When I first starting teaching many years ago, studying Japan was a major component of the second grade, social studies curriculum I needed to teach to the children.  We’d spend roughly a month talking about the history, geography, music, poetry, art, etc.  How My Parents Learned to Eat (affiliate link to Amazon) by Ina R. Friedman was one of the books I used frequently and saved specifically to use at the end of the unit.  Once the unit was over– we’d take a field trip to a local Japanese restaurant and try eating with our own sets of chopsticks!

How My Parents Learned to Eat is a sweet story about a Japanese woman and an American man who meet and fall in love.  They are shy about eating together because the man doesn’t know how to use chopsticks and the woman doesn’t know how to use a fork.  Neither one of them wants to feel foolish while eating in front of the other, so they each find someone else to teach them.  Eventually– and after much practice– they find the confidence to share a meal together.  It was awkward for them in the beginning of the meal, but by the end they were feel comfortable with one another and begin talking about getting married.  This story is told years later by their daughter who says:

In our house, some days we eat with chopsticks and some days we eat with knives and forks.  For me, it’s natural.

From the Publisher:“An American sailor courts a young Japanese woman and each tries, in secret, to learn the other’s way of eating.”

School Library Journal: “The book is wonderfully thought-provoking in its portrayal of the subtle similarities and differences among cultures.”

Reading Rainbow: “An American sailor courts a Japanese girl and each tries, in secret, to learn the other’s way of eating. The two discover that when learning to eat using different tableware, manners, and customs, people often encounter problems, as well as triumphs.”

This post is part of the second annual Read Around the World Summer Reading Series from Multicultural Kid Blogs.  Follow along all month long for global summer reading recommendations for kids of all ages!

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