*A Chicago Public Library Best Book of 2018*
*A CYBILS Easy Reader and Early Chapter Book Award Winner*
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 strengthstree-climbing, mochi making, collagenone 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 talentand the difference between being the best and trying your best.
About the Author
Debbi Michiko Florence is a third generation Japanese American, and has many fond memories of her family's traditions and growing up in California. Debbi now lives in Connecticut with her husband and their two ducks, Darcy and Lizzie.
Elizabet Vukovic received her MFA from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, California. She specializes in children's book illustration, but enjoys experimenting with character design, concept art, fashion illustration, and decorative art. She currently resides in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Debbi and Elizabet are the author and illustrator of the Jasmine Toguchi series, including Jasmine Toguchi, Drummer Girl, Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth, and Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen.
Read an Excerpt
AN EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT
Bong bong bong bing!
Ms. Sanchez, my third-grade teacher, played the start-of-the-day song on her xylophone. Everyone in room 5, including me, sat up straight at their desk and got quiet.
"Happy Monday, class," Ms. Sanchez said. "Buenos días!"
That means good morning. Ms. Sanchez was teaching us Spanish.
"Buenos días, Señora Sanchez," I said along with my classmates.
"We have a special guest this morning," she said.
Just then, Mrs. Tasker, our principal, walked into the room. Even though we were already sitting up straight, we all sat up a little straighter. The principal is like the boss of the school. If a student gets into trouble, he or she gets sent to the principal's office.
I, Jasmine Toguchi, try hard to stay out of trouble. But sometimes trouble finds me. That's what my mom says, at least. I like to climb my neighbor's apricot tree, play dress up with my best friend, Linnie Green, make collages, and eat brownies without nuts. Sometimes I tear my jeans while climbing, lose track of time, get glue on the table, and leave crumbs on the floor. All things my mom wishes I wouldn't do.
"Good morning," Mrs. Tasker said.
"Good morning, Mrs. Tasker," I said with the rest of the class.
She had a stack of papers in her hand. Was she giving us homework? I glanced at Ms. Sanchez for a clue. She was smiling. It couldn't be a bad thing if she was smiling. Then again, she smiled when she gave us homework. She had a strange sense of what was fun.
"I have an exciting announcement," Mrs. Tasker said. "This Saturday, we're having a school-wide talent show. All of your families will be invited."
Tommy Fraser raised his hand from the front row. "What's a talent show?" he blurted out without waiting to be called on.
"I'm glad you asked, Tommy," Mrs. Tasker said. "A talent show is when students can show off a special or fun talent. Like singing, or playing an instrument, or reciting a poem you wrote. Anything, really! You can choose to do something on your own, with a group, or with the entire class. I'll let Ms. Sanchez help you make that decision."
Linnie and I smiled at each other.
"Put on your thinking caps," Mrs. Tasker said. "Fill out the form with your special talent and get a parent to sign it. The show will be in the auditorium on Saturday night."
Wowee zowee! This sounded like fun! I had many talents. Which one would I choose to perform for the talent show?
After Mrs. Tasker left, Ms. Sanchez began the math lesson. I was so excited I couldn't keep the numbers in my head. At least not in the way Ms. Sanchez wanted.
Ms. Sanchez wrote the number 4 on the board. I thought about four things I could do for my talent: pound mochi, make a collage, read from my favorite book, or make up a silly dance. I looked over at Daisy Wang. She took ballet lessons. Okay, so maybe I wouldn't dance.
After our math lesson, Ms. Sanchez said, "Let's review this week's vocabulary words. Choose three words from the list and write a sentence for each one. Use your very best handwriting."
I stared at my vocabulary list.
ability: the skill to do something
celebration: a joyous ceremony or gathering
journey: a long trip
pause: to stop for a short time before going on
wisdom: knowledge and good sense
I chose three words, thought of sentences, and wrote them down:
I have the ability to do many things in the talent show.
I will pause in my schoolwork to think of what I can do in the talent show.
I have the wisdom to decide on my best talent.
The morning took forever to go by. I couldn't wait to talk with my friends about the talent show. When lunchtime finally came, I sat with Linnie, Tommy, and Daisy, like I did every lunch.
