When the Cousins Came

illus. by Katie Yamasaki. 32p. Holiday House. Jul. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780823434572.
OrangeReviewStarK-Gr 2—Lila eagerly anticipates the arrival of her two cousins who are visiting from the city. She is excited to have children her own age to play with, but when Rosie and Takeo arrive things don't go exactly as Lila imagines. They have cool hairstyles instead of a plain braid like Lila. They skateboard instead of biking. "Everything the cousins did was a little bit special," observes Lila after they show her how they make huge graffiti-inspired chalk-art outside. At dinner they ask for chopsticks, which Lila has never used and didn't even know her family owned. The cousins are never unkind—they style Lila's hair, take turns with the bike and skateboards, and give Lila tips on using chopsticks, but Lila still feels a bit inferior. After dark, Lila is excited to take her cousins for a walk and look for fireflies, but the cousins are nervous about being out at night and Lila again feels like an outsider. Lila's worry that her cousins don't enjoy the things she wants to share with them lasts throughout the visit, but doesn't make the story gloomy or heavy. The gentle plot captures the nuance of childhood friendships, and how small things can loom large for sensitive children like Lila. Yamasaki's lively mixed-media illustrations evoke strong feelings, and small background details reflect the author's own experience growing up as part of a large family.
VERDICT A refreshing, reassuring, and honest story about family and friendship that stands out amid a sea of pat friendship stories.

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