Seven-year-old Marisa, an Asian American girl in Hawai'i, learns to make dumplings for her family's New Year's celebration.
DUMPLING SOUP is my first published picture book for children. It is based on my childhood experiences of celebrating New Year's in Hawai'i. After I moved to the mainland, I discovered that New Year's Eve was geared toward adults, who partied all night while waiting for the ball to drop in Times Square. In Hawai'i, New Year's was always family oriented, a time for enjoying large quantities of food and basking in cultural traditions. I wanted children to know that New Year's could be even more fun than Christmas, and to show them why it was my favorite holiday.
All the main characters in DUMPLING SOUP are based on real people, most of whom still live in Hawai'i. Marisa's brother Hiram is based on my older brother, Newton. Grandma is an important character in the story, as my own maternal grandmother represented the heart of the Yang family. She, in essence, raised Newton and me while my parents worked. The aunts, Elsie, Ruth, and Grace, are really three of my mother's four sisters.
Now that I am grown, I miss these New Year's celebrations, which stopped shortly after my grandmother passed away.
Everyone loves to make and eat dumplings!
Activities Across the Curriculum
Most of these activities were enjoyed by the students I visited while I was a writer-in-residence at Parklawn Elementary in Alexandria, Virginia.
1. Research other types of New Year's celebrations. Make murals or dioramas illustrating these.
2. Describe other kinds of family celebrations or special traditions. Interview several family members to gather anecdotes about past celebrations. Share these orally or in essays.
3. Read HOW MY PARENTS LEARNED TO EAT, by Ina Friedman, and then demonstrate how to use chopsticks in class. Provide wooden chopsticks and small treats such as cheerios, M&M's, or cookie bits to practice on. For a real challenge, use chopsticks to eat lunch.
4. Host an international lunch, asking students to bring in different ethnic dishes.
5. Compile a classroom book of international recipes.
6. Make leis using natural materials, or allow the students to make leis reflecting their own personalities or backgrounds.
7. Research other Hawaiian holidays, such as Lei Day, Kuhio Day, or Aloha Week.
8. Discuss the concept of "mixing" or "blending" as illustrated in the book. Cite examples from the story: soup ingredients, dumpling ingredients, mixture of foreign words, mixture of races in the family, mixture of ages, mixture of activities.
9. Make a class word book, asking each student to contribute a word representing his/her ethnic origin.
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