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Runaway Rice Cake

Overview

It's the Chinese New Year, and the Chang Family has only enough rice flour to make one nián-gão, a special New Year's rice cake, for the entire family to eat. But this delicious little nián-gão has other ideas. "Ai yo! I don't think so!" it cries, coming to life and escaping.
Ming, Cong, little Da and their parents chase the nián-gão all over the village until it runs into a hungry, old woman and sends her tumbling to the ground. Though Da is a small boy, his heart is big enough...

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Overview

It's the Chinese New Year, and the Chang Family has only enough rice flour to make one nián-gão, a special New Year's rice cake, for the entire family to eat. But this delicious little nián-gão has other ideas. "Ai yo! I don't think so!" it cries, coming to life and escaping.
Ming, Cong, little Da and their parents chase the nián-gão all over the village until it runs into a hungry, old woman and sends her tumbling to the ground. Though Da is a small boy, his heart is big enough to share the treat with her, even though that leaves Da's family with nothing to eat for their own celebration. But the Changs' generosity doesn't go unnoticed. When they return home, they find the Kitchen God has left a wonderful surprise for them.
Ying Chang Compestine's heartwarming story conveys an important and poignant message about sharing and compassion. Tungwai Chau's soft and evocative illustrations complete this tender holiday story.

After chasing the special rice cake, Nian Gao, that their mother has made to celebrate the Chinese New Year, three poor brothers share it with an elderly woman and have their generosity richly rewarded.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Debut children's author Compestine crosses "The Gingerbread Man" with the traditional folktale of the bottomless rice jar for this story reinforcing the importance of giving. On the eve of the Chinese New Year, the Chang family prays to the Kitchen God, then prepares to make the holiday rice cakes, the ni n-gao. However, they have only enough rice flour for one, and when it's done, the ni n-gao pops out of the pan and runs away. Like the gingerbread man, the runaway cake leads a rollicking chase, evading livestock ("Ai yo! Pig's too slow!") and market-goers ("Ai yo! Away I go!"). Finally, it collides with a famished old woman, and, when the Changs offer to share the ni n-gao with her, she gratefully eats the whole thing. Upon their return home, however, a succession of neighbors greets the hungry family with what little they can share. Poppa Chang invites everyone to join in the sparse meal, and, in a magical ending, the bowls of food on the table expand to overflowing--a reward (from the Kitchen God, the text hints) for the family's kindness. Compestine's engaging tale brims with intriguing details of the traditions that surround the holiday (and, as the author of adult cookbooks, she also includes recipes for ni n-gao). First-time picture book artist Chau makes a splash with vibrant acrylics whose textured surface and controlled, sophisticated blending of shades mimic the look of pastels. His backgrounds, costumes and animals are more detailed than the characters' facial expressions, but he succeeds in communicating a warmth between family and neighbors. Ages 5-8. (Jan.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4-A tale of tenderness and sharing. It is Chinese New Year's Eve, and the Chang family is preparing to celebrate the holiday. Although they have very little food, they have enough rice flour to make one New Year's rice cake. However, when the ni n-gao is cooked, it comes to life, pops out of the pan, and leads the Changs on a merry chase through the village. The errant cake is finally caught after it collides with an old woman and knocks her to the ground. When the family discovers that she hasn't eaten for several days, the youngest son suggests that they share the cake with her. Their generosity is later rewarded, as several villagers bearing gifts of food arrive at the Chang house. Magically, more and more food appears on the table, until there is enough for everyone to eat. Figurative drawings, while reminiscent of the art in various retellings of "The Gingerbread Boy," have a softer and more whimsical nature. Each page combines a vibrancy of color with more muted background tones. A brief pronunciation guide, along with information about the New Year and two recipes, extends the story. A welcome addition to stories such as Karen Chinn's Sam and the Lucky Money (Lee & Low, 1995) and Leo Politi's classic Moy Moy (Scribner, 1960; o.p.), which highlight other aspects of this holiday.-Tina Hudak, St. Bernard's School, Riverdale, MD Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689829727
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 1/1/2001
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 700,774
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD300L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Ying Chang Compestine was born in Wuhan, China, and came to the U.S. when she was twenty-three. Growing up in China during the lean years of the Cultural Revolution, Ying often dreamed of the kind of Chinese New Year celebrated in this book. Aside from playing with her young son and his friends, Ying loves to write, cook, eat, and travel. Consequently, she spends a lot of time writing stories for children and cookbooks for adults. She lives in Boulder, Colorado, with her husband and son.

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