Jasmine Toguchi, Flamingo Keeper


Excerpt from Jasmine Toguchi, Flamingo Keeper:

“Can I open mine now?” Sophie picked up one of the packages.

“What is it?” I asked. I scooted around the table and peeked at the other box. “This one has my name on it!”

“Who sent them?” Mom asked.

“Obaachan!” I said, reading the return address from Hiroshima, Japan.

“Why is your grandma sending you packages?” Mom smiled. “It’s not your birthdays or Christmas.”

“It must be just because,” I said.

Sometimes we got just because presents. Just because Sophie and I behaved well at the store, or just because Mom or Dad saw something we’d like, or just because they love us. They were usually fun little gifts. Once, Mom got me an eraser shaped like a flamingo. Sophie got one shaped like a soccer ball.

“Mooooooom, please can we open them?” Sophie waved the box in Mom’s face.

Mom laughed. “Yes, you both may open your packages. Together.”

Dad walked in as Sophie and I sat at the table. Sophie tore the paper off her package, tossing bits and pieces to the floor.

“Sophie Toguchi,” Mom said. That was a change. Usually Mom said my full name like that.

I liked to savor a surprise. On her birthday, Sophie always tore through her gifts. But I took my time opening each present.

“Sophie, wait till your sister unwraps hers before you open the box.”

“Jasmine!” Sophie said. “Hurry!”

Instead of hurrying, I moved super-slowly. Everyone was always telling me what to do. Mom. Dad. Sophie. I carefully peeled back the tape from the brown paper.

I shot a grin at my sister. But Sophie was giving me such a glare, it felt like a laser sizzling right through my brain.

“I’m going to open my box,” Sophie announced.

Dad chuckled. “Patience, Sophie.”

I sped up, partly because I didn’t want Sophie to be mad at me and mostly because I wanted to see what Obaachan had sent us. I slid off the brown wrapping paper and gripped the white cardboard box. Knowing Obaachan, she got me and Sophie the same thing, whatever it was. I didn’t want Sophie to know before I did. We both lifted the lids at the same time.

I peeked into my box. It was something rounded and red.

“What is this?” Sophie asked.

I reached into my box and pulled out a whatever-it-was. It was light like a ball, but not round like a ball. It felt like it was made from thick paper or cardboard. It was oval-shaped with a flat bottom.

“It looks like a doll,” I said, thinking Obaachan probably didn’t know that Sophie had stopped playing with dolls.

“It has no eyeballs!”

Sophie screeched, and she threw the doll-thing in the air.

Sophie’s doll-thing flew through the kitchen. Dad caught it.

“Oh,” he said. “It’s a daruma!”

Author’s Note: The daruma (dah-roo-mah) is a doll made of papier-mâché that is believed to bring good luck. The daruma is a wishing doll. When a person buys or receives a daruma, he or she makes a wish or a goal, then colors in one eye. When the wish or goal is achieved, then the person colors in the other eye. Spot illustration by Elizabet Vukovic


By Debbi Michiko Florence

Illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic

Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux Ages 6 – 9 Years

Jasmine’s best friend, Linnie, has just gotten a puppy. And now Jasmine wants a pet of her own—a flamingo! So when her grandmother sends Jasmine a daruma doll as a surprise gift, Jasmine colors in one doll eye and wishes for a flamingo to keep.

Next, Jasmine tries to convince her parents that she’s responsible enough for a pet. She cleans her room, brushes her teeth, takes out the trash, and, most importantly, researches everything she can about flamingos. But soon it becomes clear that her wish may never come true! Will Jasmine’s daruma doll ever get its second eye? Luckily her big sister, Sophie, has a surprise planned that fulfills Jasmine’s wish beyond her wildest dreams.

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Make Your Own Daruma Doll Craft


Debbi Michiko Florence plays virtual dress up by creating characters and making up stories in her office The Word Nest that is right next to her garage. Good thing she’s not afraid of the garage, but if she were she’d at least have the company of her favorite writing companions, her dog Kiku and her bunny Aki. She also has two ducks, Darcy and Lizzy.

Debbi is the author of the chapter book series Jasmine Toguchi, about a spunky 8-year-old Japanese American girl. The first two books are Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen (a Junior Library Guild fall 2017 selection) and Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth (FSG/2017). Book 3 and 4 are Jasmine Toguchi Drummer Girl (a Junior Library Guild 2018 selection) and Jasmine Toguchi Flamingo Keeper (a Junior Library Guild 2018 selection) (FSG/2018). Debbi is a third generation Japanese American and a native Californian, and now lives in Connecticut with her husband. She loves to travel to non-spooky places with her husband and daughter.