When I first received Natsumi! in the mail from Penguin, I was immediately drawn the personality of the main character, Natsumi.
Natsumi! written by Susan Lendroth and illustrated by Priscilla Burris is a story about a young girl named Natsumi who struggles with being different and doing everything in her own “big way”. Natsumi isn’t like the other kids. She is loud, impulsive at times and wants to get things done her way.
During the Japanese festival, her grandmother asked Natsumi to carefully select specific flowers. Natsumi decided to pick all of the flowers! When her grandmother asked her to gently remove the bugs from the flowers, Natsumi whips her bouquet into a cloud of pollen, leaves and ants. “Not so fast, Natsumi!” is all she heard! She did everything quickly including stirring tea with her father.“Not so hard, Natsumi!” her father would say. Throughout the book, Natsumi felt like “No matter what I do, something always goes wrong”. Her grandfather takes Natsumi under his wing and helps her find her passion. He figures out how to take Natsumi’s qualities and highlight them in a big and wonderful surprise for the family at the end of the book.
I loved this book because I think many children can relate to the character of Natsumi, specifically children diagnosed with ADHD and/or sensory issues. Many children with ADHD struggle with doing tasks too fast and are often told by others to “slow down” and “do things carefully.” I loved how Natsumi’s grandfather takes her under his wing and highlights her strengths in a positive way. I also liked how the author incorporated Japanese culture into the book, which is another wonderful lesson for children. Natusumi! is an excellent book to be read aloud at home or in a classroom. It’s a book that celebrates all children and helps others accept all different personalities.
Reading and Language Tips: As you are reading this book, discuss the various emotions of the different characters and Natsumi’s personality traits. How do they clash with her family’s expectations? For example, model language like “Natsumi stirred the tea too hard and got her father messy with tea powder. Her father said “Not so hard Natsumi!” Her father felt _______ at Natsumi. How do you think Natsumi felt after being reprimanded? Discuss her emotions throughout the book and how they changed from the beginning of the book to the end. I think this is an excellent book to read to children with ADHD because they easily relate to how Natsumi might feel.
Relate this story to your own child’s life. Ask them, “Have you ever felt like Natsumi?” If a child can relate to the story or character in some way, they will be able to remember and understand the story better. If they can’t, maybe they can think of a peer or family member like Natsumi. As parents, we need to celebrate other children’s differences and teach our children to be more accepting of others in a world where we are all unique!
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