Thursday, May 14, 2015

Juna's Jar by Jane Bahk, illustrated by Felicia Hoshino

I will never forget how upset my Kiddo was when her best friend moved away.  Both girls were only 4 and too young to realize what moving away would mean.  Naturally, when it happened and the realization that she would never see Rhyanna again finally hit, it was a pretty hard blow.  In fact, she continued to look for her friend wherever we went for a few weeks.  My Kiddo finally did understand that her friend was not around or coming back, but she's never forgotten those first lonely days.

I was reminded of this time in my Kiddo's life  when I picked up Juna's Jar to read.  Juna and Hector are also best friends and the two of them love to go adventuring in the park, collecting things to put into Juna's big empty kimchi jar - bugs, rocks, anything that catches their fancy.

But one morning, when Juna calls for Hector to come out and go adventuring in the park, his grandmother tells her that Hector and his parents have moved away.  The two friends never got a chance to say good-bye.

Missing her friend, Juna begins to look for him in her dreams.  Each night, the kimchi jar becomes a source of adventure as Juna looks for Hector.  The first night, with the help of a fish her brother Minho buys her, the jar becomes a deep sea adventure, the next night, it's a jungle to explore with the help of a fast growing bean Minho gives her, and finally, a cricket takes Juna on an adventure to Hector's new house so she can see that he is doing well.  Juna is finally able to come to terms with not having Hector to play with anymore and opens herself up to the possibility of finding a new friend.

Juna's Jar is a charmingly told story that deals with the difficulties of losing a best friend  at an age when kids don't fully understand how or why that can happen and of finally coming to terms with never having said good-bye (or closure), making it a book that really fills a need.

Juna, who is Korean and Hector, who is Latino, are both nicely portrayed diverse characters.  I like that though their cultural identities were obvious, they weren't made a major part of the story so that the universal theme of friendship remained the focus.  And, although, a lot of kids may not know that kimchi is a Korean dish made with fermented vegetables, more and more it is becoming a part of the American diet and this may open kids up to trying it.  And young readers may even want a big jar like Juna's to go adventuring with.

I thought Juna's older brother was also a very well done character.  He is a great example of a kind, considerate sibling, trying to help his younger sister deal with her friend moving away.

Juna's nighttime adventures are helped with a little magical realism that may confuse young readers and should definitely generate some conversation about reality and imagination.  Did Juna really go deep sea diving in her jar or did she dream it?  The difference is clear in the wonderful watercolor illustrations by Felicia Hoshino, where reality is clear and nighttime adventures are shouwn to be dreamlike, but that may not register with the youngest readers.

Juna's Jar is a satisfying story about a young girl who just misses her friend and I wish it had been around when my Kiddo was young.

This book is recommended for readers age 3+
This book was provided to me by the publisher, Lee & Low Books


  1. I've seen this book around but I haven't gotten around to reading it. At first I thought it was just a story about losing a friend, but after reading your review, I'm looking forward to the magical realism pages.

    1. Well, it is about losing a friend, but only because the friend moves away. It's a good book for kids from that point of view and the magical realism is a very nice touch in the story.


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