A joyful celebration of Japanese cultural traditions and body positivity as a young girl visits a bath house with her grandmother and aunties
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY New York Public Library • NPR • Publishers Weekly • Kirkus Reviews • Horn Book • The American Library Association • ALA Rise: A Feminist Book Project
You'll walk down the street / Your aunties sounding like clip-clopping horses / geta-geta-geta / in their wooden sandals / Until you arrive... / At the bath house / The big bath house.
In this celebration of Japanese culture and family and naked bodies of all shapes and sizes, join a little girl--along with her aunties and grandmother--at a traditional bath house. Once there, the rituals leading up to the baths begin: hair washing, back scrubbing, and, finally, the wood barrel drumroll. Until, at last, it's time, and they ease their bodies--their creased bodies, newly sprouting bodies, saggy, jiggly bodies--into the bath. Ahhhhhh!
With a lyrical text and gorgeous illustrations, this picture book is based on Kyo Maclear's loving memories of childhood visits to Japan, and is an ode to the ties that bind generations of women together.
Maclear (It Began with a Page) remembers with affection the local bathhouse her Baachan took her to during childhood visits to Japan. In bold black ink and wash drawings, Zhang (Lala's Words) captures the girl's arrival and the slow walk through the neighborhood as the child, her grandmother, and her aunties (who have "big stories and bigger purses") stroll along in yukata, enter the bathhouse, and wash ("the aunties scrub each other's backs"). Then everyone soaks in the hot water together, "a chorus of one long breath:// Ahhhhh." Against a tile backdrop, dazzling candid portraits capture groups of nude girls and women of various ages, shapes, and skin tones sharing the big communal pool: "You'll all dip your bodies,/ your newly sprouting,/ gangly bodies,/ your saggy, shapely,/ jiggly bodies,// your cozy, creased,/ ancient bodies./ Beautiful bodies." Maclear and Zhang portray with great warmth the nourishment offered by this cultural institution, making clear to readers the ritual's cozy, home-away-from-home feeling. In this treasured familial memory grounded in a specific place, tender nakedness resolves into an undressing of both emotional and physical selves: "You'll reach for Baachan's hand, and she'll reach for yours./ And it'll be understood." An author's note discusses the book's origins. Ages 4 8. Author's)