The Ugly Dumpling
Everyone loves the dumplings at the Golden Swan Chinese Restaurant, but no one wants the ugly dumpling of the title: it doesn’t look like anything like the other pot stickers in the bamboo steamer, not even when it tries to wrinkle its brow or wear pleated pants (one of several excellent foodie jokes from debut author Campisi). “Uneaten and ignored,” it’s befriended by a cockroach, who promises, “I will show you the beauty of the world.” Together they traverse mountains of flour and gaze at fortune cookie pyramids, and the ugly dumpling discovers a new gastronomic identity as a steamed bun (“It puffed with importance and yeast”). However, another dilemma arises: cockroaches are anathema to restaurants. From the wordplay of the premise to Kober’s (The Flying Hand of Marco B.
) crisp pictures and Campisi’s easygoing sense of humor, it’s a story with plenty of promise. But the global tour has little bearing on the dumpling’s epiphany, and the ending, which finds the friends leaving the restaurant to live in a Dumpster, is something of a letdown. Ages 2–8. Author’s agent: Stacey Glick, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. Illustrator’s agent: Justin Rucker, Shannon Associates. (Apr.)