something sweet from cynthia chin-lee

I see you’re back again, with that hungry look on your face.

After wontons, Chinese chicken salad, bay scallops with lemon sauce, and masoor dalCynthia Chin-Lee has brought something sweet for our Asian Pacific American Heritage Month potluck!

 One of the “Best 100 American Children’s Books of the Century” (Ruminator Review)

You may have noticed that I love soup — and cookies — and the alphabet. Cynthia Chin-Lee may just be the author of my dreams. Four out of her fivepicture books feature the alphabet. These are not baby portions, but ones that offer more substantial servings for sophisticated readers 9 and up, such as A is for Asia (Orchard,1997), A is for the Americas (Orchard, 1999), Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women Who Changed the World (Charlesbridge, 2005), and Akira to Zoltan: Twenty-Six Men Who Changed the World (Charlesbridge, 2006).

In Amelia to Zora and Akira to Zoltan, we meet 26 courageous visionaries in each book, some well known and others not so well known, from many different professions, such as scientists, political leaders, writers, architects, doctors and performing artists, who have made a difference in the 20th century. I like the diversity of cultures and ethnicities represented, and the fact that the profiles are alphabetized according to the first names of the honorees, giving them a familiarity that will appeal to children.

Each page features an enticing profile that will whet the appetite for further study, an inspiring quote, and a brilliant mixed media collage (whimsical, literally cutting edge, and very very cool), created from elements appropriate to each subject by Megan Halsey and Sean Addy. Especially appealing are the childhood anecdotes included in each juicy capsule. Akira to Zoltan focuses on peacemakers such as Gandhi, Langston Hughes, Octavio Paz, and Nelson Mandela. Some of the strong, imaginative, and innovative women include Kristi Yamaguchi, Yoshika Uchida, Grace Hopper, and Dolores Huerta.

This is one alphabet that is sure to inspire and delight. And thanks to Cynthia, we have something delish to munch on while enjoying her books. In 1993, Polychrome Publishing brought out Cynthia’s first picture book, Almond Cookies and Dragon Well Tea, illustrated by You Shan Tang. In this story, Erica visits Nancy, her Chinese American friend, for the first time. Erica is a little shy and apprehensive about what Nancy’s home will be like, but as soon as Nancy’s grandmother serves homemade almond cookies and special tea, Erica warms right up! 

Maybe you’d like to serve these cookies to your guests, if there are any left after you’ve tasted them! Mmmmm almond extract!

(makes about 48 cookies)

2-3/4 cups flour
1 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp almond extract
1 cup shortening (lard, margarine, butter, or Crisco)
1 egg
whole almonds, sliced
red and yellow food coloring

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2. Sift flour, sugar, baking soda and salt together. Add shortening, egg, almond extract and food coloring into mixture. Color should be orange-yellow. Mix into a smooth dough.

3. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Set about 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheet. Flatten ball with palm of hand and place an almond slice in center of each cookie.

4. Bake for 15-18 minutes.

Visit Cynthia’s website, or read a fab interview at!

4 thoughts on “something sweet from cynthia chin-lee

  1. Both of the collective biographies are such handsome books all around. I’m glad she included several people who have not been widely touted, but deserve to be.


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