Review: Dumpling Days

Sweet on Books

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Title: Dumpling Days

DumplingDays245 Author: Grace Lin

Themes: Discrimination, Ethnicity/Culture, Family Life, Identity, Physical/Mental Differences, Self-Awareness/Discovery, Siblings, Travel

Published: 2012, 272 pages

'Sweet' book summary:
Pacy is aware that she looks different from the other kids in her class in New Hartford, New York, but that's her home. That's where she feels most comfortable. She may have looked like the other kids at the Taiwanese-American convention she once attended, but she certainly didn't feel like them. They even called her a "Twinkie" saying she was "yellow on the outside but white on the inside!" Now Pacy is heading to Taiwan, where both of her parents grew up, and she's not sure how she's going to fit in there either. She may look like everyone else, but she won't understand their language or their culture. She's not very happy about these summer plans, and to make matters worse, her parents have signed her up for school while she's there!

As Pacy and her sisters, Lissy and Kiki, immerse themselves into the Taiwanese culture, so will the reader. The cities, the subways, the markets, and the restaurants are all described in such detail that by the end, readers will feel like they've just spent a month in Taiwan, too. Some of the differences from life in America are surprising and even funny. There are toilets that sound alarms and play music, and there are garbage trucks that play the same song as the ice cream truck back in New Hartford. Pacy learns how to hold chopsticks and finds out why tapping your fingers is another way to say thank you. School turns out to be a painting class that teaches the Chinese style of painting, and Pacy puts her artistic talents to the test. Although Pacy begins the trip with some hesitation and struggles in her painting class, she slowly learns to adjust to and appreciate her heritage.

This story, told in the first person, focuses on Pacy's thoughts and experiences and her relationship with her siblings and extended family. Outside friendships play only a small role, and the kids are not caught up in modern technology like texting, cell phones or video chatting. Although Pacy's background and experiences are somewhat unique, readers will relate to her concerns over her identity and her feelings about family and school. Readers may also come away with a better understanding of what it is like for someone who feels or looks different from everyone else.



What You Need to Know:
  • A Chinese-American family spends the summer in Taiwan, immersing their three daughters into the local culture.
  • The main character, Pacy, is also the heroine of Grace Lin's The Year of the Dog and The Year of the Rat.
  • Pacy experiences some discrimination both at home in America and during her trip to Taiwan.
  • Dumpling Days is filled with details about traditions, foods, superstitions, and stories specific to the culture of Taiwan.
  • Pacy mentions a crush on a boy from home.
  • Simple drawings, scattered throughout the book, offer further explanation as to what Pacy is seeing and doing.

If you liked this book, try:
  • The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
  • Julia Gillian and the Art of Knowing by Alison McGhee
  • Kimchi & Calamari by Rose Kent
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