CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 12. . . .November 21, 2014
Paul Yee’s name hardly requires an introduction in the world of Canadian children’s literature. The recipient of numerous awards for his previous works, Yee is both an experienced storyteller and an expert in the culture and history of China and its people. Chinese Fairy Tale Feasts is yet another delightful addition to Yee’s impressive repertoire. Chinese Fairy Tale Feasts is a collection of 13 Chinese tales by Yee, coupled with 13 delightful and simple recipes by Judy Chan – a chef experienced and well versed in both the processes of Chinese cooking as well as its importance to Chinese culture – and adorned with enchanting illustrations by Shaoli Wang. Chinese Fairy Tale Feasts is the third book continuing a series started by Jane Yolen and her daughter with Fairy Tale Feasts and Jewish Fairy Tale Feasts. Yee’s work weaves the tales and characters of historical China – peasants, ghosts, kings – with classical Chinese recipes in a way that highlights both the importance of cooking and storytelling to the essence of Chinese culture and acts as a gentle introduction to these for readers. Interesting facts about Chinese culture as well as proverbs engage readers and are fun tidbits to take away from each story.
Chinese Fairy Tale Feasts takes a celebratory look at China and its culinary traditions; the format and approach are appropriate for every child; it is straightforward and well organized with a table of contents directing readers to each tale and its accompanying recipe, and clear, reader-friendly font size and style. Wang’s illustrations are clear, beautiful, and look culturally authentic; they complement the text nicely.
This title is just as enjoyable as the previous ones in the series and is somewhat more lighthearted in character than many of Yee’s previous works. Although the stories are suitable for the intended audience (grades 2-7), the recipes are perhaps more appropriate for the older half of this audience. In fact, the audience could be expanded to include not just children or their guardians or educators looking for a cultural introduction to China, but to adults looking for simple, authentic Chinese recipes as well. Although the foreword contains a note about parental guidance and safety in the kitchen, the actual recipes are not explicit about where parental help would be appropriate – an important characteristic of children’s cookbooks. Chinese Fairy Tale Feasts is a recommended addition to libraries, classrooms, and personal collections as it is both delightful and valuable literature and non-fiction.
Julianne Mutimer is a children’s librarian with Surrey Libraries in Surrey, BC.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.