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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

Jasmine Toguchi, Flamingo Keeper

Jasmine Toguchi (Volume 4)

Debbi Michiko Florence; illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)



I, Jasmine Toguchi, love Saturdays because Saturdays are super-fun days. Sometimes we have family time, when Dad, Mom, my sister, and I go to the zoo or the movies. Sometimes I play in my neighbor Mrs. Reese’s garage. Today I get to have lunch with my best friend, Linnie Green, at her house.

“Jasmine, are you ready?” Mom called to me from the living room.

No, I was not ready. I was looking for my special rock. Linnie collects rocks, and she gave me her favorite pink rock because it looks like a flamingo egg. Flamingos are my very favorite animal in the world. I wanted to bring the rock with me so she could see it again. I looked on my desk, but it wasn’t there. I looked under my bed, but it wasn’t there either.

“Why are you in your closet?” My big sister, Sophie, poked her head into my room. “If you don’t get in the car right now, you’re going to make me late for my soccer game.”

“Walnuts! I can’t find my rock,” I said.

“Maybe you should check your head,” Sophie said, and laughed. This was her way of joking, even if it wasn’t very funny.

Ever since Sophie started fifth grade, she seemed to get bossier every day. Sophie was always telling me what I couldn’t do. Like go into her room or touch her things. Sometimes I wondered if I had done something to make her mad at me. Or maybe she just didn’t like me anymore. That made my chest feel tight and sad. But even having her say not-funny jokes to me was better than feeling invisible.

“Ha-ha,” I said.

“Jasmine Toguchi,” Mom shouted. “We’re going to be late!”

“Hurry up!” Sophie said.

I took one last look around my bedroom and then ran after my sister. My flamingo-egg rock would have to stay behind.

* * *

“You’re here!” Linnie shouted as she flung open her front door.

I turned to wave at my parents, and they drove off to take Sophie to her soccer game. I followed Linnie into her house.

There was a little blanket in the middle of the living room. That was different. Linnie is very neat and never leaves things lying around. Then we walked through to the kitchen.

“What’s that?” I asked, pointing to a bowl of water on the floor. Mrs. Green is also very neat. She doesn’t even leave her cooking things out on the counter, so it was strange she would leave something on the floor.

“A surprise,” Linnie said, giggling.

I like a good surprise, but I wasn’t sure about this one. What if the surprise was that we were going to clean up? Or maybe eat lunch on the floor? Actually, that might not be so bad. It could be fun, like a picnic. I hoped the surprise was a picnic and not cleaning. I am not a fan of cleaning.

I have been to Linnie’s house a million times, so it feels like a second home to me. I walked down the hall to her bedroom because that’s what we always do. We always go to her room for her special suitcase that’s filled with a bunch of old Halloween costumes. We play dress up and pretend we are princesses, ballerinas, knights, and bunnies. But Linnie didn’t follow me.

“Where are you?” I called out.

“Over here,” she said, laughing. “Come this way!”

Linnie stood at the sliding glass door to the backyard. This surprised me, since Linnie doesn’t like playing outside. She is afraid of dirt and heights and bugs. Okay, maybe not afraid. But she doesn’t like those things as much as I do. Linnie is trying to be braver these days. Maybe this was her surprise, that we were going to play outside!

Linnie held a tennis ball. Were we going to play catch? I didn’t really love to play catch. It was boring throwing a ball back and forth, but because Linnie is my very best friend in the world, I am happy to do things that she likes to do.

Linnie opened the sliding door, and I followed her into the yard. And that’s when I heard a strange sound.

Text copyright © 2018 by Debbi Michiko Florence