[tasty talk] Melissa Iwai on Dumplings for Lili

Wrap me in joy, I’m filled with excitement: Brooklyn-based author/illustrator Melissa Iwai is here to tempt us with her scrumptious new picture book, Dumplings for Lili (Norton Young Readers, 2021) which officially hits shelves today!

You may remember when Melissa last visited several years ago to celebrate the release of Pizza Day, her tasty companion book to the perennial favorite Soup Day. You may also know that in addition to writing and illustrating children’s books, Melissa loves to cook, bake and develop her own recipes, making her the ideal person to spread the dumpling love.

In this deliciously heartwarming story, young Lili is ecstatic when her grandmother (Nai Nai) asks her to help make baos, Lili’s “favorite food in the whole world.” But Nai Nai discovers she’s out of cabbage, which they need to line the bamboo steamer basket. She sends Lili to see whether Babcia, who lives on the 6th floor of their apartment building, has any cabbage.

Since the elevator is down, Lili and her trusty canine companion Kiki skip up the five flights of stairs. After Babcia gives Lili a head of cabbage, she discovers she needs potatoes for her pierogi. 

No problem. Lili and Kiki hop down four flights of stairs to see whether Granma has any. Of course she does, but she needs some fresh garlic to make her meat patties.

Lili and Kiki end up racing upstairs and down, from apartment to apartment, dropping off and then borrowing more missing ingredients for several more grandmothers, who happen to be making tamales, ravioli and fatayer. 

After Lili and Nai Nai finally finish steaming their baos, they join all their neighbors for a special dumpling party in the garden, where they welcome the best dumpling treasure of all. 🙂

Melissa has lovingly blended just the right ingredients for this fun, flavorful tale that celebrates food, family, friendship, diversity and community.
Kids will enjoy tagging along with Lili and Kiki while learning about the different kinds of dumplings being prepared by Nai Nai, Babcia, Granma, Abuela, Nonna, and Teta. Six grandmas with six different dumplings — what could be better?

I love how Melissa wove the Eight Secrets Nai Nai taught Lili for “happy and delicious baos” right into the story (did you know bao dough enjoys catnaps and being hummed to?). Adorable! And of course she included a recipe for Nai Nai’s Baos at the end (after drooling through this story, readers will surely want to try making their own). 🙂

The mixed media illustrations really capture the warmth and personalities of all the characters, and hungry munchkins will want to linger over every spread as they study the delectable details. They’ll love following Kiki’s visual narrative and repeating the grandmothers’ multilingual exclamations in the speech bubbles.

With an engaging storyline that’s part relay, part cooking lesson, Melissa celebrates the humble dumpling as a universally beloved comfort food that joyously brings people together.

Now, let’s hear how Melissa cooked up her new book!

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[delectable review] Toasty by Sarah Hwang

“Woof woof woof!”

Is that your dog barking? No? Well, maybe it’s your toast. Best to check your picnic basket to be sure.

If you like your canines cute and quirky, you’ll lap up Sarah Hwang’s adorable debut picture book, Toasty (Holiday House, 2021). 🙂

This bread-on-a-leash charmer is all about discovering that the best way to be top dog is to be yourself.

When we first meet Toasty, he’s longingly watching dogs play and run outside his window. He loves dogs so much, he wants to  be one.

Sure, he isn’t quite like them. Instead of four legs, he’s got two arms and two legs. He sleeps in a toaster instead of a dog house, and he doesn’t have any fur or hair. Moreover, Toasty is made of bread.

He tries to do doggy things, like running, chasing cats, even rolling in puddles — but nothing works. Yet, he can bark like a dog.

So despite his differences, he puts on his best collar, grabs his “sparkly ball,” and goes to the park to play with the dogs. But when he tosses his ball, instead of them chasing after it, they chase after him. Uh-oh. Will Toasty soon be “toast”?

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[lipsmacking review] Delicious!: Poems Celebrating Street Food Around the World by Julie Larios and Julie Paschkis

What’s your pleasure? Polishing off piroshki in Saint Petersburg, sipping a quick cup of saffron tea at a Mumbai train station, or nibbling on crunchy deep-fried scorpions in Beijing?

