cover image The Ugly Vegetables

The Ugly Vegetables

Grace Lin. Charlesbridge Publishing, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-88106-336-3

In this debut children's book, a girl and her mother chart their own course in spring planting--and reap the benefits. The girl narrator is clearly disappointed when, unlike her neighbors who prepare flower gardens, she and her mother plant Chinese vegetables that, her mother insists, are ""better than flowers."" While the other backyards yield colorful blooms, her garden becomes crowded with ""ugly vegetables,"" lumpy, bumpy and ""icky yellow."" But when the girl's mother uses them to make a soup, its ""magical aroma"" attracts neighbors to their door--carrying bouquets of flowers from their gardens. Though the pacing of the text is a bit uneven, the mother's confidence in the garden's success and Lin's message of community togetherness buoy up the narrative. A charming, childlike quality infuses the artwork; boldly hued gouache pictures feature skies and lawns as patterned as the girl's kitchen wallpaper and curtains. For ambitious young gardeners and would-be chefs, an illustrated glossary of the vegetables and their Chinese characters along with a soup recipe conclude the volume. Ages 3-8. (July)