serving up ruth starke’s noodle pie

“Food seemed to trigger the strongest memories for his father. As he strolled around, his nose was constantly twitching in appreciation.” ~ from Noodle Pie by Ruth Starke

In Noodle Pie, East meets West: Vietnamese pho and Aussie meat pie (photos by LiY!n and Filor).

Who could resist a book called Noodle Pie?

Certainly not me. I’m so glad that in January 2010, Kane Miller published an American edition of this funny, engaging, and yes, totally delicious middle grade novel by award-winning Australian author Ruth Starke.

It satisfied my cravings for a little armchair travel, colorful characters, a bounty of ethnic food and family togetherness. Moreover, it taught me a lot about Vietnamese culture as seen through the eyes of almost-twelve-year-old Andy Nguyen, who visits Hanoi with his father for the first time.


Andy is excited about his first plane ride, passport, and the chance to meet his dad’s side of the family. Growing up, he heard stories about how his father fled the country after the fall of Saigon and settled in Australia. It is a poignant visit for his dad, who’s anxious to be reunited with his family, but he’s beholden to them and painfully aware of their high expectations.

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recette pour un livre magnifique (recipe for a magnificent book)!

“At 8:30 the Morlaisses had supper. The menu was always the same: soup. Soup is easy to digest, it makes you grow, and it guarantees a good night’s sleep — that is, if it is salt- and pepper-free, of course.” ~ Secret Letters from 0 to 10 by Susie Morgenstern

      photo of Susie by styeb.

Well, I never thought this would happen in a million years.

I just read a story where I was actually glad when the main character stopped eating soup every night!

Just one of the many things that amazed me about Secret Letters from 0 to 10 by Susie Morgenstern (Putnam, 1998). Where have I been? Why hadn’t I ever encountered this multiple award winning gem before, or read anything else by Ms. Morgenstern? I loved loved this book — it totally satisfied my cravings for a deliciously engrossing, moving, masterfully crafted middle grade novel with a French twist.

And I owe it all to amazing author Anne Mazer, who answered my call for books set in France. So large is my love for this book, that it’s going to be really hard not using exclamation marks !!! after every sentence in this post!!

Breathe. Focus. Relax.

Secret Letters was originally written in French and translated by Gill Rosner. Seems both Susie (originally from New Jersey) and Gill live in Nice, France (my French Riviera envy is off the scale), and the book has won sixteen international awards including Le Prix Totem (French equivalent of the Newbery). Ooh-la-la!

Ten-year-old Ernest Morlaisse lives a very unadventurous, isolated life with his 80-year-old grandmother, Precious, who is a prisoner of the past. They rarely speak to each other as they follow their regimented, solitary routines each day. There are no friends, no TV or telephone, and for Ernest, no going out anywhere except for school. All this abruptly changes when Victoria de Montardent, a new girl in class, bulldozes her way into Ernest’s deprived existence.

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Yasmin’s Hammer by Ann Malaspina

Hooray for a brand new picture book set in Bangladesh!

How many others can you think of? I daresay, this is the first one I’ve encountered, which is why I’m extra pleased Yasmin’s Hammer by Ann Malaspina, illustrated by Doug Chayka (Lee & Low, 2010), was released earlier this month!

Ever since I read Mitali Perkins’s luminous, award-winning chapter book, Rickshaw Girl (Charlesbridge, 2007), I’ve been wanting to learn more about this part of the world. I was quite taken with Naima, a talented alpana artist who finds a creative way to help alleviate financial problems for her impoverished family.

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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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