Books by Yong Chen

CHOP SUEY, USA by Yong Chen
Released: Oct. 28, 2014

"A well-researched study of Chinese-American food, the people who brought it to our neighborhoods and how Americans grew to love it."
Chen (History/Univ. of California, Irvine; Chinese San Francisco, 1850-1943: A Trans-Pacific Community, 2000) shows how enterprising immigrants turned Chinese food, reviled by 19th-century Americans, into one of the country's favorite ethnic meals. Read full book review >
FINDING JOY by Marion Coste
Released: Oct. 1, 2006

Simple, brief prose and watercolor paintings attempt to tell a complex story. A Chinese baby girl, Shu-li, is abandoned by her parents because they have "no room for girls." A middle-aged American couple decides to adopt a baby girl because "our family's not complete." The wife travels to China and brings Shu-li home to join her family, which suddenly includes three enthusiastic teenaged children, barely mentioned (and not shown) in the beginning. They rename her Joy, and she grows up happy and loved. Young readers and listeners will be left with many questions, only some of which are answered in the author's note: Why did the couple look so lonely in the beginning if they already had three children? Why did the wife go alone to China? Why did Shu-li's family abandon her under a bridge? Chen's soft watercolors lend a dreamy tone to the already romanticized text. Coste has a lovely story to tell, but crosses the line from simple to simplistic. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
STARFISH SUMMER by Ona Gritz-Gilbert
Released: June 30, 1998

Amy's painful separation from her mother is soothed by a budding friendship with Crystal and her brother Raymond in this idealized story of one girl's summer. Amy has always been a "mama's girl" who misses her mother terribly, a starfish missing an arm. During her summer stay at the beach with sock-doll fanatic Great-aunt Jenny, Amy is determined to be brave, to deal with her homesickness, and to try to make new friends. Crystal, who lives next door, snubs her every effort, belittling her for not knowing how to ride a bike, and for knowing sidewalk games from the city, instead of beach games, such as tickle bottom and poke the jelly. Only blind old Mr. Fine, who stands out among a cast of overly agreeable adults, really understands Amy. When Amy enlists Crystal and Raymond to help her steal socks from the line to cure her great-aunt's "sock doll block," she lands them in trouble. This tame sequence of events, glimpsed in realistic black-and-white illustrations, is brought to a candy-coated close when Amy rides a bike without training wheels. It's unfortunate that Amy's independence and bravery comes only to gain Crystal's approval; the greater problem is that in presenting an interracial friendship (Crystal and Raymond are African-American), the author smooths over personalities to the point of blandness. (Fiction. 7-10) Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1997

A truth-is-stranger family story from Milich (Can't Scare Me!, 1995, etc.) and newcomer Chen. The daughter and father in a rural black family travel by horse-and-wagon 25 miles to the big city to buy the mother an ornate hat for Easter Sunday. At home, Mama deems it too expensive and puts it aside to return. When Daddy wears it on his milk route the next morning, he tells her the hat has been worn, and she must keep it—a fact that doesn't entirely displease her. She wears the hat to Easter service, where four bird's eggs on its brim hatch during the sermon. The babies' mother has apparently followed it from town to rear the babies, and the whole congregation is caught up in the miracle. At home, Mama places the hat in the branches of a tree. Although the jacket copy makes reference to the truth of the tale, readers will find it farfetched and long-winded. Chen's portraits are often graceful, occasionally awkward, focusing on people, leaving the landscape and interiors as little more than sketches. The faces almost uniformly wear smiles, rendering the book one-dimensional with its glowing good will. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >