Author & Illustrator: Rosemary Wells
Publisher: Hyperion Books For Children, New York
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Yoko by Rosemary Wells, tells the story of a young Japanese-American who is teased when she brings sushi to school for lunch and red bean ice cream for dessert. The other students say things like “Ick! It’s green! It’s seaweed!” and “Yuck-o-rama!” The teachers, Mrs. Jenkins, decides to have an International Food Day in her class to have the students become more accepting of Yoko and teach them about other cultures. She tells the students that they must try a bite of everything. The students bring in dishes from around the world and by recess everything is gone, except Yoko’s sushi. Until Timothy tries some and loves it! They decide the next day they are going to open a restaurant and have a menu that consisted of foods from both of their cultures.
Element 2: Respect for Others:
Element 2 is about having students deconstruct stereotypes and creating a classroom environment of respect through learning about other’s culture. Rosemary Wells’s Yoko accomplishes this by teaching children about the importance of respecting others and their cultural identity. It shows how upset Yoko was when the other children were teasing her because she was eating sushi and red bean ice cream. Mrs. Jenkins doesn't ignore this issue and tries to create a classroom environment that is accepting of others through the food that represents their cultural identity. In the end, Yoko and Timothy come together and celebrate their cultural differences by eating lunch together and sharing the foods that represent them.
This book can be used in the classroom to start a discussion about the students' backgrounds and cultures. Teachers can have their own International Food Day and invite their students to bring in a food that represents their cultural identity to share with the class. Depending on the grade level, the teacher could then have the students talk or write about something new that they learned from experiencing a peer's food that was different from their own.