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I’m so pleased and excited to welcome back Newbery Honor award-winning author/illustrator Grace Lin to Alphabet Soup and to congratulate her on the publication this week of Starry River of the Sky (Little, Brown, 2012)!

When I featured Where the Mountain Meets the Moon back in 2009, I gave it my highest five spoon rating and hoped it would get a Newbery nod. Her hybrid folklore fantasy (with gorgeous full-color illustrations) felt like a modern classic. How could she possibly top herself?

Three legged-toad

In Starry River of the Sky, Grace once again creates a wondrous tapestry of  Chinese folklore seamlessly interwoven within the main narrative. Lyrical prose, mystery, adventure, suspense, magic, an odd cast of characters, humor and delightful surprises characterize this enchanting companion novel about a young runaway who is “taught by kindness” and finds peace through empathy and forgiveness.

Angry, stranded Rendi begrudgingly works as an innkeeper’s chore boy in the remote Village of Clear Sky. He’s baffled and annoyed by its peculiar, unhappy residents and is troubled by the missing moon and the sky’s nightly moans.

When the mysterious Madame Chang arrives with the gift of storytelling, fortunes begin to change. She challenges Rendi to reciprocate with stories of his own, which gradually reveal who he really is and why he ran away. As he learns to trust the other villagers, Rendi realizes the stories hold answers to his many questions about how to save the dying village and resolve his own familial conflict.

“Master Chao seemed not to notice and brought Peiyi in front of him. He gently pushed her tangled hair from her cherry-blossom-pink face. She stood as still as a carved statue, with only her eyes moving, as her father dipped his finger into the wine mixture and carefully wrote ‘wang’, a symbol of power, with it on her forehead. Rendi watched from the doorway, and a strange, jealous anger filled him.” (Chapter 2)

It’s an emotional journey of self discovery for Rendi, but all are transformed by the stories they hear and tell, as new friendships are forged, and moon, mountain, balance and harmony are restored.

The simply told stories are laced with profound universal truths. They circle back and build upon each other, suggesting the interrelationship of all things, adding rich layers of cultural and historical context. Starry River of the Sky is exquisitely crafted, by its own example a paean to the power of story — its ability to enlighten, heal, inspire, unite, and reconcile.

Wood block-inspired drawings head each chapter.

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Starry River of the Sky, the long anticipated companion novel to Grace Lin’s Newbery Honor book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (Little, Brown, 2009), is officially out this week!

Alphabet Soup is pleased and honored to be participating in the six-stop Blog Tour, which begins today and runs through next Tuesday, October 9. Grace will be visiting each blog, so be sure to bookmark all the stops so you don’t miss anything.

**STARRY RIVER OF THE SKY BLOG TOUR**

Monday, October 1: Bookie Woogie

Tuesday, October 2: The Enchanted Inkpot

Wednesday, October 3: Jama’s Alphabet Soup

Thursday, October 4: Pragmatic Mom

Friday, October 5: Charlotte’s Library

Tuesday, October 9: Abby the Librarian

Grace is also planning a very special virtual Book Launch Party tomorrow at her blog, with games, prizes, and other goodies! I can’t wait to see what she’s cooked up.

Meanwhile, check out the official book trailer:

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Have a great week and make sure to get your hands on a copy of Starry River of the Sky, which has already earned a whopping 5 *starred* reviews! This is truly storytelling at its very best!

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Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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#7 in an eclectic collection of notable noshes to whet your appetite and brighten your day.

Line drawings from the book.

So, as I was reading and drooling through Dumpling Days, I came to the part when Pacy’s cousin Clifford explains how you can tell wontons from dumplings — dumplings are shaped like ears.

He tells the story of a very famous Chinese doctor who supposedly invented dumpling soup. Ah! I had never heard this story before and found it not only fascinating, but quite uncanny, as a character in my picture book, Dumpling Soup, thinks dumplings look like elephant ears. Little did I realize the very first “ears” had great medicinal benefits. Totally cool!

STORY OF DUMPLING SOUP

Once there was a famous doctor, Zhang Zhongjing, who lived by the river in a cold part of China. He treated and cured many things, but in the winter, the things he treated most were people’s ears! That sounds strange, I know, but where he lived in China, the winters were particularly cold. The icy wind whipped and burned any exposed skin.

It was so cold that when a villager joked that his breath froze into pieces of ice in the air, all believed him because even if the cold did not freeze one’s breath, it really did freeze people’s ears. The doctor was kept busy during the winters treating frostbitten ears. He knew that people with frostbite needed warmth to heal, so he began to make a remedy that would warm peoples’ insides as well as their outsides. He cooked meat with warming herbs and finely chopped it. Then he wrapped it in thinly rolled dough and boiled the pieces in soup with more herbs. When the mixture was finished, he called it “soup that takes away the cold,” or “qu han jiao er tang.” He then served it to his frostbitten patients, who not only healed quickly, but enjoyed the soup so much that they continued to eat it.

People made the soup at home, usually eating it in the winter. They say the dumpling is the shape it is because it is made to resemble an ear, in honor of Doctor Zhongjing’s treatment of people’s frostbitten ears. The name of the soup, qu han jiao er tang, was shortened to jiao er tang, and the dumplings were eventually called jiaozi.

~ from “Story of Dumpling Soup,” Dumpling Days by Grace Lin (Little, Brown, 2012), page 119.

 

Zhang Zhongjing (150-219 AD) was an eminent physician in the Han Dynasty and is extremely well known in modern Chinese medicine.

Take two ears and call me in the morning.

He wrote China’s first book (actually 16 volumes worth), combining medical theory with his own experiences as a practitioner, analyzing causes, symptoms and methods of treatment. He recorded some 300 classic prescriptions, many of which are still used today. For his first dumplings he boiled mutton with warming herbs like chili (cayenne), which improved circulation and promoted healing. His “Warming Ear Soup” is traditionally eaten on the nights of Winter Solstice and Lunar New Year’s Eve.

♥ More Tasty Tidbits here.

♥ In case you missed my review of Dumpling Days, click here.

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Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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“There was no day that dumplings couldn’t make better.” ~ Pacy Lin

Pass the dipping sauce, I’m in dumpling heaven. ☺

I’m thrilled to be serving up Newbery Honor Author Grace Lin’s brand new middle grade novel, Dumpling Days (Little, Brown, 2012), as our very first Soup of the Day for the new year!

Before I tell you a little about it and tempt you with some of its dishes, please put on BOTH of these bibs. You’ll definitely need double protection for this fabulous feast of a book, which is absolutely brimming with gustatory goodness.

Oh, and don’t forget your passport:

In this third novel featuring beloved heroine Pacy Lin, she and her family spend an entire month in Taiwan visiting relatives and preparing for Grandma’s 60th birthday party. Instead of traveling to her parents’ faraway homeland, Pacy would much rather spend her summer going to a fun place like Hawai’i or California where she could see her best friend Melody. But her parents want Pacy and her sisters to “know their roots,” to experience the “island of treasure.”

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photos: Akuppa/flickr and Alexandre Ferron.

Hi there! So glad you’re here.

I’ve just poured some tea, and am anxious to tell you all about Newbery Honor winner Grace Lin’s brand new picture book, Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival (Knopf, 2010), which is officially out today!

If, like me, you’re a big fan of Grace’s previous picture books featuring the Lin family (Dim Sum for Everyone!, Kite Flying, Fortune Cookie Fortunes, Bringing in the New Year), then you’re in for a real treat. This time, the three winsome sisters and their parents are observing this important holiday with a special evening picnic!

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