Chinese Menu by Grace Lin

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Imagine D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, but instead of explaining various events in the world, center each myth around a favorite dish to eat. Then, place all of the myths in China. Of course, make sure these myths are true to the Chinese and Chinese-American traditions. Just like in the Greek Myths book, they would be researched as well. In the short story collection Chinese Menu by Grace Lin (Little, Brown September 2023), you’ll get a great mix of such delightful stories, nicely formatted and written for middle grade readers!

Yet Grace Lin has improved upon the D’Aulaires’ structure of myth retelling. Each myth is first introduced with a personal note about the type of food and where the myths were originally told. She even shares her personal food experiences in trying (or, in some cases, never have trying) a dish. The myths are also separated into sections (from tea, appetizers, “specials,” deserts, and more). (The lack of a table of contents and sectional structure has always bothered me about the D’Aulaires’ book.) At the end of the book, she cites sources for the myths she’s retold. Then, as an award-winning illustrator, Lin has also added illustrations to each myth. A general two-toned illustration begins each myth, and each section has a lovely full-color illustration worthy of framing.

I greatly enjoyed reading the myths as well as the emphasis on traditional food that I am not that familiar with. I grew up in a house that did not cook dishes from around the world. My childhood understanding of “Chinese food” was soy sauce mixed into steamed veggies. It was not a favorite of mine because of the lack of texture and flavor. It was not until I was adult that I was able to try delicious Chinese-American food. Reading the stories in Chinese Menu made my stomach growl, and I feel eager to try Chinese American food from someone who knows how to cook it!

Chinese Menu is a mouth-watering treasure for foodies or anyone who enjoys fairy tales, fables, and myths. It also is a visual delight with the illustrations so nicely tying into the themes and stories.

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Reviewed on November 7, 2023

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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