Thank you so much to Yuno Imai, a debut picture book author, for reaching out and sharing her two new books with me. I am happy to review these two books that will feature topics and themes that aren’t often depicted in picture books.
Trevor and Me defies the boundaries of age, gender and race. It is a heartwarming story about reincarnation based on the real-life friendship between an elderly Caucasian man and a young Asian girl. As Trevor’s health starts to decline and he prepares to die, he promises to always be with the girl even after he’s gone. Trevor dies and the girl is filled with grief until one day she begins to receive signs to let her know Trevor is and always will be with her.
Pages from Trevor and Me
This is a story about how a little girl meets an older man and soon becomes close friends. They can enjoy little moments together, especially drinking their favorite drinks at the coffee shop. Then one day the little girl’s friend reminds her that he soon will no longer be present but she will see him with little reminders around her. For him, he is represented through a coffee bean. This story was based on Yuno’s life when she moved to a new city and found a friend who was older than her. She knew he would miss special milestones of her and so she chose to write this into a picture book. The only part that was a struggle for me was that the girl in this picture book is quite young and the man is elderly. I know that this is deemed to be realistic in a way, but I have a hard time seeing how a girl that young would be off and frolicking with an elderly man with no parents or guardians around. So for me that seemed rushed and hard to understand how this could be relatable for students. However, the message that is intended for the reader to grasp is how to handle the loss of a loved one and grief. I think this is important for kids to understand too. I liked how the little girl saw the coffee bean and was instantly thinking of her old friend. This is a wonderful way to remember someone.
The Last Meal compassionately tackles a difficult and controversial subject to educate readers about the death penalty. The story follows four fictional death row inmates on their final days before their executions. All of the characters are adorable birds who must face the consequence of their actions. Chase, Peter, Fred and James are each given the same opportunity to have one last special meal of their choosing to reflect on the past and find closure as they come to the end of their life.
Pages from The Last Meal
This story addresses a death row inmate’s last meal. Each bird was given a last meal request form so they could get their favorite meal before it was time for their execution. This is a quite serious and heavy topic as it talks about the justice system in a way that young readers are not typically discussing at the presumed age of 6-10 years old. I definitely think this topic could be discussed with upper elementary students, but I think teachers would have to find resources to support this reading before reading it aloud or with students. However, one page I thought was sweet but also a bit unrealistic is the image above where the inmate is having his last meal with his child, in which the food he chose was his child’s favorite foods. So yes, this story can bring light to this topic but I would suggest teachers/parents have additional resources to discuss incarceration, death row, and the last meal! I think there would be some questions that the teacher would want to know how to respond accurately. But again, the author is tackling another hard topic that is not often discussed in picture books for younger readers.
About the Author
Yuno Imai is a Japanese writer and children’s book author based in Los Angeles. She specializes in writing heartwarming stories that help readers cope with death or develop a healthy understanding of difficult subjects. Yuno is passionate about inspiring people through her stories and also bridging Japan and other countries, especially America, where she calls her second home.
She is originally from Hamamatsu, Japan and came to the United States alone at 17, speaking very little English. Yuno has over 10 years of experience as a translator and has worked extensively for major American and Japanese companies and celebrity clients and has appeared on national TV. You can learn more about her and her books at http://iknowyouknowyuno.com/
Picture books may be for younger children, but they can easily and beautifully tackle serious topics such as grief, death, and incarceration. What are some of your favorite picture books that tackle tough topics like these? Share with me below!