Thursday, January 27, 2011

Just in time for Chinese New Year: The Runaway Wok and Fortune Cookies

February 3, 2011 will usher in the Year of the Rabbit.  Chinese New Year is the first day of the first month in the lunar calendar.  The celebration lasts 15 days and includes the Lantern Festival.  If you were born in 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, or 2011, you were born in the Year of the Rabbit.

Here are two timely new books that just crossed my desk: 

Compestine, Ying Chang. 2011. The Runaway Wok. Ill. by Sebastia Serra. New York: Dutton.

Based on the Danish folktale, The Talking Pot, The Runaway Wok is a new Chinese folktale about old Beijing and a magic wok,  a wok determined to right the wrongs committed by the greedy Mr. Li and his family.  It is the eve of the Chinese New Year and the poor Zhang family sends its son, Ming, to trade eggs for rice at the market.  In a move reminiscent of Jack and the Beanstalk, Ming trades his eggs not for rice, but for a wok that sings out to him,
Boy, Boy, trade for me, I am more than what you see!
And so it is!  But this wok has greater plans than residing with the Zhangs.  Ming's mother barely gets the wok cleaned up before it rolls out the door singing,
Skippity-hoppity-ho! To the rich man's wife I go,
And so the wok, like an Asian Robin Hood, travels back and forth, taking from the rich and delivering to the poor,
Skippity-hoppity-ho! To the poor man's house I go,
much to the delight of the Zhangs and all their friends. The Runaway Wok pays tribute to classic tales in a manner that is still wholly original. Kids will love hearing the wok's rhyming songs and exploring the book's detailed, folk art illustrations full of colorful parasols, foods, flowers, lanterns, and brocade garments. 

An author’s note explains the Chinese New Year holiday (with an emphasis on the culinary aspects), and concludes with a recipe for Festive Stir-Fried Rice. Yum!

Bitterman, Albert. 2011. Fortune Cookies. Ill. by Chris Raschka. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Fortune Cookies isn't a Chinese New Year book, but it's a
fun, interactive board book about the uniquely Chinese-American treat, the fortune cookie.  A little girl receives a package containing seven fortune cookies.  On each double-spread, a scenario unfolds,
Yesterday I got a box in the mail.  It had seven fortune cookies in it. On Sunday my fortune said:
(here the reader can slide the fortune out of the cookie)
Today you will lose something you don't need. 
And guess what?
(the following spread reveals how the fortune comes true)
My tooth came out!
Each day's "And guess what?" becomes bigger and bigger as the story builds to a crescendo. Everything ties neatly together in cause-and-effect relationships, ending in a humorously happy ending. Chris Raschka's signature style artwork on thick, glossy, plain white pages adds an element of childish excitement. Fun for storytime or sharing at home.

See a page preview here.


  1. Great post! I didn't know about either book. I really liked Compestine's The Runaway Ricecake, and of course Revolution is not a Dinner Party.

    And you can't go wrong with a book illustrated by Chris Rasschka. :)

    Great finds. I've just bookmarked your site so that I don't miss out on any more!

    Betsy Parkes


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