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Monday, January 29, 2018

Sakura's Cherry Blossoms, written by Robert Paul Weston and illustrated by Misa Saburi. Tundra, Penguin Random House, 2018. $21.99 ages 4 and up

"...but she often made

She missed Obaachan.
She missed the cherry
their soft and sweet scent.

She missed stories and
picnics and the whispers
of petals."

February is literally around the corner. Three days left in January, and we turn the page to Black History Month, as well as the month associated with love, candy, flowers, valentines and kindness. It seems right that we should be sharing books with our kids that exemplify that love and kindness as much as we can.

The weather report for Tokyo this year says that cherry blossoms should be in full bloom by April 2. Sharing this book with you now will allow time to have it in your hands before that happens. You might also want to share it if you are talking about moving, about seasonal changes, or about love of family.

Sakura's family is set to make a move when her father gets a new job in America. Her grandmother does not move with them. Not only must Sakura leave her comfortable home, she must leave her beloved Obaachan. It is an upheaval, as moving often is for children. She arrives in a place she knows nothing about, where she cannot speak the language, and she's lonely. No cherry blossoms on her street.

When she meets Luke, a boy from her neighborhood, things begin to change.

"One day, Luke saw her
sad and still on the front steps.
"When I'm down," he said,

"I find it helps to look up.
If you want, I could show you."

Using his telescope and sharing his wonder at the sky, Sakura begins to feel better. Helping her friend see what is all around them near the ground makes communication easier. Sakura feels more at home each day. When her grandmother falls ill and the family returns to Japan to be with her, she knows she will miss Luke. Their trip ends in sadness and, once they are home, it is Luke who helps her see that her new home has a special surprise for her that will keep her memories strong and lasting.

The tanka poems that tell Sakura's story are perfect for showing the changes that life holds for a young girl.  From excitement to loneliness, from friendship to grief, and back to warmth and home, this poetic form of carefully chosen and intricately constructed words bring awareness to readers of the depth of emotions one young girl experiences. 

The illustrations reflect the changes as they occur, and are especially poignant as they show the contrast between the sadness of death and winter, and the brilliance of spring filled with stunning flowering trees, awash with thousands of delicate pink blossoms.

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