Luli and the Language of Tea

By Andrea Wang, illustrated by Hyewon Yum. Neal Porter Books, 2022. 40 pages. $18.99/hardcover. Recommended for ages 3–7.

This is a book about building community using an activity or item beloved by many. Luli is a young girl attending a daycare program while parents attend an English as a second language class in an adjoining classroom. Since the children have no common language, they play alone in silence. Luli comes up with a solution and draws a plan for the teacher’s approval. Luli brings a snack of tea and cookies to share. When she announces the activity using the Mandarin word for tea, the other children respond with the word for tea in their language. Most are closely related, as the word for tea in over 200 languages can be traced back to two Chinese dialects. Soon they are sharing tea and then cookies. They are becoming a community, and the playroom is no longer so quiet! “Luli’s teapot was empty, but her heart was full.”

The book is beautifully illustrated. The end papers feature illustrations of tea cups, each labeled with one of the countries in the story. There are also several pages of information about those countries and about tea in general. For example, we learn whether tea is drunk with spices like cinnamon, cardamon, and ginger; with sugar but never milk; or with lemon and sugar. Maps indicate the locations of the countries mentioned.

I am especially happy that the story demonstrates a child solving the problem rather than just going along with a solution imposed by an adult. This shows children that they can solve a problem with the aid of the adults around them. This is a wonderful book.

Eileen Redden is the young Friends book review editor for Friends Journal. She worships with the Lewes Worship Group in Lewes, Del.

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