathering at a circular table, they pass around cups of tea. Now Luli brings out a box and uses her new favorite English word, “Cookie?” Watching the children engage with one another, “Luli’s heart is full.” The author of Watercress (2021), Wang writes a simple, precise narrative that is more than the sum of its parts. Few writers could conjure up the characters’ contentment as concisely as this: “Hands curled around warm cups. Mouths curved into shy smiles.” Yum’s sensitive colored-pencil illustrations use clean lines, rounded shapes, and soft hues to depict the setting and reveal the characters’ emotions. The back matter introduces the 10 children, their countries of origin, and the place of tea in their cultures. A rewarding read-aloud choice.

— Carolyn Phelan

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