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Tea with Milk

Last updated Friday, June 27, 2008

Author: Allen Say
Date of Publication: 1999
ISBN: 0395904951
Grade Level: 3rd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Jul. 2008

Synopsis: Masako, or May, as she prefers to be called, unwillingly moves with her parents to their native Japan after graduating from high school in California. She is homesick for her native country and misses American food. She rebels against her parents, who force her to repeat high school so that she can learn "her own language"; the other students tease her for being "gaijin" or a foreigner. Masako leaves home and obtains a job in a department store in Osaka, a city that reminds her of her beloved San Francisco. Her knowledge of English quickly makes her a valued employee and brings her into contact with her future husband, Joseph, a Japanese man who was educated at an English boarding school in Shanghai. They decide that together they can make a life anywhere, and choose to remain in Japan. Say's many fans will be thrilled to have another episode in his family saga, which he relates with customary grace and elegance. The pages are filled with detailed drawings featuring Japanese architecture and clothing, and because of the artist's mastery at drawing figures, the people come to life as authentic and sympathetic characters. This is a thoughtful and poignant book that will appeal to a wide range of readers, particularly our nation's many immigrants who grapple with some of the same challenges as May and Joseph, including feeling at home in a place that is not their own.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Do you drink Tea?
•  What kind of tea do you drink?
•  Do you drink Milk?
•  Do you ever drink them together?
•  Does the cover look like somewhere here?
•  Does this look like it takes place now; in the past; in the future?
•  Does the girl look happy?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Have you ever felt that you did not belong here in Los Angeles? In America? In another country?
•  Have you ever lived somewhere different?
•  What do you miss about that place?
•  What would you miss here in LA if you moved to another city; another state; another country?
•  What do you do to make yourself feel comfortable in a strange place?
•  Are you bilingual? How does that help you in life? How did that help May?
•  Where can you use your other language? (Show them on a globe where their other language is spoken)

Craft ideas:
•  Draw the ship that took May and her family to Japan.
•  Draw two pictures of May: One wearing a Kimono and one wearing Western Clothes.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don't have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!