Written by Jane Bahk. Illustrated by Florence Hoshino.
Lee and Low Books, 2015 New Voices Award recipient.
Guest Review by Linda Boyden (see bio below)
What can be kept in an empty kimchi jar? Almost anything, according to Jane Bahk’s young protagonist, Juna. With her best friend, Hector, the two children enjoy time hunting for treasures to keep in Juna’s jar, maybe a special pebble or perhaps a small bug?
One day when Juna knocks on Hector’s apartment door, his Abuelita greets her with sad news: Hector has moved far away to his parents’ new house–he tried to say good-bye, but Juna hadn’t been at home.
Juna’s big brother, Minho, steps up to the occasion, as a good brother should. With his help they continue to collect things for her jar. A fish? A plant? A cricket?
From this point the plot delves into magic: each night, Juna dreams about what is in her kimchi jar. Though her dreams are beautiful, each one serves to remind her of how much she misses her friend, Hector…until one dream shows her a way to feel connected again.
In 1990 Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop wrote how multicultural books benefit all children in three ways: by acting as mirrors, where children can find themselves in the characters; as windows where they can view different cultures; or as sliding glass doors where they can personally relate to a cultural experience different from their own.
Juna’s Jar portrays strong, multicultural characters, but I believe the true strength of the book goes beyond that. Young readers of any ethnicity will identify with Juna’s loss; it will help them understand the sadness that comes to everyone when a friend moves away without saying goodbye.
Will every reader understand what kimchi is? No, and I wish that had been addressed within the text or in an author’s note. Regardless, Juna’s Jar tackles one of the first disappointments many young children must face: the bittersweet loss of a friend. Without being maudlin, Bahk’s gentle words explore how Juna copes while it tempers a harsh experience with the right amount of imagination.
Florence Hoshino’s wistful illustrations and subtle use of color is a perfect match to the tone of the story. Readers will enjoy this quiet story of friendship, lost and found, of friendships, old and new.
Bio: Author/illustrator, Linda Boyden has written six and illustrated five picture books, “The Blue Roses,” (2002), “Powwow’s Coming,” (2007), “Giveaways: An ABC Book of Loanwords from the Americas” (2010), “Boy and Poi Poi Puppy,”(2013), “Roxy Reindeer,” (2014), and “Boy and Poi Poi Puppy in Doggone!” (Spring, 2016) . She has had many poems published in literary journals. She belongs to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers, and Writers Forum of Redding CA.
“I write. I teach. I color in or outside the lines. I spoil kids and grandkids. 2016 is my fifth year of writing a poem a day. Poetry gives voice to our silent songs.” Visit http://www.lindaboyden.com