Brier students chat online with ‘Jasmine Toguchi’ series author

For finishing second in Sno-Isle Regional Libraries’ 2019 Mega-Fun, Biblio-Trivia, Rockem-Sockem Third Grade Reading Challenge, Brier Elementary School students got to meet author Debbi Michiko Florence.

Brier Elementary School reading challenge team members wait to ask “Jasmine Toguchi” series author Debbie Michiko Florence questions about her books. (Photo gallery)

The author of “Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen” joined the students by Skype in the school library on April 17, 2019.

The Reading Racers finished second overall, school librarian Jessica Norenberg said. Brier had five teams in reading challenge

Students waited turns to ask Florence their questions.

“Where did you get the idea for ‘Mochi Queen?’ ”

Florence said “Mochi Queen” came from a newspaper story she read about how Japanese families make the ceremonial mochi rice cake. She said it’s traditionally the man’s job to make the rice paste, but she had younger daughter Jasmine take on the role instead.

“How long did it take you to write ‘Mochi Queen’ and the rest of the series?”

Florence said it took her about two years to write “Mochi Queen,” her first attempt with a novel. The sequels took only a few months to write because she knew the characters and story, and she had editors guiding her.

“Do you write with a pencil or a typewriter?”

Florence said she types on a computer because she often can’t read her own bad handwriting.

“Are the characters based on real people?”

Florence laughed. She said she realizes now that she shares a lot of characteristics with the book’s older sister, Sophie. “I had to call my little sister and apologize to her,” she said.

Jasmine and Sophie’s next-door neighbor, Mrs. Reese, is based on one of Florence’s childhood neighbors who let her climb an apricot tree to pick fruit.

“Why do you have a happy ending?”

Florence said she likes stories with happy or hopeful endings, and she gave a spoiler alert. The three “Jasmine Toguchi” sequels all have hopeful endings.

The reading challenge is a literary trivia contest that includes three rounds of eight questions each. This year, 1,334 third-graders on 193 teams from 51 schools across Snohomish and Island counties participated, said Joy Feldman, the library district’s lead librarian for early literacy. Teams start competing within their schools, move on to semifinals and then the finals that happened March 25 at Edmonds Center for the Arts.

Hillcrest Elementary School’s Read Hawks team from the Lake Stevens School District scored 24 points in the reading challenge finals, just 1 point ahead of the Reading Racers. The other finalists were:

  • Riverview Elementary (Snohomish), Mustache Readers
  • Seaview Elementary (Edmonds), Reading Lightning Pups
  • Silver Firs Elementary (Mill Creek), Star Readers
  • South Whidbey Elementary (Langley), Rocket Readers
  • Twin City Elementary (Stanwood), Royal Readers

The reading challenge is sponsored by the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation and the Northwest Literacy Foundation.