J and I loved reading (she read, I listened) Suki's Kimono. Being very close to her grandmother herself, J was able to relate completely to Suki's character who decides to wear a kimono and geta (wooden clogs) from her obachan (grand-mother) to school. The little girl is determined to be herself despite what her friends and sisters think. The day ends with Suki having a good day at school, returning home shining bright and happy.
I took the opportunity to tell J how proud I am of her for eating home cooked Indian food for lunch at the school cafeteria every day. The primary lesson in the book is to teach pride for your cultural heritage. Suki's example is something any ethnic kid in a foreign country will be able to appreciate. There is also a subtler lesson in non-conformism which I really liked.
Suki's sisters Mari and Yumi come back home at the end of their first day in school complaining that no one noticed their new sweater or sneakers - this has happened to J as well. Suki in however the star of her class despite her friends snickering at her outfit. When her first grade teacher asked the class what they did for summer, Suki showed them the circle dance she and her obachan has danced in Japanese street festival.
It takes a great deal of resilience and faith in oneself for a young child to not buck under the peer pressure and follow their heart. The author reinforces what I always tell J - it pays not run with the heard and have the courage to be different. While there may be hurdles along the way, what it gives you in end makes it completely worthwhile.