Linnie opened her green unicorn lunch box and took out a peanut butter and peach jam sandwich, carrot sticks, and a juice box. She handed me her yogurt and I gave her my banana. I used to bring sandwiches every day, but when my grandma visited from Japan, she made omusubi. I loved eating the rice balls wrapped in nori, or seaweed. Now whenever we have leftover rice from dinner, Mom makes omusubi for my lunch the next day. Sometimes Mom puts a treat in the middle of my rice ball, like pickled radish or a piece of roast chicken.
Tommy unpacked his usual lunch of a turkey sandwich on wheat bread, potato chips, and an apple. We all turned to Daisy. Her mother was a baker, so Daisy brought the best desserts, and she always shared. Today, she had star-shaped cookies dusted with powdered sugar.
"I can make cookies like that," Maggie Milsap said from the table next to ours. Maggie moved here to Los Angeles from Portland, Oregon, at the beginning of third grade. She didn't know anyone at Drake Elementary. Ms. Sanchez said to be friendly with Maggie to make her feel welcome, but sometimes it was hard. Especially when she bragged a lot.
"What are you going to do for the talent show?" I asked my friends. Ms. Sanchez had the class vote after our math lesson, and we had chosen to do individual talents.
"I'm going to play the piano," Linnie said. "Ms. Sanchez said I can play the piano that Mr. Peters uses for music class."
"You'll be wonderful," I said. Linnie has been playing since she was five. She's very good.
"I'm going to show off my yo-yo skills," Tommy said. "I can do three tricks with my yo-yo."
"That sounds amazing," I said. I turned to Daisy. "Will you dance?"
She nodded. "I'll ask my ballet teacher. I'm sure she can help me plan a short dance for the show."
Maggie Milsap leaned over from her table. "I'm going to play the violin," she said, even though none of us had asked her. "My teacher says I'm a natural talent."
"What are you going to do, Jasmine?" Linnie asked.
"I am having a hard time choosing one of my talents," I said. "Maybe I will make a collage."
"I can make great collages," Maggie said. "But playing the violin will probably be more interesting for the audience."
I thought about my friends. Their talents were perfect for sharing onstage. I tried to imagine making a collage onstage, sitting at a table and cutting out pictures and words from magazines and gluing them onto cardboard. That might not be very interesting.
I couldn't bring Mrs. Reese's apricot tree to school and show off my climbing skills. I was very good at pounding mochi, but that took a long time and Ms. Sanchez said that we each had only two minutes to perform.
"At my old school, I was the best at many things," Maggie said. "I'm going to be the best at the talent show, too!"
"It's not a contest," I said.
"I'll bet it is," Maggie said. "I'll bet Mrs. Tasker is going to judge us and pick who is the very best. My daddy says, 'Life is a competition.'"
I imagined Maggie standing onstage with a huge trophy.
Suddenly the talent show didn't seem as fun as I thought it would be. Everyone had a perfect talent except for me!
By the end of lunchtime, my head was full of worries.
WHAT TO DO?
After lunch, we had silent-reading time. I opened my favorite book, Charlotte's Web, but I couldn't concentrate. I was at one of the best parts of the book: when Charlotte the spider comes up with a plan to save her best friend, Wilbur the pig. I wished my best friend, Linnie, could come up with a plan to save me from the show. But she didn't even know that I didn't have a talent, and I was too embarrassed to tell her.
The rest of the school day dragged on. Finally I heard a happy sound.
Bing bong bong bing!
Ms. Sanchez was playing the end-of-the-day song on her xylophone. That gave me an idea. As everyone got their backpack and coat from the closet, I went up to Ms. Sanchez.
"Do you think I can learn to play the xylophone in time for the talent show?" I asked.
Ms. Sanchez nodded. "I'm sure you can. Is that what you would like to do?"
"May I try?"
She handed me her special xylophone mallet. Nobody in class was allowed to touch it.
I hit the xylophone.
Bong bong BONK clooong CLINK bong bing.
"What is that awful noise?" Maggie Milsap asked, poking her head out of the closet.
I handed the mallet back to Ms. Sanchez. "I guess I don't have talent on the xylophone."
"It just takes a little practice," Ms. Sanchez said. "I can show you a tune to play."
"I don't need to practice the violin," Maggie said. "I'm already great."
"It's okay," I said to Ms. Sanchez. "I have other big talents, but I wanted to see what the xylophone felt like. I will surprise all of you with my talent!"
