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Story of Chopsticks; and The Story of Noodles

by: Ying Chang Compestine

New York NY: Holiday House 2001, $16.95, Hardbound
ISBN: 0-8234-1526-0 and 0-8234-1600-3

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Fall Volume: 2002 Issue: 9(4) page(s): 23

For children, we recommend these two books by the same author. They are illustrated by the talented Yong Sheng Xuan, and are books to delight kids and those who read to them. In the first book, adults and children are bound to praise Kuai Kang, the youngest in the story's family as his brilliant plan to grab food with sticks not only takes hold, but also is used to mark a wedding.

In the noodle book, kids at heart can empathize with those in the books that decorate their house with long strips of dough. Everyone will worry if Mama Kang’s famous dumplings ever get made and are submitted to the contest. Those in this family invent mian tiao or flour strips.

Both books see kids in hot water that win the day. Children and their care-givers should be tempted to prepare these foods. With the help of an adult it is easy to make the recipe in either book. Long life noodle making is an experience that every child, no matter the age, should do. In the chopstick book, the Sweet Eight Treasure Rice Pudding can be a budding artist’s pleasure as he or she sets the garnish in the pan and sees it inverted when the dish is done and served. Both recipes are tempting, easy, and things children of all ages can do and devour.

In the Chopstick volume, everyone learns how to handle kuai zi, how their name came about, and some commonsense Chinese style about chopstick use. Using their noodle, the Kang boys accidentally invent a new dish. By the time the tale is told, you will learn how to roll noodles around the tips of your chopsticks in the manner Chinese parents teach their kids.

The author should have used her own noodle and checked out the Marco Polo story. Given credit where he deserves none, you and she need to know that Marco Polo did not bring noodles back to Italy. A pasta museum in Naples, in the south of Italy's boot, attests to that. Many history books corroborate the carbon-dated relics in Naples, they put pasta in Italy long before Polo shipped out to China. No problem. Just do not read the author's note to the kids on the page after the noodle recipe. Skip it and get to the tempting task that awaits, you will be glad you did.

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