There are very few words in this charming book that introduces young readers not only to equivalent words in English and Japanese, but also promotes the concept that speaking different languages need not be a barrier to making friends. By extension, readers can deduce that “different languages” might refer not only to language differences but cultural disparities as well.
Lovely illustrations by Naoko Stoop depict a series of vignettes in which two young girls who are new neighbors navigate the world together, sharing simple words along the way, as well as phrases like “Let’s play!” and “Thank you!”
Back matter includes a note by both author and illustrator. The author was inspired by the experience of her grandparents, who came to the United States speaking only Italian. The illustrator moved to Canada from Japan, and although she was by then an adult, she sees herself in the little Japanese girl in the story. She observes:
“Making new friends in a new place can be challenging no matter who you are or what you look like, but having a language barrier makes that hurdle even more difficult to overcome. What I’ve learned, though, is that it doesn’t matter how many words you know or how good your pronunciation or grammar is. Friendships start when we share something of ourselves with another person.”
Published by Random House Studio, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, 2021