BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

When the Cousins Came by Katie Yamasaki [in Shelf Awareness]

“The night before the cousins came, [Lila] couldn’t sleep,” anticipating the fun she’d have with fellow “big kids” Rosie and Takeo. As soon as they arrive, Lila notices differences: unlike her own “two flat braids,” Rosie has “two puffy balls on top of her head” while Takeo sports “a little shark fin”-Mohawk. Happy to share their stylish ways, the cousins readily give Lila “a little shark fin too.”

Groomed to match, the threesome venture outdoors – Rosie on her bike, while the cousins, who “‘brought [their] own wheels,’” ride skateboards. Dinner is noodles, which means chopsticks for the cousins, with Lila eager to learn. At Lila’s suggestion of an after-meal stroll, Rosie hesitates – “Night is scary” – but with Lila’s gentle assurance, they’re rewarded with a firefly glow show. As their visit continues, Lila notices that “[e]verything the cousins did was a little bit extra special.” Their final night together – a camping adventure forced indoors by rain – morphs into a memorable evening of familial bonding.

International muralist Katie Yamasaki (Fish for Jimmy) deftly enhances When the Cousins Came with cultural, social, and emotional layers for lasting beyond-the-words effect. Her characters’ names and detailed illustrations suggest the cousins are mixed-race with a shared Japanese heritage. Lila’s comfortable country home contrasts sharply with her cousins’ apartment, where they don’t go out in darkness because “[s]omething might get you.” The giraffe height ruler reveals the cousins’ visit is a first, or at least the first in four years, when the initial height tick marked Lila’s wall. Even as Lila acknowledges brief moments of wishful envy as the non-sibling among the trio, all her thoughtful planning ultimately connects the cousins with lasting love.

Discover: When Lila’s two city cousins come to visit her home in the country, the trio share unexpected adventures both inside and outside.

Review: “Children & Young Adult,” Shelf Awareness, July 20, 2018

Readers: Children

Published: 2018


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