"I'm looking forward to seeing what it is," Ms. Sanchez said. "Now, class, let's go out to our meeting spot. It's almost time for dismissal."
As we stood by the tree, waiting to be picked up, Linnie came over to me. "I'm so happy you figured out what to do for the show," she said. "What is your talent?"
"It's a surprise," I said. That was the truth. It was going to be a surprise for me, too, since I had no clue what my talent would be. Everyone else knew what to do. I wasn't ready to admit that I didn't know yet. Even to my best friend.
"My parents always give me a prize for being the best," Maggie said, standing close to me. "At my old school, I always got perfect scores on my tests and homework. When I win the talent show, my parents will probably take me to a fancy restaurant for dinner."
I had nothing to say to Maggie Milsap.
I was glad Mom showed up right then to walk me and my big sister, Sophie, home. I didn't want to listen to Maggie anymore. She was making me feel bad.
"Guess what?" Sophie said to Mom. "We're having a school talent show on Saturday and you and Dad are invited to watch us!"
"We'll be sure to be there," Mom said.
"What are you going to do?" I asked Sophie.
"We're doing a class play," Sophie said.
"We've already been practicing, so it's a great way to show off our talents!"
"How exciting," Mom said.
"I need a costume," Sophie said. "I'm the queen."
That was the perfect part for my sister, actually. She was super-bossy.
"I'll bet Mrs. Reese has something you can wear," Mom said.
Mrs. Reese was our neighbor and my friend who lived two houses down. She was older than my mom and dad, but she listened to me, made me brownies with no nuts, and let me climb her tree. Best of all, her garage was full of costumes. Linnie and I played dress up in there.
Mom squeezed my hand. "What will you do, Jasmine?"
"I haven't decided yet," I said.
When we got home, I went to my room and pulled out a flat box from under my bed. I couldn't do a collage onstage, but maybe I could get an idea from some I had already made. One by one, I took out my collages.
In the middle of the stack was a collage of my favorite animal — the flamingo. I wished I had a pet flamingo! If I had one, I could take it with me to the talent show and have it do tricks, like stand on one leg for a long time. Flamingos are very good at that. Maybe I could pretend to be a flamingo. I thought about standing on the stage and balancing on one leg. I shook my head. That would be fun, but was probably not a talent. What was a talent anyway?
By the time Mom called us for dinner, my stomach was in knots.
Dad passed me the green beans. I am not a fan of green beans. I took a very small scoop.
"You haven't filled out your form yet, Jasmine," Mom said.
"Mine is going to be a surprise," I said, taking a big bite of green beans. Mom has a lot of rules and one of them is no talking with your mouth full. If I kept my mouth full during dinner, I wouldn't have to admit that I didn't have any talent.
I needed to figure it out, and fast!
After dinner, Sophie practiced her lines for the play with Dad. I was afraid Mom would ask me again what I was planning to do for the show. I thought about walking to Mrs. Reese's house to climb my thinking tree, but I wanted to go somewhere nobody would find me and ask me questions about my talent. So I went to our garage.
Our garage was not as interesting as Mrs. Reese's. Hers had boxes full of fun costumes. We had a lot of boxes, but most of them had boring things in them, such as Mom's old files and Dad's textbooks. Mrs. Reese had a special door around the side, like a little house. Ours had a regular garage door that we left open during the day when we were home.
I plopped down in an old stuffed chair in the garage. Dust puffed up in a cloud, tickling my nose.
Dad kept his woodworking tools in the garage. He liked to build things like bookcases and tables. Maybe that was Dad's talent. Dad was a history teacher at a college. That was his job.
Mom's job was being an editor. She worked with writers, fixing their mistakes. Mom had a lot of talents, like making up rules and sniffing out trouble. She was also good at needlepoint. She made pretty pictures using a needle and thread. It looked like a lot of work, but she said it was fun.
Sophie wrote poems and now she was an actress. She also played on a soccer team. She had lots of talents. That didn't seem fair. Maybe that was why I didn't have a talent, because everyone in my family had used them all up. There was no talent left over for me.
"There you are," Mom said, standing in front of the garage.
I guess it wasn't a very good hiding place after all.
