Boy Dumplings

Ying Chang Compestine, Author, James Yamasaki, Illustrator , illus. by James Yamasaki. Holiday House $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8234-1955-5

A macabre blue phantom ends up a comic foil for an animated, rotund Chinese boy in this tongue-in-cheek ghost story. Reminiscent of the clever rodent in Arnold Lobel’s Mouse Soup , the lively hero (who resembles a young Buddha with hair) outwits his ghost captor and delays his demise by providing an involved recipe for boy dumplings, which sends the ghost traipsing through town to collect rotten onions and wormy cabbage, among other ingredients and supplies. (The boy’s recipe explains, “1. Fill bucket with warm water. Wash boy thoroughly, especially behind ears and between toes. 2. Reserve bath water. Dry boy, massage boy’s feet, and let boy nap.”) Children will delight in the ghost’s gullibility, though younger readers may not fully understand the ruse. Yamasaki’s illustrations of the dim-witted ghost—a cross between Fu Manchu and Nosferatu—can be frightening, but it’s clear the impish boy almost always has the upper hand. Compestine’s (The Real Story of Stone Soup ) haunting tale is an entertaining, not-too-scary offering, and an endnote explains some Chinese traditions and beliefs regarding ghosts. Ages 4–8. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 08/10/2009
Release date: 08/01/2009
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