Dumpling Days, by Grace Lin; Little, Brown
Books for Young Readers: New York, 2012;
“You should know Taiwan. It’s…” Dad said, his face dimming as he tried to think of the right word in English. His hand fell as he gave up and said it in Chinese instead. “It’s… Taiwan is… bao dao.” (treasure island)
—Pacy’s dad, describing Taiwan in Dumpling Days
Have you ever gone on a trip that changed your life? Well, in Grace Lin’s novel, Dumpling Days, Pacy Lin, an Americanized Taiwanese from New York, does just that. With her parents and two sisters, Pacy goes on an exciting trip to Taiwan to celebrate her grandmother’s birthday. There, not only does Pacy get to see her Chinese relatives, she gets her fortune told, eats varieties of dumplings, and witnesses a special photo shoot. Through her adventures, she learns her true identity and grows closer to those who matter most. Grace Lin’s new novel is full of humorous twists and turns.
In many parts, I can relate to Pacy’s feelings. Like Pacy, I am an American-born Chinese, and I am not yet fluent in the language. I have never been to China or Taiwan, though after reading this novel, I am looking forward to going there so that I can learn more about my heritage and Chinese culture. When I read about Pacy’s troubles and worries because she did not know Chinese, I became motivated to learn more Chinese before I go, to ensure that I don’t feel as lost as she did during my stay.
My favorite part is when they visit the highest mailbox in the world. It is on the eighty-ninth floor of the Taipei 101 building, and it has three sections: Family, Friend, and Lover. Pacy mails a postcard to her best friend, Melody, who had moved away to California, and places it in the Friends box. When Ki-ki, Pacy’s seven-year-old sister, places her card into the Lover box, everyone taunts, “Who’s your boyfriend?” Ki-ki, however, remains indignant. She replies that she does not have a boyfriend and that she mailed it to herself because she has nobody else to send it to. Thinking about Ki-ki putting that postcard into the Lover section made me crack up.
On many pages, there are intricate drawings portraying what is happening in the story. These pictures are very creative, and they give you an idea of how everything looks. My favorite picture is of the four statues portraying the four pleasures of life: yawning, picking your ears, scratching your back, and picking your nose! This shows the Chinese sense of humor.
What I learned from Dumpling Days is that winning and competition isn’t everything. In Pacy’s painting classes, there is this mean girl, Audrey. Audrey tries to criticize Pacy in order to bring attention toward herself. This angers Pacy and makes her concentrate on being better than Audrey. Pacy feels frustrated and unhappy. At the art contest on the last day of classes, a girl named Eva wins for their class. This makes Pacy feel slightly crestfallen that she didn’t win, but she is even more regretful about wasting time competing with Audrey when she could have been befriending Eva and enjoying her classes.
I found Dumpling Days to be a funny and interesting novel, and I hope it will be for you too. I am looking forward to reading Grace Lin’s other novels, also starring Pacy: Year of the Dog and Year of the Rat.