Saturday, June 27, 2009


A Jar of Dreams, Yoshiko Uchida, Aladdin Paperbacks, 1981, 131 pp

Approximately once a month, I send books to my three grandchildren in Ohio. I have been doing this for almost three years and they are now so grooved in that they have their requests ready for the next books whenever I ask. My ten-year-old granddaughter requested A Jar of Dreams because her fifth grade teacher was reading the book aloud to her Montessori language arts class. How cool is that?

Eleven-year-old Rinko is growing up on the outskirts of Berkeley, CA during the depression. She clearly loves her Japanese-American family who are struggling to make ends meet under the double burden of the depressed economy and virulent prejudice against the Japanese.

For Rinko, this means a conflict between home and school life which has made her feel shy and unsure of herself. Then her Aunt Waka, her mother's sister, comes to visit, twenty years after Rinko's mother emigrated to the United States as a bride for Rinko's father.

As Aunt Waka lives with the family through a summer of disturbing events, she brings an outsider's traditional Japanese wisdom but more importantly, her own strong sense of self to the family's situation. Rinko discovers the value of her heritage and her own strengths.

If that sounds a bit preachy, it is. But Uchida's writing is lovely and fluid with the ease of a practiced storyteller. Through the compelling story and Rinko's authentic first person voice, the ideas are relayed with just the right light touch.

(This book is available in paperback on the shelves in the fiction section for 8-12 year old readers at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

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