"A library book, I imagine, is a happy book." Cornelia Funke

"Everything puts me in mind of a story." Ben Franklin

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Runaway Wok: a Chinese New Year Tale

The Runaway Wok: a Chinese New Year Tale by Ying Chang Compestine, Illus. by Sebastia Serra, 2011.

You may be expecting a variation on "The Gingerbread Boy" tale, but that is not the case with The Runaway Wok. It is actually based on the Danish folktale "The Talking Pot." On Chinese New Year's Eve, young Ming is sent to market to trade his family's eggs for a bag of rice. The local rich man has no intention of providing a New Year's feast and although Ming's parents are poor, they plan to make fried rice to celebrate and share with the neighbors. Instead of getting rice, Ming trades for a rusty, one-handled, singing wok. Once the wok has been cleaned up, with a "skippity-hoppity-ho!" it heads off to the rich man's house, returning with plenty of food. It repeats this three more times, bringing back gifts and improving the lives of the poor folk of Beijing. Readers will enjoy seeing the selfish and spoiled receive their due from the cheerful and tricky wok! A recipe for "Festive Stir-Fried Rice" follows the story.

Serra's colorful Beijing is bustling with people of all ages and animals like camels, oxen, cats, dogs and a monkey. His characters are very expressive,  such as the rich man's snooty wife with a small pursed bow of a mouth and one lowered arched eyebrow. One glance tells the reader the nature of her character.  Serra also shows us the happy festivity of Chinese New Year, with fireworks, strings of lanterns and a merry Dragon Parade.

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