Mom sat down on the arm of the chair and put her hand on my shoulder. "Is something wrong? You didn't ask for any dessert tonight."
Like I said, Mom was good at sniffing out trouble. And I had trouble with a capital T.
"Are you having a hard time figuring out what to do in the talent show?" she asked.
"How did you know?" I asked.
"A mom knows," she said. "Is there a way I can help you?"
"I don't have a talent," I said, slouching in the chair. "Linnie plays the piano. Sophie is an actress."
"I'm sure you have a talent. What are some things you like to do?"
"I like to climb trees, make collages, and pound mochi. But those are not things I can do for the talent show," I said.
"Hmmm. Why do you like doing those things?" Mom asked.
I leaned my head back and thought. "Climbing makes me feel free like a bird," I said. "And pounding mochi makes me feel strong. Creating my own collages makes me happy."
"All good things!" Mom said with a smile. "In fact, that reminds me of something ..." She walked to the back of the garage and started rummaging around.
I turned in the chair, peering up over the back of it. Mom pushed boxes out of the way. She opened one and then another, digging through each of them. Mom was making a mess. That was not like Mom at all.
"Aha!" Mom shouted. She turned around and raised two fat wooden sticks.
I didn't understand why she was so excited over sticks.
"This is what you can do for your talent," Mom said, waving them in the air.
"You want me to wave sticks on the stage?" That didn't sound like a good talent at all.
"No," Mom said, laughing. "Taiko!"
"It's a special Japanese drum," Mom said. "I used to play it in college. It made me feel all the things you mentioned. Playing taiko made me feel free and strong and happy."
She handed me the sticks. They reminded me of chopsticks, but were much bigger and fatter. They were heavier than chopsticks, too. I gripped them and sucked on my bottom lip. I remembered what it had felt like hitting Ms. Sanchez's xylophone. It was not good.
"That's not your usual look," Mom said, patting my arm. "I need to make a phone call, but I think tomorrow you and I are going to go somewhere special."
"Really? Just you and me? No Sophie?"
"Nope! Sophie's going to Maya's house," Mom said. "I think you'll enjoy our little outing."
Suddenly I didn't care so much about the talent show. I hardly ever got time with Mom without Sophie. I couldn't wait till tomorrow after school!
The next day, Ms. Sanchez collected the forms that listed everyone's talent. When she got to me, I told her I would give her my paper tomorrow.
"That's fine," Ms. Sanchez said. "As long as I have it before dress rehearsal on Friday."
"What's a dress rehearsal?" Tommy asked.
"A dress rehearsal is a way to practice for the actual show. The entire school will go through a dress rehearsal on Friday to prepare for Saturday," Ms. Sanchez said. "And this way, the rest of the school can also enjoy the show."
"It's like we'll have two talent shows!" Maggie said.
"Yes," Ms. Sanchez said. "One for the school as practice, and one for the parents on Saturday. Isn't this exciting?"
Walnuts! I had even less time to come up with a talent than I thought. I had to be ready by Friday. That was just three days away! I needed a miracle. A miracle is when something amazing happens right when you don't expect it.
At lunch, Tommy took out his blue-and-yellow yoyo from his lunch bag.
"Watch how the colors change," he said. The yoyo flashed up and down, turning green as the colors spun fast.
Daisy stood up on her toes and danced around the lunch table, looking like a pretty butterfly flitting on a breeze.
Linnie moved her hands on the tabletop, her fingers flying up and down the imaginary keyboard.
At the next table, Maggie Milsap talked loudly. This wasn't anything new, because she always spoke loudly. "I played my violin piece perfectly yesterday. My teacher said I'm gifted. I don't even need to practice! I'll definitely win first prize Saturday night."
Excerpted from "Jasmine Toguchi, Drummer Girl"
Copyright © 2018 Debbi Michiko Florence.
Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. An Exciting Announcement,
2. Lunch Break,
3. What to Do?,
5. After-School Surprise,
6. The Rules,
8. A Lot of Worries,
9. Sophie's Advice,
10. Practice Makes Perfect,
11. Dress Rehearsal,
12. Talent-Show Time!,
13. A Miracle,
Make Your Own Hachi-Maki,
Sneak Peek: Jasmine Toguchi, Flamingo Keeper,
Also by Debbi Michiko Florence,
Praise for Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen,
About the Author and Illustrator,