Two edamame beans want to become world-famous table tennis players.
Ping (who wears a high ponytail) and Pong (who has no hair but a cool, sporty sweatband) are both born on the same day. All of the other newborn beans in their respective pods are tiny and docile, but Ping and Pong are immediately goal-driven. They want to become table tennis champions. However, only one can be the best in the world. After an intense match, employing the secret finishing move of their Mighty Burning Paddle Shot, Ping wins! But while Ping is elated, silver-medalist Pong is not. Following a pep talk from Ping, Pong is ready to play again. In a message as heavy-handed as Ping’s winning shot, Gatti pointedly spells out that “The joy is in the game, not the winning.” Flat, minimalistic art magnifies the beans’ droll personalities (even their paddles have tiny smiles). Ping and Pong are delightfully rotund soy characters, and the story has an amusing premise—of course edamame would play table tennis—but the whole work leans heavily into the final lesson. Notably, although Ping’s ponytail might lead readers to infer feminine identity, the text rebels, using a singular “their” to introduce that game-winning move.
Learning to lose (or win) gracefully is a sport all its own in this book that is subtler in its address of gender than its message. (Picture book. 4-8)