[review + giveaway] The Ugly Dumpling by Stephanie Campisi and Shahar Kober

My, my. ¬†A story about dim sum and dumplings. What could be more tempting? ūüôā

In the¬†The Ugly Dumpling (Mighty Media Kids, 2016), a new picture book by¬†Stephanie Campisi¬†and Shahar Kober,¬†we are invited to the Golden Swan Restaurant for a “modern fable of friendship, feelings, and being different.”


Once upon a time,
perhaps last week,
or even last night,
at your local dim sum restaurant
there was an UGLY DUMPLING . . .

This ugly dumpling
was ugly
in its
ugly way.


Poor thing! Though the dumpling tried its best to be noticed by wrinkling its brow, standing up tall, or even wearing pleated pants, sadly it remained “uneaten and ignored.” But as fate would have it, along came a cockroach whose heart swelled with love, who wept upon seeing the ugly dumpling. It extended an arm (or a leg) in friendship, promising to show the dumpling “the beauty of the world.”

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Picture Books for Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, Part 3 (Japan)

 photos by *Randee and sir_mencius.

Konnichiwa! Ogenki desu ka?

Ready to spend a little time in the Land of the Rising Sun? Perhaps you wouldn’t be adverse to¬†a¬†savory, artfully arranged¬†dinner box containing salmon teriyaki, shrimp and vegetable tempura, tsukemono, negamaki,¬†seaweed salad, and several slices of maki-zushi. Oh, and miso soup, of course! What’s that?¬†You’re pressed for time? Well, what about a nice bowl of ramen or a cute little bento box?

I was happy to find a few more Japan-related picture books. Today’s menu includes kite flying,¬†origami, ghosts and historical fiction. When you’re done slurping your noodles, dip into these fine titles!

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Picture Books for Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, Part 2 (China)

photos by liveline, lionel bodilis, and Ayda7.

So, last time I featured some picture books about Korean culture and joyfully gobbled up a full platter of Jap Chae with Bulgogi. Turnip¬†and won bok kimchee, fishcake, beansprout and watercress namul,¬†lotus root and cinnamon tea perfectly topped off the meal. I¬†must admit —¬†I don’t usually limit such lipsmacking goodness to the month of¬†May, but since it’s Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, I have¬†good reason to¬†whet your appetite to the max¬†so you can¬†celebrate¬†heartily¬†with good books and good food.

Just as Chinese restaurants are ubiquitous in this country, there has never been a shortage of China-related books for any age group. Every major city has a Chinatown, but not necessarily a Korea-town or a Japan-town. For quite awhile, I¬†had to “pretend” I was Chinese in an attempt to identify with the sought-after element of Asian-ness I craved in books. So I encountered Laurence Yep, Betty Bao Lord, and Maxine Hong Kingston before I discovered Yoshiko Uchida, Lensey Namioka,¬†Cynthia Kadohata or Linda Sue Park.

There are many more China-related picture books I want to read.¬†I’m rounding¬†up some of my¬†recent finds in today’s post, and then I’ll¬†feature several¬†Japan-related books in Part 3. I can just imagine biting into a warm soup dumpling, the happy talky talk in a busy¬†dim sum restaurant, the sizzle and crackle of hot oil¬†in a wok beckoning¬†sliced onion,¬†green beans, carrots and pork.¬†Today’s menu¬†includes a ghost story, a gorgeous visual poem, and a family adjusting to life in America. Should we eat and then¬†read, or read and then eat?

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Picture Books for Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, Part I (Korea)

photos by Erin G, Laura Anne Wilson (boy), Laura Anne Wilson (girl).

Since May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month,¬†thought I’d share some of the picture books I’ve read and enjoyed recently.¬†When¬†I think of this genre,
several award-winning¬†Asian American author/illustrators immediately¬†come to mind — Ed Young, Allen Say (whom I profiled here), Grace Lin, and Yangsook Choi. Their books are consistently excellent and widely available.

But when it comes to finding books by other authors (especially those who aren’t also illustrators),¬†it takes a little extra detective work. Even though more multicultural books¬†are being published these days, many of them don’t receive the critical attention they deserve. I¬†do get excited when I check the indie publishers who specialize in multicultural titles and see some interesting books on their lists, but am disappointed because my public library doesn’t own most of¬†the titles, and my local bookstore doesn’t¬†stock them.¬†

Me and the only Asian PB I remember from childhood.
(Don’t even get me started on political correctness!)

The good news? I’ve been noticing more books about the Korean American experience. When I¬†was in grade school, there was nothing about Korean history or culture, fiction or nonfiction. I had to wait until I was old enough to read the encyclopedia. But single titles? Nada.¬†In Hawai’i, I was surrounded by so many ethnicities and absorbed lots of¬†firsthand “knowledge,” but I¬†couldn’t read about any of it.¬†It was like my identity wasn’t even valid.¬†I¬†grew up believing important things were found in books, but Koreans, other¬†Asians, and Hawaiians¬†simply weren’t featured in them.

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wok this way: china and korea stir fry

It’s been quite a month — flowers, salad, strawberries, and Asian Pacific American Heritage.¬†As far as I’m concerned, every month is a time for ethnic pride, learning more about other cultures, and getting excited over books that feature new voices and perspectives. Do you need an excuse to eat more dim sum? Not me!

One of¬†the ways I’ve been celebrating APAHM is to pick up some of the picture books I’d heard about,¬†but never got around to reading. It was good to see titles featuring more Korean,¬†Japanese, and South Asian characters, alongside the plentiful store of Chinese books. We still need more stories about Hawai’i and the Philippines, though, so I’d better get busy.

Anyway, today I’m serving up this tasty stir fry combining the flavors of Korea and China. Each title¬†brims with its own brand of color, texture, and emotional resonance:

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