The Big Bath House by Kyo Maclear

Copy image for The Big Bath House.

The Big Bath House by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Gracey Zhang (9780593181959)

With a warm welcome at your grandmother’s home in Japan, this picture book firmly places children in the midst of an extended loving family filled with aunties and cousins. Change into your yukata and your wooden sandals and walk together to the bath house. Shed your clothes along with everyone else. Start with washing, washing your hair and back, do a naked dance with your cousins, until finally it is time. Everyone enters the big bath together with a sigh. Wrap in a soft towel afterwards and find a treat of shaved ice while you are waiting for the adults to finish. Walk home at night together again, holding your grandma’s hand.

Based on the author’s childhood visits to Japan in the summer, this book is so filled with warmth and love. The connection formed by bathing together, chatting, playing together and spending relaxing time together is so evident that it need not be stated outright. The writing keeps the focus on the importance of bath houses for families. It also gives stodgy Americans a chance to glimpse other ways of bathing, spending family time and respecting each other’s bodies.

The nakedness in the illustrations of this book will have some adults concerned while others will recognize it as a celebration of different body types as well as a look at Japanese culture in ways that is different from our American views. The pages are filled with sudsy, steamy, bubbly bodies, all naked and lovely.

A bubbly look into Japanese culture and the closeness of a family who may live far apart. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Random House.

Dad Bakes by Katie Yamasaki

Cover image for Dad Bakes.

Dad Bakes by Katie Yamasaki (9781324015413)

Dad wakes up when it is still dark and walks to work. When he gets there, he works side-by-side with others to create dough that rises and becomes rolls and loaves. When the sun comes up, Dad walks back home, smelling like warm bread. While he sleeps, his daughter waits for him until it’s time to wake him up. Together, the two go to the kitchen and make their own smaller batch of bread. While it rises and rests, they spend a lot of time together. A bread surprise is created in the kitchen and the two spend the rest of the day together until night falls once more.

Told simply and in a straight-forward way, Yamasaki pays homage to single parents who work long hours, often night shifts to care for their children and provide a true home for them. In her author’s note, she mentions her work as a muralist in correctional facilities, adding another layer to the book. The program the father in the book is part of provides opportunities to those recently incarcerated. This book shows the strength and resilience it takes to return successfully from incarceration and parent a child with love, dedicating real time to being together.

The illustrations show the urban setting the family lives in, particularly when Dad walks to and from work. Their apartment is warm and cozy, full of bright colors that carry through their day spent together. The relationship between father and daughter really comes alive in the illustrations, showing the time they spend together and the joy they both take in it.

A look at parents who work the night shift that embraces those who were once incarcerated. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Norton Young Readers.