Children’s Book Review: The Nian Monster

Multiculturalism Rocks! Children’s Book Review: The Nian Monster
Book Title: The Nian Monster
Author: Andrea Wang
Illustrator: Alina Chau
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Co.
Age Range: 4 – 8

Happy Chinese New Year! 2019 marks the Year of the Pig, the symbol of wealth
and fortune.
Image credit: ChineseNewYear.net
To celebrate, I’m excited to share this gem of a story, The Nian Monster, which was also 
recently named an APALA Honor book!

As they hang the traditional decorations for their new year celebration, Xingling’s
grandmother explains that these adornments have served as protection from the wicked
Nian monster. Filled with hunger at the start of the year, Nian would gobble up entire
villages – but, then the people figured out how to keep him away.

“Every monster has a weakness. Nian had three – loud sounds, fire, and the color red.
Our traditions have kept Nian away ever since.”
 
Thousands of years later, Nian has returned and is threatening to eat Xinling and the
whole city. Now, it’s up to her to use her clever nature to outsmart the monster and
save the holiday.
This is not only a fun read, but it’s filled with interesting facts about China and its 
rich history.
 
“Nian’s wide, wicked jaws were stuck fast. The grandmothers had used only glutinous
rice flour. The stickiest kind! So sticky it had been used to build the Great Wall.”
Wang’s exhilarating storytelling matched with Chau’s vibrant illustrations makes this 
a truly riveting read for all ages.

BONUS! Alina Chau was kind enough to share a link to a DIY Lunar New Year
Celebration kit that you can do with kids. To download, click here.
Recommended for:
The little thinker
The future creator
The future storyteller
Learn More:
Andrea Wang
Alina Chau

Where to Buy:
Indiebound.org

MG Review: CLARA LEE AND THE APPLE PIE DREAM, by Jenny Han, Illus. by Julia Kuo

Favorite Quotes
“In Korean, everyone has a special name. I’m Uhnee because that means “big sister.” p. 36

“What was out of style yesterday could be back today, Mr. Eddly. You just never know.” I then walked past him with a little sashay in my step.” p. 44

“Grandpa was in the TV room watching one of his Korean soap operas, the kind where women are always crying and the men wear fancy suits.” p. 90 Cracked me up. A Korean drama is one those hard-to-forget experiences. Armed with tissues, be ready to laugh and cry.

Aaah, Clara Lee!

CLARA LEE AND THE APPLE PIE DREAM, written by Jenny Han and illustrated by Julia Kuo, has all the flavors of your favorite apple dessert: it’s sweet, and the occasional sourness adds a kick that makes you go back for an encore. And add whip cream on top.

Clare Lee is a Korean American third grader full of life, and gifted with serious leadership skills that occasionally get her into trouble. Though the plot evolves around an apple pie contest she’s afraid of but dream of entering, the richness of the story, from my point of view, lies in the depth and diversity of topics explored:
– How does someone as young as Clara Lee handles being bi-cultural? At some point, she struggles with the idea of not being “American” enough.
– She dreams that her grandfather, with whom she lives, passes away. Of course she would be scared. What does it it mean in the Korean culture?
– She’s terrorized by the idea of getting on a stage, facing a crowd, and giving a speech. Will she find a way to overcome her fears in order to enter the contest? Does she have a shot at becoming Miss Little Apple Pie?

One of the elements I enjoyed in CLARA LEE AND THE APPLE PIE DREAM is its celebration of what is at the core of the American culture: its diversity. The tone of the book, the voice of the character, which Jenny Han nailed, is assertive and funny. Clara Lee’s story kept me on my toes because I wondered throughout what would happen to her grandfather. I also enjoyed the bits and pieces about her life as a Korean American, learning how relatives address each other, what they eat…

This is a fun read for 9 and up. 🙂

Additional information:
* published in January 2011
* Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
* Source: won the book at a raffle.