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by Janet S. Wong & illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine

Age Range: 3 - 7

Pub Date: May 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-15-202543-X
Publisher: Harcourt

“No one wants Chinese food / on the Fourth of July, I say. / Fireworks are Chinese, Father says, / and hands me a pan full of sweet-and-sour pork.” A Chinese-American girl grapples with issues of culture, identity, and acceptance in this well-conceived work. In the opening spread, executed in a printmaking technique similar in style to a woodcut, the girl leans against the gray door of her parents’ store wearing a long expression on her face and a red-and-white striped shirt with blue overalls. “I hear the parade coming this way—/ boom, boom, boom. / I smell apple pie in Laura’s oven upstairs,” she says. Yet in her own kitchen, her parents prepare chow mein. Later, a quintet of evenly spaced spot illustrations stretch across the length of the page. Text appears above the pictures of the girl sitting on a green stool: “One o’clock, / and they buy ice cream. / Two o’clock. / The egg rolls are getting hard. / Three o’clock. / Ice and matches. / Four o’clock, / and the noodles feel like shoelaces.” “My parents do not understand all American things. / They were not born here,” she says on the next spread, certain that the food will go uneaten. But her demeanor changes when customers start trickling in. Soon, she steps behind the counter to help fill orders. In the end, the story comes full circle as the girl heads to the rooftop to watch the fireworks with her family and friends from the neighborhood; on the final spread, she eats a piece of apple pie. All at once, cultural boundaries don’t seem quite as defined. (Picture book. 3-7)