Sunday, September 9, 2018

Dumpling Days

Dumpling Days is the perfect example of Rudine Sims Bishop's brilliant theory that books can be windows or mirrors into readers' lives. There is so much in Grace Lin's middle grade novel that I haven't seen elsewhere, which means that the young girls who resemble the protagonist, in this case, Taiwanese-American Pacy, probably haven't either.

Although there have been two other books written about this character, Dumpling Days was my introduction to Pacy. I don't feel that I missed anything by starting the series at the end, although there may be backstory that I didn't catch. In this novel, Pacy's family is traveling to Taiwan for a vacation and we get to see the country through her eyes. While the stories are tied together by some constants, such as the art classes that Pacy and her sisters take, many of the chapters could be read as separate vignettes (or mentor texts, thinks the teacher in me).

What was especially notable for me was that Dumpling Days discusses things I've never seen in a book before. For example, Pacy's older sister gets a makeover and photo shoot in Taiwan, and has stickers placed on her eyes to create folds. This was a very common plastic surgery at the middle school (!) where I taught in South Korea and was a fact of life for many young adults, but I have never read about it before. I love that young readers who are curious about it can see someone else's opinion in a novel; Pacy's sister likes the look but Pacy doesn't. There is no judgment, it is one small part of their trip, but could be so important for a young reader who is looking for that mirror in a book.

This book is fun and makes me want to check out the rest of the series, as well as making sure it's on the shelf in every classroom I teach in from now on.

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