It's the Chinese New Year, and the Chang Family has only enough rice flour to make one nián-gão, a special New Year's rice cake, for the entire family to eat. But this delicious little nián-gão has other ideas. "Ai yo! I don't think so!" it cries, coming to life and escaping.
Ming, Cong, little Da and their parents chase the nián-gão all over the village until it runs into a hungry, old woman and sends her tumbling to the ground. Though Da is a small boy, his heart is big enough to share the treat with her, even though that leaves Da's family with nothing to eat for their own celebration. But the Changs' generosity doesn't go unnoticed. When they return home, they find the Kitchen God has left a wonderful surprise for them.
Ying Chang Compestine's heartwarming story conveys an important and poignant message about sharing and compassion. Tungwai Chau's soft and evocative illustrations complete this tender holiday story.
Debut children's author Compestine crosses "The Gingerbread Man" with the traditional folktale of the bottomless rice jar for this story reinforcing the importance of giving. On the eve of the Chinese New Year, the Chang family prays to the Kitchen God, then prepares to make the holiday rice cakes, the ni n-gao. However, they have only enough rice flour for one, and when it's done, the ni n-gao pops out of the pan and runs away. Like the gingerbread man, the runaway cake leads a rollicking chase, evading livestock ("Ai yo! Pig's too slow!") and market-goers ("Ai yo! Away I go!"). Finally, it collides with a famished old woman, and, when the Changs offer to share the ni n-gao with her, she gratefully eats the whole thing. Upon their return home, however, a succession of neighbors greets the hungry family with what little they can share. Poppa Chang invites everyone to join in the sparse meal, and, in a magical ending, the bowls of food on the table expand to overflowing--a reward (from the Kitchen God, the text hints) for the family's kindness. Compestine's engaging tale brims with intriguing details of the traditions that surround the holiday (and, as the author of adult cookbooks, she also includes recipes for ni n-gao). First-time picture book artist Chau makes a splash with vibrant acrylics whose textured surface and controlled, sophisticated blending of shades mimic the look of pastels. His backgrounds, costumes and animals are more detailed than the characters' facial expressions, but he succeeds in communicating a warmth between family and neighbors. Ages 5-8.