Saturday, May 14, 2016

Kids Books about Chinese Food, Picture Books

We are finishing up our focus on Chinese food in my after-school Mandarin class. It has been FUN!!!
The kids all have some experience with Chinese food, so they are very motivated to learn. We're wrapping up our session with play-acting a restaurant scene: being ushered to a table by a server, placing an order, and thanking the server. More on that later!

There are some great English-language picture books that introduce Chinese food to kids. Here are some of my favorites. They are sure to entertain, and might even make your tummy rumble!

1.  I'm the Chef! The Young Chef's Chinese Cookbook by France Lee (Crabtree Publishing, 2001). 

Okay, so not a picture book, but a darn good kids' Chinese cookbook. Includes recipes for soups, main dishes (sweet and sour prawns, tofu with pork), old standards (long life noodles and fried rice), and treats (egg custard tarts).

I absolutely love how each recipe shows a picture of the ingredients used and what each step should look like. This is what makes it kid-friendly!

We tried making the egg custard tarts, and they turned out fabulous (Read about and see pictures of our experience making egg custard tarts on my old blog, Rice and Pasta, Please!)

2.  The Runaway Wok by Ying Chang Compestine (Penguin Dutton, 2011)

A rollicking Chinese New Year story about a poor peasant boy Ming who trades his family’s last eggs for a magic wok. The wok goes rogue through ancient Beijing, stealing succulent dishes, toys, and money from the stingy but wealthy Li family, and depositing the goodies at Ming’s house. Ming’s family distributes the treats to the whole village, who then celebrate the New Year together as the wok whisks the Li family out of town.

  • Author's note about Chinese New Year and recipe for Festive Fried Rice included in the back.  
  • Kids will love the lively story and colorful illustrations.  
  • If you like this book, check out Compestine’s The Runaway Rice Cake (2001), another Chinese New Year tale involving magic and food.

2.  Dim Sum for Everyone by Grace Lin (Knopf, Borzoi Books, 2001)

My list of kids books about Chinese food would not be complete without Grace Lin! The theme of delicious Chinese food is woven throughout this Newberry Honor winner's delightful picture and chapter books. Dim Sum for Everyone is the story of a little girl’s visit to a Dim Sum restaurant with her family. She discovers that food is served food from carts pushed by servers, and that everyone gets to choose and share the dish that their heart desires because dim sum means "touches the heart"!
  • The illustrations are enchanting: drawings of ingredients and Chinese food dance on the inside cover…just seeing them makes me hungry!
  • Author’s note at the end explains the history and current traditions of dim sum.

3. HappyBelly, Happy Smile by Rachel Isadora (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2009) 

A sweet story by Caldecott Honor-winner Rachel Isadora about a little boys' adventure to a Chinatown restaurant with his has grandpa. He looks at the fish in the tank, visits the chefs in the kitchen, watches them prepare the food, and then shares a meal with his grandpa, including a fortune cookie that has a special message.

Look for pieces of Chinese restaurant take-out menu and pictures of real food in Isadora's vibrant, textured collage and oil illustrations. 

What are your favorite children's books about Chinese food?  
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