The Favorite Daughter by Allen Say
Well, goodness … the back flap of Allen Say’s latest arrives on my desk with a quote from my own review about his last title, Drawing from Memory! Huh, how did I miss that until now? Okay, I have to admit I’m just tickled at my discovery. Oh, but I do digress … back to the book already!
Caldecott Medalist Allen Say again turns to the personal in a warm story both dedicated to and about his daughter. “Yuriko came to stay with her father on Thursday that week,” the book begins. Over dinner, her request for a baby picture for “a class album” results in a “perfect” photo which reveals a plump-cheeked, blond hapa toddler making Play-Doh mud pies in the “‘prettiest kimono [the father] could find in Tokyo.’”
Yuriko’s excitement over that “perfect” photo diminishes into disappointment by the time she returns from school the next day. Her classmates insist Japanese have black hair, her new art teacher has inadvertently dubbed her “Eureka,” and even her closest friends are mimicking the mistake. “‘I want an American name, Daddy,’” Yuriko announces. “‘Umm … feels like I’m getting a new daughter here,’” Daddy responds.
That evening, “Michelle” accompanies her father to their favorite Japanese restaurant, where father and daughter discuss sushi, school, mistakes, and chopstick manners. Yuriko frets over her newly assigned art project, but her father cajoles her into a “‘real quick trip’” to Japan – at Golden Gate Park. There she finds so much more than the souvenir trinket she hoped for, as well as the exact inspiration she needs to create “‘something different from everyone else in art.’”
You may have already guessed where the title originates – such a moment of amusing, heartfelt delight! – but just in case, no spoilers here. Allen Say writes with such humor and patience, providing just the right amount of guidance to gently enable his hapa daughter toward self-discovery and cultural appreciation. As always, his illustrations are visual gifts, enhancing the smallest details that make the story whole: the ubiquitously recognizable soy sauce bottle, the backpack larger than the small child, the multi-culti park crowd, Yuriko’s slouchingly socked feet. Also included are two precious photographs of real-life Yuriko – as a toddler (mentioned above) and as a young woman in full kimono clearly taken during father and daughter’s (real-life) trip to Japan.
Daughter is Daddy’s side, and you can find Yuriko’s voice here, written when she was 13. Their father/daughter bond is unmistakable, proof that every once in a while, ‘playing favorites’ can be “the most wonderful time together.”
Click here to check out more of Allen Say’s titles in BookDragon.