A frontier adventure that spotlights one of the many significant roles ethnic Chinese played in American history.

MOUNTAIN CHEF

HOW ONE MAN LOST HIS GROCERIES, CHANGED HIS PLANS, AND HELPED COOK UP THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

Themes of racial discrimination, saving nature, and food and cooking are braided seamlessly in this picture-book biography.

At the turn of the 20th century, Chinese men—whether immigrants or American-born—had little choice when it came to work. Most ended up as cooks in restaurants or laundrymen. But Tie Sing “had dreams as big as the country he loved” and made correspondingly expensive plans. Fueled by a love for the outdoors and a passion for cooking, he soon earned a reputation as the best trail cook in California. In 1915, Tie Sing was hired by millionaire Stephen Mather, who had invited a special group of men to go camping in the hope of convincing Congress to protect the country’s natural wonders. For the first few days, Tie Sing kept everyone well-fed with sardine hors d’oeuvres, sizzling steaks, and fresh-baked sourdough rolls. Unfortunately, disaster struck, not once but twice, and Tie Sing lost much of his provisions but tweaked the menu to carry on. Tie Sing’s talent and resourcefulness played a huge part in the success of Mather’s mission, and within a year, Congress created the National Park Service. Pimentel’s lyrically told account is to the point, explaining that “America was a tough place to be Chinese” before zeroing in on Tie Sing’s culinary wizardry. Lo’s illustrations have an appropriately faded look, neatly evoking both the times and the craggy wilderness.

A frontier adventure that spotlights one of the many significant roles ethnic Chinese played in American history. (Picture book/biography. 5-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-58089-711-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Utterly compelling.

WHEN I WAS EIGHT

The authors of Fatty Legs (2010) distill that moving memoir of an Inuit child’s residential school experience into an even more powerful picture book.

“Brave, clever, and as unyielding” as the sharpening stone for which she’s named, Olemaun convinces her father to send her from their far-north village to the “outsiders’ school.” There, the 8-year-old receives particularly vicious treatment from one of the nuns, who cuts her hair, assigns her endless chores, locks her in a dark basement and gives her ugly red socks that make her the object of other children’s taunts. In her first-person narration, she compares the nun to the Queen in Alice in Wonderland, a story she has heard from her sister and longs to read for herself, subtly reminding readers of the power of literature to help face real life. Grimard portrays this black-cloaked nun with a scowl and a hooked nose, the image of a witch. Her paintings stretch across the gutter and sometimes fill the spreads. Varying perspectives and angles, she brings readers into this unfamiliar world. Opening with a spread showing the child’s home in a vast, frozen landscape, she proceeds to hone in on the painful school details. A final spread shows the triumphant child and her book: “[N]ow I could read.”

Utterly compelling. (Picture book/memoir. 5-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-55451-490-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE

            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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