author chat: alan woo on maggie’s chopsticks

I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Vancouver-based author, poet, champion noodle slurper and chopstick twirler Alan Woo to Alphabet Soup today!

Alan’s debut picture book, Maggie’s Chopsticks, illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant and published by Kids Can Press, has been receiving glowing reviews and well deserved blog love ever since its release in August.

In this charming, lyrically told story of self discovery, young Maggie learns how to use her new chopsticks as family members scold, laugh, and offer conflicting advice. She watches as each demonstrates the “right” way: Grandma’s “click-clack-clicketing” scrabble and shovel; Mother’s quick, sharp, flip, flop; Brother’s strong, sure grip; Sister’s graceful dancing sticks. Maggie tries and tries — twirling, circling, holding closer to the top, nearer the bottom, but they still say she’s doing it wrong. It’s only with Father’s gentle reassurance that Maggie finally finds her right way and is reminded that since each person is unique, it shouldn’t matter what other people think.

Hungry young readers will easily identify with Maggie’s struggle to master a new skill, enjoy meeting her colorful family, and cheer her victory. And yes, like me, they’ll likely drool at how Isabelle Malenfant, with her warm palette of vibrant reds and oranges, has set the family table with tantalizing Chinese food (cha siu bao! ha gau!), and love the winsome cat who licks its chops while waiting patiently for a piece of shrimp.

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a little chinese take-out

Celebrate the Year of the Dragon with these fine reads. No better time to feast on Chinese culture, history and folklore. Ed Young’s brilliant The House Baba Built: An Artist’s Childhood in China (Little, Brown, 2011), just won the 2012 APALA Asian/Pacific American Literature Award for Best Picture Book. Click here to read an excerpt at the publisher’s website.

Here are the books I’ve featured here at Alphabet Soup:

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2011).

Dumpling Days by Grace Lin (Little, Brown, 2012).

A New Year’s Reunion by Yu Li-Qiong and Zhu Cheng-Liang (Candlewick Press, 2011).

Why yes, all this talk of China has made me hungry. I always love to celebrate the Lunar New Year with dim sum. This year, we tried Mark’s Duck House, across the street from our usual place, Fortune Chinese Seafood Restaurant. And we actually liked it better! I have no idea why we’d never heard of Mark’s before. Their specialty is Peking Duck, which we’ll have to try another time.

I was happy they had all my dim sum favorites:

Steamed Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao)
Pan Fried Chives Dumpling
Shrimp Crepe (Cheung Fan)
Crab Meat Dumpling
Egg Custard Tart (dan tat)


Of course it’s always fun to read menu boards in Chinese restaurants.

Pig Ear or Duck Tongue to go?

I’m wondering about the Cold Knuckle, too.

Can’t wait to go back!

Dragons signify power and good fortune. 2012 is the Year of the Water Dragon, a period of growth and optimism.

I wish you good luck, good health, and many creative blossomings. ☺


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

soup of the day: dumpling days by grace lin!

“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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