Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic

AuntieYangSoybeanPicnic

Image Credit: Lee & Low Books Inc., Ginnie Lo/Beth Lo

 

There’s nothing like finding a little bit of home in a new place.

Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic tells a story that may be familiar to many immigrant families in the US; a story about finding comfort with like minded people and forming community in a new country. Jinyi lives a little far away from her Auntie Yang but her family makes sure to visit often and stay close. She grows up with Chinese lessons, art lessons, cooking Chinese food and lots of playtime with her cousins.

One day on a lazy Sunday drive, Auntie Yang spots soybeans growing in a field! At this time, soybeans aren’t commonly eaten in the US. The farmer thinks the Chinese family wants the beans to feed their pig, but no, they will boil them to eat! And so begins the yearly tradition of The Great Soybean Picnic. Each year it gets bigger and bigger and more Chinese families in the Chicago area join in with lots of delicious Chinese dishes. Auntie Yang and her sister become less homesick because the happy discovery of soybeans brings them a new large and loving Chinese community in the US.

This is a sweet story of family, food and finding place…in a new place. It’s inspired by real events and in the back of the book, Ginnie and Beth Lo share family photos, more information about the Soybean Picnic, information about soybeans and a glossary of the Chinese words used in the book. We even get to see photos of the dynamic Auntie Yang!

Beth Lo’s paintings have a vintage mid-century Chinese art vibe to them that I like. I didn’t realize that the illustrations are actually painted on porcelain plates until I read the back of the book. I’ll repeat that, each “illustration” is a plate! How cool is that?? Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic is a great story to share with your family. I’m off to get some edamame! 😉

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Chinese American Culture, Chinese Food, Friendship, Family, Food Culture, Community, Immigration, Soybeans, Cousins, Siblings, Cultural Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, Home Sickness, Discussion, New Traditions in a New Place, Chinese Language, Cultural Relativism
Book Info: Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic by Ginnie Lo/Illustrated by Beth Lo, 2012 Lee & Low Books Inc., ISBN: 9781600604423

I Need a Lunch Box

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HarperTrophy (HarperCollins), Pat Cummings/Jeannette Caines

Do you remember the feeling of getting a shiny new lunch box for school? Maybe you were pumped to take it to school and show it off; ready to whip it out when the lunch bell rang.  I mean, I’m still pretty excited about my Sailor Moon lunchbox… 😉

I Need A Lunchbox was one of my favorite books growing up because I thought the story was funny and I loved the funky, bright lunch boxes. The story starts out with a young boy who has a case of “lunchbox envy.” See, his older sister is about to start school and she gets a new lunch box but he can’t get one until he starts school. He’s tempted by all the awesome lunch boxes in the store and his sister definitely rubs in the fact that she has a ton of shiny, new school supplies. He’s quite envious and the poor boy starts to dream about a lunch box for every day of the week! I Need A Lunchbox is also great because it introduces some primary colors and days of the week to younger children.

Pat Cumming’s illustrations are delightful, bright and neon-colored fun. She has some GREAT lunchbox designs that I’d buy in a heartbeat; black and white cats on a bright green background? Yes, please! A Whale lunchbox? I’ll take that one as well. I Need a Lunchbox is a cute story about a determined little boy who has great taste in lunch boxes.

P.S. This book *may* be out of print so check online, at used bookstores and your local library!

Recommended for: Toddlers to 1st/2nd Grade
Great for: We Need Diverse Books, Family, Colors, Days of the Week, Siblings, African-American
Book Info: I Need a Lunchbox by Jeannette Caines/Illustrated by Pat Cummings, 1988 HarperTrophy (HarperCollins), ISBN: 9780064433419

The Stories Julian Tells

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Image Credit: Bullseye Books (Alfred A. Knopf), Ann Cameron/Ann Strugnell

The Stories Julian Tells is fantastic. It’s a story full of poetic lines, vibrant imagery and is simply magical. It opens with Julian and Huey’s father making a lemon pudding for their mother; you’ve never seen such enthusiastic cooking! He says “Leave the pudding alone!” and then almost instantly falls asleep on a chair. His boys disobey of course, one taste leads to another and before they know it, the whole pudding is gone! The Stories Julian Tells features several interconnected stories that showcase Julian’s fantastic stories, his brother Huey’s imagination, their parents’ love for them and friendship. I love the Catalog Cats! Who knew invisible cats help your garden grow?

