Thursday, April 5, 2018

#road2reading Challenge - Jasmine Toguchi Drummer Girl 4.05.18

All journeys have a starting place.
This is a weekly place to find books and tools 
that you may use with readers at the start of their reading journey.
Join in the conversation at #road2reading.

Last summer I found the "Jasmine Toguchi" series.  I knew it was going to be a fun series, but I didn't know how special she would be until I read her story.  This book gave me all the feels - she was a fun character that would be relatable to all young readers, and she puts a spotlight on her Japanese culture as part of her story AND this was a new transitional chapter book series!  I'm always on the lookout for a good transitional chapter book - it's hard to find books that have a great plot line, yet are an appropriate length and vocabulary for young readers.  Jasmine absolutely fits the bill.  And nothing tells you if a book is a success or not than by reading it out loud to children.  Our third grade teachers read the first book out loud this year because we were skyping with author Debbie Michiko Florence on World Read Aloud Day.  The kids absolutely loved reading Jasmine.  They always wanted to keep reading, never stopping for the day.  After they read the first book, they needed the second book.  WRAD was in February, but I haven't seen my Jasmine books since then - they are always checked out!  And now, we get the third book in the series:

Jasmine Toguchi, Drummer Girl
Jasmine Toguchi: Drummer Girl
written by Debbi Michiko Florence
illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic
published by Farrar Straus Giroux
April 3rd, 2018

Goodreads summary:
It's talent show time at school, and eight-year-old Jasmine Toguchi is excited to show her stuff. But as she thinks about her strengths--tree-climbing, mochi making, collage--none of them feel quite right to perform on-stage. Jasmine's friends already have a talent: Tommy yo-yo's, Daisy dances, and Linnie plays piano. Plus, Maggie Milsap (aka Miss Perfect) is saying she'll have the best talent.

When Jasmine's mom introduces her to the taiko, a traditional Japanese drum, Jasmine finally finds an activity that feels just right. But will she be good enough at taiko in time to beat Maggie Milsap?

Join Jasmine as she discovers her talent--and the difference between being the best and trying your best.

Lucky for us Debbi stopped by to chat with our readers!

1.  Do you have to think about anything different when writing a series like this?  (vs. if it were a picture book or older middle grade novel)

When I wrote Jasmine Toguchi Mochi Queen, I wrote it as a standalone. It wasn’t until my editor asked me to write three more books that I had to think about turning Jasmine Toguchi into a series. My editor encouraged me do develop mannerisms that could carry throughout a series, like phrases or passions. Jasmine’s “wowee zowee” for when she’s excited actually came from my editor who used the same phrase in an email to me. And Jasmine’s “walnuts” for when she was unhappy, came about because both Jasmine and I don’t like walnuts. It the first book, Jasmine’s favorite color is purple and she loves to make messes and climb trees, and those things carry through the series.

2.  I bet you've heard from young readers about how seeing Jasmine's culture/heritage in a book has meant to them.  Can you share a story?

I’m touched by how many readers and parents of readers have reached out to me and/or shared online how much Jasmine Toguchi means to them. Each note, tweet/post/DM, and letter means the world to me. In fact, I started keeping a special scrapbook to save everything in one place. Not long ago, I received a four-page letter from a young reader who wrote to me in both English AND Japanese, and made me a pink flamingo out of origami. It means so much to me that readers are able to see themselves in Jasmine and her stories.

3.  We've heard inspiration strikes everywhere!  What's been the craziest place you've been when you've had a big breakthrough or idea?

I’m not sure I have a craziest place, but once I solved a plot problem while I was out running. I didn’t want to forget it but I also didn’t want to stop running since I was using an app that was timing me. So I voice texted myself the idea while running. Another time, I came up with a story idea while I was driving. There was nowhere for me to pull over and I was in traffic so I chanted the idea out loud over and over until I was able to pull over in a parking lot and write it down. I tend to forget my ideas so I must write them down immediately.

4.  It's always so fun to hear about those changes that we never knew about that happens during the writing process.  Can you tell us about a pre-publication change in one of the books?

After my editor acquired Mochi Queen and asked me to write three more books, she suggested that Jasmine have a favorite animal. I wanted the animal to be unique and unusual, because Jasmine is the kind of kid who doesn’t follow the crowd. My editor is originally from Miami and, so, Jasmine’s favorite animal became the flamingo! I love that it’s such a big thing for Jasmine now, and she mentions this love in every book. In Book 4, Jasmine Toguchi Flamingo Keeper, coming out on July 3, Jasmine wishes for her very own pet flamingo. Stayed tuned to learn how that turns out!

5.  I love that Jasmine is accessible to readers who are starting to independently read chapter books.  Is there something you do to support your readers?

I’m thrilled that readers are discovering Jasmine Toguchi and I’m so touched by the support the books are receiving! For fans who reach out, I’m always happy to send signed bookmarks or bookplates. The same goes to educators and librarians. I also do school visits - details are available on my web site and I’m starting to book for the 2018 - 2019 school year. Also on my website are free downloadable activities for readers and fans such as Mochi Queen/King nametags and Jasmine paper dolls. And I put out a monthly newsletter that includes updates, crafts/activities, and tidbits about Japanese culture.

Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog!

More about Debbi:

Debbi Michiko Florence is the author of the chapter book series Jasmine Toguchi, about a spunky 8-year-old Japanese American girl: Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen (a Junior Library Guild selection); Jasmine Toguchi, Super SleuthJasmine Toguchi, Drummer Girl (a Junior Library Guild selection) (April 3, 2018); and Jasmine Toguchi, Flamingo Keeper (July 3, 2018). A third generation Japanese American and a native Californian, Debbi now lives in Connecticut with her husband, a puppy named Kiku, a bunny named Aki, and two ducks named Darcy and Lizzy. A former zoo educator and classroom teacher, she loves to travel with her husband and daughter.

And even luckier for us, Debbi and FSG is offering a copy of Jasmine Toguchi, Drummer Girl to a reader!  Be sure to enter the giveaway for your chance to win - giveaway is open to US residents through Wednesday, April 11th.

Be sure to check out all of the Jasmine Toguchi books - your readers will thank you!

Do you work with readers who are starting their journey on the road to reading?  Join Alyson Beecher from Kid Lit Frenzy and me every Thursday as we explore books and ideas to help readers have a successful start to independent picture book and chapter book reading. If you blog or have a Goodreads page, please link up with us!


  1. Great interview, Michele! I loved the first two books. Jasmine is such a fun character. Can't wait for books 3 & 4!

  2. Love love love to see a diverse character and the impact on readers!