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)