The Runaway Rice Cake
Author-Ying Chang Compestine
Illustrator- Tungwai Chau
Genre- Picture book. Children’s book
Publisher- Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication date-January 1, 2001
Themes- cultures, Celebrations, holidays
The book kicks off with the Chang family worshiping the kitchen god to take the message about the family’s good deeds to the emperor in heaven for a reward.
Shades of the gingerbread man creep up as their freshly baked nián-gão, a rice cake, sprints around the village yodeling versions of
“Ai yo! I don’t think so.”
The similarities end soon only to highlight the poor family’s unselfish good deed. Will they get rewarded by the emperor? Will their god deed spill over to the neighbors and villagers, weaving magic for everyone.
The author has captured the emotions of the three boys of the family so well, giving them Chinese names that suit their personalities. A guide to the pronunciation of Chinese words is a lifesaver. The author brings out the unique traits of the boys at different parts of the story, stressing how each and every individual quirk makes a family whole. The eldest is named Ming, meaning bright. The middle child, Cong’s name means clever in Chinese, and Da, the youngest, means understanding in every situation.
A guide detailing the Chinese New Year and the implications of lion dancers, new clothes, different foods- noodles, fish, and whole chicken adds charm to the book.
The lively acrylic illustrations of the Chinese fishing village, lion dancers, and firecrackers set the story’s mood. It ends the narrative on a high note. A recipe for baked and steamed nián-gão was the icing on our rice cake.
A heartwarming book about how generosity, kindness, and empathy get rewarded. The family has barely enough for themselves, but they give it all, expecting nothing in return. How a sad day spins into a joyful celebration with umpteen rewards makes for a beautiful read as you welcome the new year with your kids.
On a secondary note, the book made me wonder why people who have less give more? Have you noticed it too? What do you think is the reason? Would love to know your thoughts!