Tofu Quilt

Overview

Growing up in Hong Kong in the 1960s, Yeung Ying is tired of hearing how important boys are. After all, she can write letters and recite poems as well as—even better than—her boy cousins.

Luckily, Yeung Ying's mother thinks "girls and boys are just the same." Despite protests from her husband’s family, Ma uses what little money the family has to send her daughter to private school. There Yeung Ying begins to fall in love with books and writing. Combining this new passion with ...

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Overview

Growing up in Hong Kong in the 1960s, Yeung Ying is tired of hearing how important boys are. After all, she can write letters and recite poems as well as—even better than—her boy cousins.

Luckily, Yeung Ying's mother thinks "girls and boys are just the same." Despite protests from her husband’s family, Ma uses what little money the family has to send her daughter to private school. There Yeung Ying begins to fall in love with books and writing. Combining this new passion with the colorful experiences of her daily life, Yeung Ying discovers that even girls can dare to dream.

In her first collection of poems, Ching Yeung Russell captures elements of her youth in rich, vivid snapshots and authentic detail. Readers of all backgrounds will relate to spirited Yeung Ying, her dynamic family, and her courage in the face of life’s obstacles.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Michael Jung
In this highly accessible autobiography, Chinese author Ching Yeung Russell relates several stories from her childhood in 1950s Hong Kong through narrative poems. Although her family is poor (causing her family to invent their own niceties, such as the "tofu quilts" her tailor father sews out of tofu-shaped scraps of leftover fabric), Russell's strong-willed mother insists on private school education for her daughter, even as other relatives argue that further education is pointless for a girl. Fueled by this support, and her own passion to become a writer, Russell spends long hours writing and earning money for books, and eventually realizes her dreams. Compulsively readable, Russell's poems show both positive and negative aspects of Chinese culture—revealing how many families like her own place a strong emphasis on education and personal industry, even as some of her other relatives fall prey to vices such as gambling and personal prejudices. It is an illuminating and enjoyable look at a life lived in a different time and place, but one still relatable to many readers. Reviewer: Michael Jung
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—This collection of free-verse poems is based on Russell's childhood and her journey to becoming an author. Yeung Ying leaves Hong Kong to spend the summer with her Uncle Five and his children in mainland China. When she recites classical Chinese poems for him, he rewards her with a special treat—a bowl of custard known as dan lai. She loves this treat so much that she vows to be a good student and become a writer. In 1960s China, many girls do not get the chance to have the education she receives, but she has financial support from her uncle, who appreciates her intelligence and determination, and her mother stands up for her right to an education. The story is revealed through Russell's tender poems that beautifully describe Yeung Ying's surroundings, her home life, her family, and her inner thoughts. The poems are simple, yet filled with images and language that create an atmosphere that brings the child's early years to light. Aspiring young authors will be encouraged and inspired by this patchwork of poetry.—Angela J. Reynolds, Annapolis Valley Regional Library, Bridgetown, NS, Canada
Kirkus Reviews
In bright, quick free-verse snapshots, Russell highlights her childhood path to writing. At five, Ying visits relatives in Mainland China and effortlessly memorizes classical poems better than her older cousins, earning a life-changing reward: dan lai. "[I]t looks like a big, round moon / has fallen into my bowl," and after eating it, she refrains from brushing her teeth to savor the taste forever. But it's expensive, and the town where it's a specialty is too far from Hong Kong. Ying hears everywhere that boys are better than girls, but Ma sends her to private school even at the cost of grocery money. Maternal support, the praise of a few teachers (others mock her) and a cousin's crucial declaration that "[d]an lai is made from milk. / Milk is protein, and / protein will strengthen your brain," convince Ying that she can and must become a writer-for the excuse of requiring "MORE dan lai!" It's clear that she truly loves writing anyway, but dan lai provides the sensory thread of this sweet, clear tale, which ends with two victories. Full-color illustrations not seen. (author's note, glossary) (Memoir/poetry. 9-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781600604232
  • Publisher: Lee & Low Books, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/1/2009
  • Pages: 136
  • Age range: 9 years
  • Lexile: 970L (what's this?)

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 29, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Inspiring for all readers

    Each time I sat down to read tofu quilt, I felt like I was spending a moment with the author listening to her poems face to face. Her life stories are inspiring and provide a window into a time when women were expected to be quiet - and she was not. This is a wonderful book for all types of readers!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 17, 2012

    Beautiful Story about Rejecting Society's Limitations

    I could not put this book down once I started it. In the span of two hours, I managed to laugh, cry and burst with pride at Ching Yeung's adventures. Her depiction of her childhood as a girl in 1950s-1960s Hong Kong brings the reader to that time and place. I was right there with her, applauding her independence and self-will to become something society said she couldn't. And I cheered when she finally made herself and her family proud. What a wonderful power of example for young girls everywhere, no matter the culture or country. This is a beautiful story.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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