In Delicious!: Poems Celebrating Street Food Around the World (Beach Lane Books, 2021), my two favorite Julies — Julie Larios and Julie Paschkis — tempt readers with sweet and savory treats sure to rouse appetites and stir wanderlust.

There’s always something special about grabbing a quick bite al fresco, whether you’re wandering a city street or byway, browsing a busy outdoor market, or sitting in a stadium cheering on your favorite team. Few can resist the tantalizing aromas emanating from a well appointed food truck and ordering something cooked right on the spot by a friendly vendor. 

The fourteen short, 4-6 line poems feature an appealingly diverse mix of familiar as well as exotic eats. Our culinary journey begins right here in the USA, with a nod to the immigrants whose various foods, cultures and traditions have informed our palate and enriched American society. 

CARTS IN THE PARK
New York, New York, USA

Syrian shawarma wrapped in a pita?
Biryani? Pork carnitas?
Maybe I’ll get a hot falafel.
Schnitzel? Pretzel? Sesame noodles?
Cajun? Lebanese? Cuban? Thai?
So many choices! What should I try?

Julie L. serves up a savory mouthful with delectable words — food names are fun to read aloud and a nice reminder that while it may be wonderful to visit faraway places, we can enjoy so many mouthwatering vittles without ever leaving the country.

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[review + chat + giveaway] Aram Kim on Sunday Funday in Koreatown

We’re so happy to welcome NYC author, illustrator and book designer Aram Kim back to Alphabet Soup today!

You may remember when she visited to celebrate the publication of her second picture book, No Kimchi for Me! (Holiday House, 2017), where little Yoomi learns to like “stinky, spicy kimchi.” Last spring, Aram published a companion picture book called, Let’s Go to Taekwondo! (Holiday House, 2020), where Yoomi and her grandma encourage and inspire each other when challenged to learn new skills.

Today’s release of Sunday Funday in Koreatown (Holiday House, 2021) is especially exciting, because it means we now officially have the Yoomi, Friends, and Family picture book series!

All art © 2021 Aram Kim

In this heartwarming story, Yoomi’s Sunday just isn’t turning out to be the “Funday” she had planned. That morning, her favorite TV show was cancelled and because they were out of rice, she and her dad couldn’t make kimbap for breakfast together.

Not only did she have to settle for eating cereal, she couldn’t wear her favorite Funday shirt because it was in the wash.

But perhaps her luck would change. Yoomi was excited to ride the bus with Dad to Koreatown. They first stopped at the library bookmobile where Yoomi discovered the book she wanted had already been checked out. Then at the Korean grocery store somebody beat her to the last hot dog twist!

Dad suggested a different treat, which Yoomi liked. Things were starting to look up until she spilled her brothers’ favorite treat all over her second favorite shirt. Oh no!

Love the Kimbap endpapers!

Yoomi was convinced Sunday was totally ruined. But Dad reassured her all was not lost since they were still going to visit Grandma. Could she help turn things around and make it a Funday after all?

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[tasty review+ giveaway] Let’s Pop, Pop, Popcorn! by Cynthia Schumerth and Mary Reaves Uhles

So glad you popped in — you’re just in time for some hot, lightly salted (with a little bit o’ butter) popcorn! 

America’s favorite snack — so friendly, affordable, and accommodating — is pure magic. All it needs is a little heat and it’s more than happy to make itself. 🙂

Ever wonder how those hard little kernels manage to turn themselves into a mountain of fluffy, flavorful bites?

In Let’s Pop, Pop, Popcorn!, a brand new picture book by Cynthia Schumerth and Mary Reaves Uhles (Sleeping Bear Press, 2021), we get a “seed to snack” peek at the process of growing, harvesting, and finally popping tasty, lick-the-salt-off-your-fingers popcorn. Mmmmmm!

In jaunty rhyming verse, half a dozen enthusiastic kids tell us about each step of their special project.

Dig the ground up with a hoe.
Plant the seeds and hope they grow.
Sunshine warms them in the earth.
Raindrops fall to quench their thirst.

They work together, sharing tasks such as hoeing, planting, watering, weeding, and of course, waiting.

How excited they are to see the first shoots come up, as they work diligently to protect their tender green plants, which grow from knee high to waist high, and finally, “past our heads.”

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