Grace Lin’s Dumpling Days is a book that is so easy to like. It has believable and sweet family dynamics, gentle humour, a wonderful sense of place, and a lot of talk about dumplings. It’s always great to discover a book that is perfectly written for the age group, that you feel you can place in a child’s hands and know that it is exactly right in terms of reading level, characterization, and thematic development. Grace Lin really understands her audience. As I was reading, I could bring to mind several children who come to the library who would be just right readers for Dumpling Days.
Here’s a lovely video intro to the book:
This is a smiley-face kind of book, meaning that pretty much the whole time you’re reading, you’re also smiling. The interactions between the siblings are spot on, and the extended family members and people they meet on the trip come to life memorably as well. It’s refreshing to read about a family that isn’t messed up, or on the flip side, comes off as too good to be true. The Lins are just real. Sometimes they fight, sometimes they don’t get each other, sometimes they feel misunderstood, but through it all they are glad to be a family.
Perhaps the best part of the book (though it’s hard to name the best because the whole is so well done) is the way that Lin evokes Taiwan and a child’s experience of the country – mostly urban experiences. You learn a lot about the country through this book, with an appealing focus on the food. So much so that a) I now want to eat a lot of dumplings, and b) I would recommend this book to an adult who was thinking of a trip to Taiwan as a way of selling them on the idea. I’d never thought about going to Taiwan and Dumpling Days made me see why I might really enjoy a visit.
If you haven’t read the first two books in this series, you should. As for Dumpling Days, I think kids will find it cozy and friendly and they’ll close the book with smiles on their faces and grumbly tummies. Five dumplings out of five.
Dumpling Days is published by Little, Brown. Thanks for the review copy!