It’s no wonder why so many of our favorite books come from publisher Lee & Low Books, and Sumo Joe is no exception. With story by Mia Wenjen and illustrations by Nat Iwata, Sumo Joe is a fun way for young kids to learn sumo-specific terms in a rhyming scheme, while also being engaged around a story of gender equality. Will Jo, sister and aikido aficionado, be accepted by her brother Sumo Joe and his friends? A story as old as time, but still relevant today.
This book is particularly great for younger readers, where the small number of words on each page and rhyming structure will help kids follow along and predict words after a few reads. The book is also centered on the lives of the kids, with parents playing a minor role in the story and the outcome. It’s a great example of kids being able to solve conflict on their own and accept that we all have different strengths.
The book also features an illustrated glossary of the Japanese terms throughout the book, and also has a short cultural reference about sumo to help parents explain why Jo, the sister, wasn’t originally welcomed to do sumo with the boys.
Sumo Joe is highly recommended for its accessibility, fun and bold illustrations, and centering a message of inclusion. Another win from Lee & Low.