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New Cover…cute but I’m partial to the original

This short novel is an excellent example of a story that features a family of color but doesn’t focus on the fact that they are a family of color and is not “historical.” They’re just a super cool Black family in the 80s! Perhaps many readers grew up with this book and love it. Ann Strugnell’s illustrations are magical and suit the story perfectly. Newer editions have an “updated” cover but I really love the original. The Stories Julian Tells is a great read aloud book and is also good for the classroom; so many discussions to be had about Julian and Huey and their fabulous stories.

 

Recommended for: 1st Grade and up
Great for: Diversity, Fantasy, Friendship, Morals, Discussion, Family, Read-Aloud, African-American
Book Info: The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron/Illustrated by Ann Strugnell, 1989 Random House Books for Young Readers, ISBN: 9780394828923

Good Crooks: Missing Monkey!

Image Credit: Egmont USA, Mary Amato/Ward Jenkins

Image Credit: Egmont USA, Mary Amato/Ward Jenkins

In Good Crooks: Missing Monkey!, Billy and Jillian Crook just want to do something nice for someone; you know, a good deed. This is no easy task because their parents are crooks and expect the worst from them!!  >_<  Early one morning, Billy is lured to the zoo for Volunteer Day and his sister catches up with him. Unfortunately, mom and dad find them…and steal a monkey! Before they know it, their parents have taught the monkey the art of pick pocketing and he’s a natural, a little too natural and causes all kinds of trouble!

This book is fast paced and hilarious. The humor is so clever and dry. I love the relationship between the twins; it may seem that Jillian is the brains of the pair but don’t count Billy out, he has a few tricks up his sleeve! Jenkins’ art is very cool and compliments the story well. Though they aren’t color illustrations, they add an extra element to the story and might convince reluctant readers to pick up the book!

Good Crooks is a beginning chapter series and beginning chapter books are great transitional books for kids who are becoming more confident in their reading yet aren’t quite ready for longer chapter books. This is the first in a series and I highly recommend it for a family read-aloud and for young readers who love humor and unconventional stories…oh and crazy monkeys. There are even activities in the back of the book! If you get hooked on Good Crooks (trust me, you will), be sure to check out the next two books in the series, Dog Gone! and Sniff a Skunk!

Recommended for: 1st/2nd Grade and up
Great for: Siblings, Friendship, Twins, Humor, Animals, Adventure, Read Aloud
Book Info: Good Crooks: Missing Monkey! by Mary Amato/Illustrated by Ward Jenkins2014 Egmont USA, ISBN: 9781606845097

Outside Over There

Image Credit: HarperCollins, Maurice Sendak

Image Credit: HarperCollins, Maurice Sendak

Happy Halloween!

Ah, such a delightfully creepy holiday deserves an equally creepy book review. Today I’ll discuss Maurice Sendak’s 1982 Caldecott Award winning book, Outside Over There. Let me just put this out there, I like Maurice Sendak but I think Where the Wild Things Are is a bit overrated. I like many of his other books much more, including this one. The color palate is very muted and his style is more realistic. There’s a lot going on in the detailed illustrations and they are very fantastical.

In Outside Over There, little Ida’s dad goes away to sea and leaves his family to fend for themselves. While Ida’s mother looks forlorn and sits in her arbor daydreaming, Ida takes care of business. She plays her wonder horn to soothe her baby sister but she doesn’t watch her carefully. Two goblins sneak through the window and steal her sister, leaving a baby of ice. Ida goes “beast mode” and sets off to find her sister BUT she goes through the window backwards and falls into…outside over there. Creepy right?

The writing of this book is very beautifully done; there’s some rhyme and it is reminiscent of classic western literature like Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Outside Over There isn’t for everyone but it’s definitely worth a read and a look, especially if you are a fan of Sendak’s work.

Recommended for: All ages (with caution due to kidnapping/creepy goblins)
Great for: Creepy Tales, Sisterhood
Book Info: Outside Over There by Maurice Sendak, 1981 HarperCollins, ISBN: 9780060255237