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Love as Strong as Ginger

Overview

Katie loves to show her grandma how to dress a Barbie...and GninGnin loves to show Katie how to make rice dumplings. More than anything, Katie longs to go with GninGnin to work, to crack a mountain of crabs alongside her at the crab cannery.
One day Katie gets her wish, but nothing is the way she'd imagined it. GninGnin swings a heavy mallet from sunup to sundown in a noisy, smelly room, earning barely enough for bus fare and a fish for dinner. That evening, when Katie eats the ...

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Overview

Katie loves to show her grandma how to dress a Barbie...and GninGnin loves to show Katie how to make rice dumplings. More than anything, Katie longs to go with GninGnin to work, to crack a mountain of crabs alongside her at the crab cannery.
One day Katie gets her wish, but nothing is the way she'd imagined it. GninGnin swings a heavy mallet from sunup to sundown in a noisy, smelly room, earning barely enough for bus fare and a fish for dinner. That evening, when Katie eats the delicious meal that GninGnin has cooked — "made with love as strong as ginger and dreams as thick as black-bean paste" — she has a new understanding of her beloved grandma's hard life, and the sacrifices she's made to give her granddaughter a brighter future.
All the poignancy of Lenore Look's beautifully realized story — based on her own childhood memories of her Chinese immigrant grandmother — is captured in Caldecott Honor Medalist Stephen T. Johnson's sensitive, expressive pastels.

A Chinese American girl comes to realize how hard her grandmother works to fulfill her dreams when they spend a day together at the grandmother's job cracking crabs.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Inspired by Look's memories of her Chinese immigrant grandmother, this nostalgic book is liberally sprinkled with Taishanese, and the feelings conveyed are just as authentic as the language. When Katie accompanies GninGnin, her grandmother, to the crab cannery, she learns how long and hard GninGnin works as she cracks 200 pounds of crab meat a day and earns "enough for bus fare and a fish for dinner... and someday, maybe enough to help you go to college". Filled with poetic details in GninGnin's kitchen, salted fish hang "like laundry above our heads", the narrative will appeal to all those immigrant families that sacrifice to provide their children with a better life. The first-time author doesn't flinch from describing the harsh conditions in the chong, or cannery, but her story focuses on the strength and dreams of the women who work there. When Katie is tired from standing, GninGnin informs her, "There's only one place to sit--on the toilet upstairs." Katie asks, "How do you keep going?" and her grandmother says, "Don't you know that I'm a famous actress making a movie in a crab chong?... How can I give up when I'm the star?" Johnson's Alphabet City pastels, each framed with a plain, solid-colored border, favor close-up views, suggesting a series of intimate moments, even within the cannery. Sometimes sketchy, the illustrations imply a mood rather than tell a story, and in this way intensify the emotional content of the text. Ages 5-9. May Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 1-4-Inspired by the author's memories of her grandmother, this gentle story is carefully and precisely told. On one of her Saturday visits to GninGnin's Chinatown apartment, Katie asks to see the crab cannery where her grandmother toils during the week along with other immigrant women. In a first-person narrative filled with sensory details, the girl conveys the harsh realities of work in the steamy, smelly factory. A day of cracking crabs and shaking out their meat earns only "...enough for bus fare and a fish for dinner...and someday, maybe enough to help you go to college." GninGnin keeps fatigue and boredom at bay by laughingly pretending to be a movie star. Johnson's expressive pastel-and-watercolor illustrations are rendered in muted colors and set within wide, softly colored margins. Focused on revealing sensations and emotions, the artwork is very different from the precise architectural depictions in Johnson's Alphabet City Viking, 1995. Though they seem casual and loose, the illustrations are carefully composed, with gesture and expression contributing to the psychological depth of the poetic text. This account of a girl's loving relationship with her grandmother is dramatized with details as specific as the Taishanese dialect that they speak. From her, Katie learns that good food and dreams of a better future are important enough to work hard for, but that love is a sustaining gift.-Margaret A. Chang, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Joanna Long
Johnson reflects the tone of quiet celebration in small, square pastel-and-watercolor illustrations centered on the slightly larger pages. He focuses on faces, full of strength even when they're weary; on food, prepared with loving care to be beautiful as well as nourishing and delicious; and on the hands that do the work.
The Horn Book Magazine
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689812484
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 5/1/1999
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD460L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Lenore Look

Lenore Look is the author of Ruby Lu, Brave and True, an ALA Notable Book; Love As Strong As Ginger, illustrated by Caldecott Honor artist Stephen T. Johnson; and Henry's First-Moon Birthday, illustrated by Yumi Heo. She lives in Randolph, New Jersey.

Stephen T. Johnson is the creator of such well-known children’s books as the Publishers Weekly bestseller My Little Red Toolbox, the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award winner My Little Yellow Taxi, the Caldecott Honor and New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year Alphabet City, and the New York Times Best Illustrated and ALA Notable Book A Is for Art. His drawings and paintings are in numerous private and permanent collections, including the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and a mosaic mural at the DeKalb Avenue subway station in Brooklyn, New York. Johnson and his family live in Lawrence, Kansas. Visit him at StephenJohnsonStudio.com.

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