Thursday, June 9, 2022

Horn Book Review

 Luli and the Language of Tea

by Andrea Wang; illus. by Hyewon Yum Preschool Porter/Holiday 40 pp. g
5/22 978-0-8234-4614-8 $18.99

While adults attend an ESL class, their children go to a playroom next door. The room is full but quiet; no one speaks the same language, and all the kids play separately. On a recent visit, young Luli had drawn a picture about an idea she had, and today her backpack holds a thermos, a teapot, a tea canister, and some teacups. As Miss Hirokane watches, Luli puts some tea leaves in the pot and pours in the “steaming hot” water, her tongue sticking out in careful concentration. She calls “cha!” (Chinese for tea), and everyone responds with their own words for tea (each word is spelled out and printed phonetically). All gather at the table, where Luli pours tea into cups that get passed around. When there isn’t enough left for herself, the kids pass her empty cup around, each pouring in a little tea from their own. After tea it’s time for cookies, and with that, “the playroom was no longer quiet.” Tea drinking everywhere celebrates community and togetherness; Wang (Watercress rev. 3/21) has cleverly re-created (and diversified) that ritual in a microcosm. Yum’s (Saturday Is Swimming Day, rev. 7/18) overhead view of the table shows smiling faces and varied skin tones, and her illustrations make clear that the Asian teacups with no handles are perfect for small hands— and safe (if it’s cool enough to hold, it’s cool enough to drink). An appended note describes tea drinking in the ten countries represented, including Iran, Kenya, and Chile, while teacups from each country decorate the endpapers. JENNIFER MBRABANDER

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