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Tea with Milk Hardcover – March 29, 1999


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 450L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; Library Binding edition (March 29, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395904951
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395904954
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 10 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,033,302 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Say's masterfully executed watercolors tell as much of this story about a young woman's challenging transition from America to Japan as his eloquent, economical prose. Raised near San Francisco, Masako (her American friends called her May) is uprooted after high school when her parents return to their Japanese homeland. In addition to repeating high school to learn Japanese, she must learn the arts of a "proper Japanese lady"Aflower arranging, calligraphy and the tea ceremonyAand is expected to marry well. Declaring "I'd rather have a turtle than a husband," the independent-minded Masako heads for the city of Osaka and gets a job in a department store. With his characteristic subtlety, Say sets off his cultural metaphor from the very start, contrasting the green tea Masako has for breakfast in her home, with the "tea with milk and sugar" she drinks at her friends' houses in America. Later, when she meets a young Japanese businessman who also prefers tea with milk and sugar to green tea, readers will know that she's met her match. Say reveals on the final page that the couple are his parents. Whether the subject is food ("no more pancakes or omelets, fried chicken or spaghetti" in Japan) or the deeper issues of ostracism (her fellow students call Masako "gaijin"Aforeigner) and gender expectations, Say provides gentle insights into human nature as well as East-West cultural differences. His exquisite, spare portraits convey emotions that lie close to the surface and flow easily from page to reader: with views of Masako's slumping posture and mask-like face as she dons her first kimono, or alone in the schoolyard, it's easy to sense her dejection. Through choice words and scrupulously choreographed paintings, Say's story communicates both the heart's yearning for individuality and freedom and how love and friendship can bridge cultural chasms. Ages 4-8.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Kindergarten-Grade 6-Continuing the story he started in Grandfather's Journey (Houghton, 1993), Say explores familiar themes of cultural connection and disconnection. He focuses on his mother Masako, or May, as she prefers to be called, who, after graduating from high school in California, unwillingly moves with her parents to their native Japan. 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.
Ellen Fader, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Allen Say was born in Yokohama, Japan, in 1937. He dreamed of becoming a cartoonist from the age of six, and, at age twelve, apprenticed himself to his favorite cartoonist, Noro Shinpei. For the next four years, Say learned to draw and paint under the direction of Noro, who has remained Say's mentor. Say illustrated his first children's book -- published in 1972 -- in a photo studio between shooting assignments. For years, Say continued writing and illustrating children's books on a part-time basis. But in 1987, while illustrating THE BOY OF THE THREE-YEAR NAP (Caldecott Honor Medal), he recaptured the joy he had known as a boy working in his master's studio. It was then that Say decided to make a full commitment to doing what he loves best: writing and illustrating children's books. Since then, he has written and illustrated many books, including TREE OF CRANES and GRANDFATHER'S JOURNEY, winner of the 1994 Caldecott Medal. He is a full-time writer and illustrator living in Portland, Oregon.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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The overall comment I observe from those that have read it is: " what a nice story"!
M. Anthony
Allen Say writes stories from the heart and his artistic talents enable him to include beautiful illustrations that enhance his stories.
Z Hayes
I just read this book for the first time today and I was blown away by the illustrations.
C. Rowley

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
An important theme in Tea With Milk is the fact that as people move between two cultures they often do not feel completely comfortable in either one. May's parents return to Japan because they are homesick. I would guess that they are not as Japanese as they would have been had they not lived in the U. S. Their pushing May to be so traditional could be the result of their attempt to reassimilate. May, of course, experiences most deeply the pain of immigration, and even Joseph, Say's father, is adopted, raised in Shanghai, and working in Japan. Joseph, in fact, best expresses the characters' dilemmas when he says that "home isn't a place or a building that's ready-made and waiting for you, in America or anywhere else". May and Joseph then decide to make a home for themselves and adopt Japan by choice. I found this book more positive and optimistic than Grandfather's Journey where Say's grandfather never seems to reconcile himself to living in either the U.S or Japan and remains saddened, caught between the cultures. Even the title Tea With Milk demonstrates some assimilation on the part of the parents. In a country that drinks tea plain, they drink it in the style of western countries and Allen Say states at the end of the book that that is the way he prefers his tea too. Hopefully, he has found some comfort in defining what he likes from both cultures as well.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By kt on May 6, 2009
Format: Paperback
Realistic in both its pain and beauty, this is a wonderful book.

Many Japanese-Americans find, after being considered foreigners in the US all their lives, that they are also considered foreigners in Japan. They find themselves thinking, "Hey, I'm American after all," even if they had been treated as foreigners back home. This is worst for people in parts of the US where there are few Asian people, and this kind of experience can lead to them feeling alone in the world and deeply depressed. In parts of the US where there are many Asian people, they are more likely to feel fully accepted for who they are, and thus, they have a real home. In Hawai'i, Japanese-Americans have for generations made up such a large proportion of the population that they feel very comfortable and confident in their own unique identity: fully American by political loyalty with a culture heavily influenced by Japanese culture but unique to Hawai'i. Having somewhere in the world where you are understood, accepted, and loved contributes toward happiness to a much greater degree than I would have predicted before leaving home. Alan Say captures the complexities and emotions of this kind of struggle with a short, carefully worded text and several beautiful illustrations. And it has a happy ending!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on March 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Masako, or May, is a very strong-minded person to be able to stand up for herself in her own native country, which seems so distant to her. Though May is forced to move back to Japan, she continues to long for returning back to America, where she belongs. As she is determined to remain an American girl, she is recalled as a foreigner to others. I could not help being intrigued by Allen Say's descriptions of his mother's determination and of course the beautiful artwork portrayed in the book. So well does the potraits go with the story that all of the emotion and settings come to life. But I do feel that May should have gotten to know the Japanese culture better, and not had had the moving incident affect the way she looks at Japan.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on March 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I think this book was an excellent book. It showed the struggle of a little girl that was born in the States but moved back to her homeland in Japan. The girl grew up to be a revolutionary and showed that women have a place in the working world. Masako a.k.a. May showed that she was an independant woman and she wanted to leave her mark in this world.May is a real role model and I hope children all around the world have the chance to read this book and grow up to be like her.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Masako's struggle to be a "lady" in Japan after growing up with more freedom in the U.S. is one of the main themes of this book. Although most of the story takes place after Masako has graduated from high school, the events are explained clearly, and are interesting to both children and adults. The last page reminds the reader that Masako is not a fictional character but in fact the author's mother.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on February 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Tea with Milk by Allen Say shows a foreigner's emotions in a different country. It also is a realistic example of perseverance. How one cannot accept but still adapt a country as home.

Masako is not happy with Japan and is having trouble coping with the differences from America until she finds something that evokes retrospective thoughts of home. It makes a good example of how one can cope with difference in a realistic situation. It also shows great courage and perseverance by making Masako an example. Masako was a "gaijin" (foreigner) who was taunted but she didn't give up and return to California. Another event takes place when Masako refuses to have an arranged marriage, but still finds someone both she and her parents approve of. This shows how a child can adapt to a culture realistically

This book is an excellent example of the realistic situation of moving because it uses Masako as an example of a child coping with major differences. It also shows perseverance in real-life situations. Not only that, but it shows the struggle of a foreigner to acceptance and understanding. This book can bring much hope to the right reader.
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