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Exploring Chinatown: A Children's Guide to Chinese Culture

by: Carol Stepanchuk

Berkeley CA: Pacific View Press 2002, Paperback
ISBN: 1-881896-25-0

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Fall Volume: 2004 Issue: 11(3) page(s): 21

The holidays are coming and the China Books catalogue introduced us to this oversized cultural gem that also doubles for small fry and bigger blokes. Geared to competent readers, its sixty-four pages are full of facts and fancies, illustrations and photographs. There is a plethora of pages and paragraphs about food, staying healthy, reading and writing, numbers and Chinese chess, festivals and family, temples and beliefs, art and performing arts, and Chinatown’s in the United States and Canada. Read about the Chinese character that requires the most number of strokes. It is for expressing xian or fresh and tasty; and it needs thirty-three brush strokes. It has another fascination. The character is written as the word yu three times. Those in the know, know that yu means fish. Want to know the longest character, as a pun? It is for the word 'inside.' Why, you ask? Because this character has the word 'mile' between the first and last of its strokes. Oh my, the things one can learn.

The food section is a yummy batch of pages. It discusses eating out, early Chinese restaurants, home cookery, many food facts, everyday snacks and holiday treats, manners at mealtimes, and much more. Foods are not only in that section, they are in almost every other one. The page about a Chinese family tree, clues us in to why the word for family is written 'pig under roof.' Counting shows how to read a restaurant check. Talking about one Chinatown tells about where and why the fortune cookie came into being; and on and on.

There is a recipe to make potstickers, instructions on making a brush painting, what eight items tell if you find them in pictures, who the eight immortals are, and how to identify and illustrate them; also what heroes and villains, warriors and bandits, and supernatural spirits look like and the colors that represent them.

This book delights and can be a welcome gift for those young at heart and those whose heart is in to things Chinese. If you know and like Mooncakes and Hungry Ghosts that was reviewed in Flavor and Fortune's Volume 8(4) on page 13, than plan early and treat yourself to this Stepanchuk volume. Reading it makes for a great holiday.(br>

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