Luli and the Language of Tea (Andrea Wang)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Luli and the Language of Tea, written by Andrea Wang and illustrated by Hyewon Yum, a sweet tale of cross-cultural connection.

In her ESL daycare, young Luli notices that none of the children are playing together; despite being full of young ones, the room is quiet, as none of the children share a language. Luli, wanting to find a way to bring her playroom together, comes up with a plan. She brings in a teapot, a thermos of hot water, and a ball of tea leaves, as well as enough teacups for everyone. When the tea is steeped, she calls out: “茶!” (Chá!), inviting her friends to the table. While the children do not share a language, the language of tea is universal, and each one responds with the word for “tea” in Russian, Swahili, Persian, Turkish, etc. But when they gather at the table and Luli is finished pouring, they find that there is not enough for everyone to have a full cup! What can they do?

Wonderful! Finding cross-cultural connections, especially in cuisine, is always a great subject for a picture book, and this one cleverly incorporated a beverage that is a dietary and cultural staple to so many: tea. Wang’s text is simple and sweet, and cleverly structures the multilingual sections to represent both the written version of the language and the phonetic pronunciation, the latter of which can often feel intrusive or extraneous in multi-language books but works perfectly here due to the breadth of languages and the similarity between the the different pronunciations of “tea.” Yum’s illustrations of a diverse group of characters and their caregivers are adorable, immensely playful and bright. Endpapers featuring traditional teacups from around the world are especially delightful. Informative backmatter gives a brief overview on the history of tea, tea traditions in each character’s native country, and a few notes on immigrants living in the United States. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ and I both really liked this one. This is a great way to introduce the idea of language and cultural diversity – both what makes us different and what we share – and we absolutely recommend it. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

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