AWB (Award-Winning-Books) 2015 Books GB Challenges It's Monday What Are You Reading Literary Silk Road - China and Middle East Picture Books Reading Themes

[Monday Reading] Soybean Picnics and Mahjong: Family Rituals and Traditions in Ginnie and Beth Lo’s Picturebooks


Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.

Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts

We’re also inviting everyone to join our Award Winning Books Reading Challenge for 2015 (#AWBRead2015)! It’s that time of the year to set new reading goals for the coming year.


Here is the sign up page and the May-June linky if you already have reviews up. One randomly-selected participant would receive a copy of Lone Wolf, courtesy of Pansing books.

Click here to view my announcement post to learn more details.


I chanced upon these two books created by sister-tandem Beth and Ginnie Lo as I was browsing through possible books to feature in our library. Both books celebrate the joy of family togetherness, meals shared together, and the many distinctive features of what makes a home away from home.

IMG_0925Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic

Written by: Ginnie Lo Illustrated by: Beth Lo
Published by: Lee & Low Books, Inc., 2012
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

For immigrant families, finding a taste of home in a different country is a cause for celebration. This is exactly what happened to Auntie Yang and her family as they chanced upon a soybean farm in Illinois while on their usual Sunday Drive with two families squeezed into the family’s old car:


In Illinois, soybeans were grown to feed cows and pigs, not people – but in China, soybeans were one of the most important foods of all.

As all surprising discoveries go, this particular one has grown from a small soybean picnic with two families to a large annual event that gathers “young Chinese immigrant families who had been displaced by the political upheaval in China during World War II. The picnic continued to grow over a span of forty years and was always one of the highlights of late summer” as found in the Author’s and Illustrator’s Note.


I like how the picturebook started off with the classic road trip of families visiting each other during the summer and ended with the families’ embracing the community and finding their place in their new home. Unlike other picturebooks, this one has more text than usual, and the reader needs to be somewhat invested in the story to stay on; but it does pay off beautifully in the end. Loosely based on the author’s and illustrator’s experiences as Chinese-Americans, this book would be a wonderful addition to any teacher’s or parent’s multicultural library.

Mahjong All Day LongIMG_0933

Written by: Ginnie Lo Illustrated by: Beth Lo
Published byWalker & Company, 2005
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Compared to Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic, this book is a much lighter read with around two lines of text found on each page with small asides written in smaller fonts on the bottom of the page with Chinese translations.


Unlike other American families, perhaps, who play board games like Monopoly or word games like Scrabble, the family of sisters Beth and Ginnie Lo play mahjong instead for fun and recreation. While mahjong may also be considered a competitive game, the sisters noted that they usually just play for fun, and their games are accompanied with BaBa allowing the kids to sit from his lap or Uncle T. T. singing Chinese opera as he plays, or Auntie Helen nibbling on watermelon seeds as could be found in the image above.


Beth and Ginnie Lo were able to capture the little gestures, the tiny details that when stacked together like mahjong tiles – make up a family.

Teachers and parents would also be happy to note that there is an extensive backmatter that provides a full description of what mahjong is as well as other reference materials that the reader may want to check out to know more about mahjong.

Currently Reading…


I finished reading Tim Winton’s Eyrie for my book club at my institution – truly an achingly beautiful novel. I can not wait to discuss this novel next week as there were a few book club friends who mentioned that it was a bit slow-going for them in the beginning. The pace picked up considerably somewhere in the middle, and eventually became a page-turner in the end. I am unable to connect to the characters in the story, but I felt deeply sorry for the young boy who was at the heart of the entire narrative and provided the main character some semblance of redemption and eventually proved to be his undoing. Definitely a book-club kind of novel.

Since I have three book clubs here, I also need to read The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky for Saturday Night Out for Book Geeks and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by e.l. konigsburg for GatheringReaders, my book club with young readers at the Jurong West Public Library this month. Since I am traveling to Putrajaya Malaysia tomorrow to present a paper at the Asia Oceania Regional IBBY Congress organized by the Malaysian Board on Books for Young People, I will have time to read on the bus while on my way there.

I am also reading The Kindly Ones by Neil Gaiman and The Wave In The Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader and the Imagination by Ursula LeGuin.


Mahjong All Day Long won the national Marion Vannett Ridgeway Award for first time writers/ illustrators and a Montana Honor Book Award.

Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic won Best Children’s Books of the Year – Bank Street College of Education; Charlotte Zolotow Award – Highly Commended Title – Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC); Picture Book winner – Oregon Spirit Book Award

#AWBRead2015 Reading Challenge: 42-43 (35)

10 comments on “[Monday Reading] Soybean Picnics and Mahjong: Family Rituals and Traditions in Ginnie and Beth Lo’s Picturebooks

  1. So glad to learn about both picture books, thank you. And goodness to three book clubs, quite a commitment! 🙂


  2. Mah Jong! Now I’m nostalgic for the time I lived in the Philippines and I would play mah jong!


  3. Read an article once about different types of soy beans. A lot are grown in Ohio, too, but there may be different kinds for animal feed, processing for soy products, and ones that are eaten. Sort of like the difference between field corn (for animals) and sweet corn (for people). Having tasted field corn, I know THAT difference!


  4. Both of these picture books look just delightful. Even though I haven’t moved a world away, I miss the landscapes of my home town. I’m looking forward to finding and reading them. I hope you enjoy The Perks of Being A Wallflower. I listened to it as an audiobook and Johnny Heller’s narration was perfect for it. I loved it so much I purchased a copy of the book and read it again.


  5. I live surrounded by soybean fields–and occasionally we can even find soybeans for people n the grocery store. My father-in-law also keeps us supplied with soybean candy (covered in chcolate). I am so glad I don’t get carsick while I read in the car. I do so much reading while riding in the car. I LOVE From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler, but I’m embarrassed not to have read Perks of Being a Wallflower yet. Enjoy your clubs!


  6. Thank you so much for these titles. They are both new to us and we can’t wait to read them.


  7. Perks of Being a Wallflower is a favorite with students in my Adolescent Lit class. It made the rounds in Children’s Lit this semester too. Plus a good film adaptation! I’m envious of your book clubs! My YA book club petered out when its main members left campus to go student teach this semester, but I’ve got two colleagues who are willing to start a new club for faculty & students in the fall. Hoping this one will stick!


  8. I’m planning on reading Perks of Being a Wallflower for Banned Books Week this year. I’ve never read it before. I hope you enjoy all of your reading this week!


  9. Oh, thank you for reminding me that I want to put Wild Things on my summer reading list!


  10. I see the picture of Wild Things – that’s on my summer read list! I’ve heard some good things, and I’m so intrigued to read the stories!


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