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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen

Jasmine Toguchi (Volume 1)

Debbi Michiko Florence; illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)



It was safest for me to hide in my room. Mom was scrubbing the guest bathroom. Dad was getting the cardboard boxes from the garage. My big sister, Sophie, was sweeping the kitchen floor. I waited for my chance to escape the cleaning frenzy.

I, Jasmine Toguchi, do not like to clean! But I do like to climb trees, eat dessert, and make messes. I’d rather do any of those things right now.

I peeked out my bedroom window. Dad has moved into the backyard! I tiptoed out of my room. Nobody in the hall! I ran to the front door. But just as I put my hand on the doorknob, I heard footsteps behind me.

“Jasmine Toguchi, where do you think you’re going?”

I turned slowly to face my mother.

“We need to clean the house before everyone arrives tomorrow,” Mom said. “Now go help your sister.”

Walnuts! This was exactly what I was trying to avoid. Helping Sophie would mean that I did all the work while she bossed me around.

“I already finished sweeping,” Sophie announced from the next room. Scattered across the kitchen floor, small mounds of dust and bits of trash sat like sand dunes on the beach. Except this was no vacation. “You can pick it all up. I’ll let you know if you do a good job.”

Sophie is two years older than me. She thinks that makes her my boss. If that weren’t annoying enough, she also gets to do everything before me. She started school first. She learned to read first. She even started piano lessons last year, and I have to wait another year. Not that I really want to play the piano.

Sophie was always the expert. She thought she was smarter and better than me. Just once, I wished I could do something first. Just once, I wanted to be the expert.

As I swept the piles into the dustpan, Sophie climbed up onto the kitchen stool. It was like being higher up made her more in charge. This meant barking commands at me while she picked at the chipped polish on her fingernails.

“You missed a pile!”

“Stop sweeping so hard! You’re making dust fly into the air!”

“Don’t spill or you’ll have to clean it up.”

I sighed and swept.

We were getting ready for mochi-tsuki. Every year, our relatives come over to our house to celebrate New Year’s. We spend the entire day making mochi, Japanese sweet rice cakes. It’s hard work to make mochi, but there’s a reward—eating the gooey treat afterward.

Actually, all the other relatives do the hard work. In my family, you had to be at least ten years old to make mochi. This year would be Sophie’s first time getting to help. I’m only eight. Once again, Sophie would do something before I did. By the time I was ten and got to make mochi, too, she would be the expert and boss me around. That would take all the fun out of it.

This year, just like last year, I would be stuck babysitting.

I bent over, scooped, and walked to the trash can to empty the dustpan. I did this a hundred times, at least.

I wished I could help with mochi-tsuki. I didn’t want to watch DVDs with my four-year-old cousins. It wasn’t fair. I was big enough to make mochi!

“I’m going to help make mochi,” I said to Sophie.

She kept picking at her orange nails. “You’re too little. You’ll only get in the way.”

“I’m big enough.” Yesterday I noticed I came up to Sophie’s chin. During the summer I came up to her shoulder. I was growing!

“Just wait your turn,” she said.

This year, Sophie would sit at the table in the backyard with Mom and all the other women. She would probably get to sit right next to Obaachan, our grandma who came from Japan every year for the holidays.

“Stop pouting and finish cleaning,” Sophie said. “You’ll get your turn at mochi-tsuki when you’re ten.”

I wished there was something I could do before her. Something she could never do.

I swept up another dust pile. Suddenly, I got an idea. It was tradition for Dad, the uncles, and the boy cousins to turn the cooked rice into the sticky mochi by pounding it in a stone bowl with a big wooden hammer. That’s what I could do. I could pound mochi with the boys!

“What are you grinning about?” Sophie scooted off the stool and took the dustpan from me. “Sweep the floor again to make sure there’s nothing left.”

You needed to be strong to pound mochi. I was strong. So I swept the floor using all my muscles.

“Stop!” Sophie screeched. “You almost hit me! Mom! Jasmine tried to whack me in the head with the broom!”

Hitting Sophie sounded like good practice for pounding mochi, but I knew it would only get me in trouble.

Just then Mom walked into the kitchen, her forehead wrinkled like it always was when she got annoyed.

“Jasmine Toguchi! You know better than that. Go clean your room if you can’t work well with your sister.”

I handed the broom to Sophie with a smile and skipped to my room to work on my terrific idea!

Text copyright © 2017 Debbi Michiko Florence

Illustrations copyright © 2017 Elizabet Vukovic