Love as Strong as Ginger

Lenore Look, Author, Stephen T. Johnson, Illustrator Atheneum Books $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-689-81248-4
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)
Reviewed on: 05/03/1999
Release date: 05/01/1999
Genre: Children's
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