Delicious wonton soup brings together a Chinese-American girl, her grandfather, and the community in this middle-grade novel.
Third-grader Lily Lo of San Francisco wants nothing more than for her school’s soccer team, the Leopard Sharks, to go to the Big Match. But there’s one thing she wants almost as much: to show off her skills to her grandfather Gung Gung. He’s never come to her games before, but with her mother’s new work schedule, Gung Gung will be there, and Lily can’t wait. But whenever she looks over to the stands, her grandpa is reading his newspaper and clipping coupons, not even looking at the field. Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. Morales, grandparents of Lily’s best friend Rosana, are on their feet, watching and cheering Ro’s every move. Another anxiety is starting Chinese school; Ro won’t be there, but Deb, the bossy, critical daughter of the soccer coach, will. Lily’s frustrations make her lose focus at crucial moments, but she gets a new perspective on her grandfather when he teaches her to make wonton soup from scratch and takes her to the senior center. She realizes he’s given up his time with friends to take her to games, and his coupons have gone toward buying ingredients for soup served at the center. After the Big Match, Lily teaches the Sharks how to make soup for the seniors, and her friends realize that being a team goes beyond winning games. Hall (1964-2016) was a writer and producer who received three Emmy Awards. In her sole novel, she offers an easily relatable character in Lily, with her energy, desire for attention, and bursts of resentment or worry. These lead her to mistakes, often comical, if not to Lily, but the incidents give her cause for self-reflection. She learns to look beyond her own concerns and consider others’ hardships. The book explores the Chinese-American experience—not just through making wonton soup, but also, for example, when Lily discovers she enjoys learning traditional Chinese characters—and the universal delight in delicious food, which the ending spotlights. A glossary of unfamiliar terms is included.
A well-told, thoughtful, amusing story of maturing perspective.