Booklist Online Exclusive: May 24, 2019
By Mia Wenjen. Illus. by Nat Iwata
2019. 40p. Lee & Low, $18.95 (9781620148020). Gr. 1–3
Looking suitably round and solid in Iwata’s simply drawn domestic scenes, gentle Joe wakes up to his
little sister, Jo, jumping on the bed, and then he lumbers downstairs to build a dohy (ring) of pillows in the
living room, cast salt on the rug as a blessing (one wonders if his parents approve), and, with two weedier
friends, practice shiko (stomping) and other traditional sumo warmups and throws, while Jo goes off to
aikido class. When she comes back and wants to join in, Joe shrugs off his friends’ objection that sumo is
boys only: “She wants to prove / that she’s got moves . . . / AIKIDO VS SUMO!” Unsurprisingly, a
moment later Joe is flying out of the ring—and so, with a loud “KIYAH!” a general pillow fight is on.
Wenjen gives aikido no more than a nod in the text, but she concludes this buoyant, partially rhymed
episode with an illustrated glossary of special terms and a historical note that ties sumo to its Shinto
— John Peters
Thank you also to Randomly Reading, Abby Dora Design, Caroline Starr Rose, John Chuang (CEO of Aquent), Vivian Kirkfield, Josh Funk, and JensBookTalk for your kind support of Sumo Joe on your blogs and social media!
“Sumo Joe is a wonderful book on several levels. First, it’s a playful look at family and sibling rivalry. Joe is such a kind, gentle brother towards his sister, and readers quickly realize that the match Jo challenges him to is done in the spirit of good clean fun. Most importantly, the loser doesn’t stomp off sore and angry. Second, it an informative book about sumo wrestling which many of us don’t really know a lot about (including myself). Debut picture book author Wenjen has seamlessly woven in sumo terms so that by the end of the story, young readers are familiar enough with the new words to use them comfortably.” from Randomly Reading
We are so grateful to have Abbydora Design art direct Sumo Joe! It’s her debut picture book as designer and art director too!
“Anytime a book is released to the pubic that I helped to design is a special moment. SUMO JOE has even more significance, since this is my first picture book that I designed and art directed!
SUMO JOE is a darling book about a brother and sister who each practice their own martial arts and on one Saturday afternoon their martial art skills collide.
The fun rhyming story is by author Mia Wenjen and Nat Iwata created the colorful and dynamic illustrations. Beyond the narrative, this book also includes an illustrated glossary of Sumo terms and more information on Aikido.” Abbydora Design
Thank you Caroline Starr Rose for featuring Sumo Joe as a Classroom Connection!
“Sumo Joe also works for any unit on Asia or Japan. There is also a broader message about sibling rivalry and sibling kindness. Nat Iwata’s illustrations are wonderful and also convey a message of body positivity. Sumo Joe and his friends have a range of body types, but sumo is also a sport where the biggest athlete is not necessarily always the winner.” Caroline Starr Rose
Why I like this book:
- Text that keeps us moving with great rhythm and rhyme
- Fabulous illustrations
- Timely topic of inclusivity and girl power
Thank you to Josh Funk who generously supports many, many authors and illustrators on his social media. He works full time as a software engineer so I’m grateful for his support, given how busy he is! He alerted us to our publication date!
Thank you to @jensbooktalk on Instagram for helping us celebrate our book birthday!
#happybookbirthday to this fun and informational story that teaches readers all about Sumo Wrestling.
Thank you to Anitra Rowe Schulte for checking Sumo Joe out at your library and for sharing on Twitter!
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