Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen and Kellee from Teach Mentor Texts (and brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Two of our blogging friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have inspired us to join this vibrant meme.

Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts

Here are a few of the reviews we have done last week. We are also inviting everyone to join our Award-Winning-Books Reading Challenge. We hosted the AWB Challenge last year and we are thrilled to be able to host it again. Do sign up if you are looking for exciting reading challenges with monthly book prizes. Click on the titles/images below to be taken to our blog posts.

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[Photo Journal/A-Z Photo Challenge] Y is for Yosemite

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[Book Hunting Expedition 58] Indie Bookstores in Singapore Part 2: Silver Kris Bookshop

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These are picture books that were highly recommended during the recently-concluded Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore. It brings me such great excitement and pleasure to share them with you here today for Monday reading.

IMG_7472Cora Cooks Pancit

Story by: Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore
Illustrated by: Kristi Valiant Published by: Shen’s Books 2009
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me. 

This is a picture book that I read aloud to my husband and 11 year old daughter at the dinner table. The lyrical language of the text and the beautiful awe-inspiring illustrations (which play with boundaries and borders, redefining perspectives as seen from a young child’s eye) make this a book that begs to be read aloud again and again.

Cora loved the kitchen. She loved to drink in the smells of Mama’s Filipino dishes.

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While Cora’s older siblings were given glamorous grown-up jobs such as using knives to slice vegetables and shredding chicken with their fingers and mixing noodles in a large bowl, little Cora is left with virtually nothing to do but lick leftovers from spoons (not bad, really, if you think about it) and drawing images in the flour.

When Cora’s three older siblings went to the mall, Cora saw an opportunity to finally help Mama out in the kitchen. And while she liked lumpia, and enjoyed adobo chicken legs, it was pancit that Cora wanted to make with her mother.

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While Cora and her mama prepared the ingredients, soaked the noodles in a bowl of water, and painstakingly pulled chicken pieces apart, Mama also shared stories about Cora’s grandfather who used to be a cook for the Filipino farmworkers in California. The book demonstrates how a seemingly-mundane activity could serve to forge a bond that goes back from one generation to the next: a shared experience that transcends time, cultural boundaries, and singular tastes grounded in a sense of community and togetherness. Whether or not the family would enjoy Cora’s cooking, I shall leave for you to discover.

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This is one of my favorite illustrations from the book. The artwork has a charmingly-sketchy, unfinished quality to it that makes any young artist want to grab a pen and draw as well. The narrative is also exquisite in its deceptively-simple storytelling that rings so true and so authentic it actually brought tears to my eyes. Finally! A Filipino-American picture book – not something that you find everyday. Now I have the perfect book to recommend to our family in the States.

newyearcover2475A New Year’s Reunion

Story By: Yu Li-Qiong 
Illustrations by: Zhu Cheng-Liang
Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2007 Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

This is one of the picture books recommended by Naomi Kojima during her Keynote Speech. I am glad to have found it in our libraries.

Young Maomao’s father is home from work for the Chinese New Year. Since father only comes home once a year, it took quite a while for Maomao to recognize, much less get used to, her father.

The bright paints, the constant movement breathing life in each of the pages demonstrate a gentle depiction of everyday life – suggesting that both writer and artist have an intimate knowledge of their surroundings and the tiny, often-unnoticed gestures that signify affection, warmth, longing, exuberance, and celebration of togetherness.

This time our little girl was making sticky rice balls with her Papa:

Papa buries a coin in one of the balls and says, “Whoever finds the ball with the coin will have good luck.”

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And so the family does New Year visits as Maomao exchanges notes with friend Dachun who got a big red envelope for Chinese New Year – angpao! Father fixes things around the house and carries little Maomao in his big broad shoulders to watch the dragon dance on Main Street. Just as our adorable young girl gets used to having Father around, he has to leave again for work. This is a bittersweet picture book that would definitely resonate with families of migrant workers or those who are forced to live apart by virtue of circumstance.

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However, instead of being overly-dramatic and maudlin, this book is a quiet celebration of life’s simplest pleasures and the unexpected joy of finding a good luck coin in a sticky rice ball. A must-find! 🙂

Currently Reading…

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I brought this book as my airplane companion when I traveled to Budapest last Saturday. It’s a fairly easy read – a beautiful and surreal collection of three short stories about bewitchment, lost loves, and the ghosts of promises unfulfilled.

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And since I spent more time sleeping on the plane, I made sure that I finish the book during my first day in Budapest. And so I spent the early evening at the park near this beautiful cathedral finishing Banana Yoshimoto’s “Asleep.” And as I swim deeper into the book, two young men in a gondola would glide continually past with one of them singing Italian songs at the top of his lungs ala Pavarotti. Talk about a serenade throughout the entire park. I think I’m going to like this place.

How about you, dear friends, what have you been reading this week?

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Cora Cooks Pancit – Winner of 2010 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature

A New Year’s Reunion: Feng ZiKai Chinese Children’s Picture Book Award; one of the 10 Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2011 (New York Times Book Review)

AWB Reading Challenge: 39/40 (35)

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Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Singapore. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she serves as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads or meeting up with her book club friends, she is smashing that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life.

8 comments on “Monday Reading: Of Sticky Rice Balls and Pancit – Cora Cooks Pancit and A New Year’s Reunion

  1. I’ve actually read Cora Cooks Pancit. I should have tried the recipe to cook it for a complete experience of the book! I love all the identifying marks of a library book. Thank goodness for them!

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  2. You travel to such interesting places, Myra…and read such wonderful books! I’ll have to hunt for A New Years’ Reunion, now.

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  3. What a wonderful collection of books! A New Year’s Reunion and Cora Cooks Pancit look fabulous!

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  4. I couldn’t find Cora Cooks Pansit at our library, but did find it on Goodreads. And I did find The New Year’s Reunion one at the library. Both seem very sweet, Myra, and the illustrations are beautiful. I do like that last page you shared with the shadows! Have fun in Budapest-busy lady!

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  5. Wow! Looks like you are having an adventure of your own! Love the look of all your books. 🙂

    Check outThe Monster Report

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  6. This is a really neat post. I love all of the pictures–it truly makes me want to go out and buy the books. 🙂

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  7. Pingback: [Multicultural Children's Book Day] Issues and Class Discussion |

  8. Pingback: [Saturday Reads] Want to know “All about the Philippines”? Here’s a Tuttle Travel Book For Your Young Ones | Gathering Books

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