Emi and Mini
Emi and Mini
“What do you think of Mini?” I say. “It’s funny because, for a hamster, you are not. Also, the ‘mi’ part means ‘beautiful,’ just like in my name.”
In this advanced picture book, Hanako Masutani tells the story of Emiko (Emi), a little girl who has just moved to a big city with her mother and feels the isolation of being suddenly far away from her friends and family. With Emi’s birthday looming, Emi makes the plea for a dog though the family’s landlord forbids tenants from owning them. Emi’s mother confirms with the landlord who sticks to the no-dog policy but suggests they could get a smaller “pet in a cage”. Emi is initially unimpressed at the idea of owning any other animal, but, while visiting the local shelter, she stumbles upon a larger than normal Syrian hamster that she ends up adopting.
While a Zoom call with her cousins, Soren and Mei, who have just gotten a new puppy leaves Emi feeling disappointed in her own pet, Emi gains newfound appreciation for her hamster when the still unnamed hamster disappears somewhere in the apartment when first let out of her cage. Eventually Emi and her mom find the hamster hiding underneath the fridge but are unable to reach her. While waiting for the hamster to come out, Emi ends up sharing a favourite snack of her own (peanuts) with the hamster who slowly emerges from under the fridge and into Emi’s hands.
Emi dubs the hamster Mini and gently washes away the lint and grime Mini accumulated from her time under the fridge. Emi embraces her new pet completely, now sharing Mini on a Zoom call with her cousins to their delight. Mini becomes a receptive listener for Emi to share both her difficulties with moving to a new city and her delight in the new possibilities it has presented to her, including the “world’s best pocket-sized pet”.
Stéphane Jorisch’s illustrations complement Masutani’s storytelling, the cool colour palette providing a soothing backdrop to the story along with simple but emotive illustrations. Throughout the book, colour is effectively used to echo emotions, with rosy watercolour drops appearing in the page margins surrounding moments of happiness and affection between Emi and her mother and Mini and darker brown scratches around the pages where Mini is trapped under the fridge. A large cameo illustration of Mini holding the bars of her cage and endpapers featuring a sea of Minis add to the story’s whimsy and charm.
At times, Emi’s level of understanding and maturity seem unrealistic for a child her age (i.e. “I’m lucky I can get a pet, even if it can’t be a dog”), but, overall, Masutani tells an optimistic story of new friendship and possibilities complete with heartwarming illustrations. Emi and Mini is a gentle read for older children adjusting to new situations or responsibilities.
Tessie Riggs, a librarian living in Toronto, Ontario, never leaves the house without a book.