The Runaway Wok

A Chinese New Year Tale
K-Gr 4—Part "Jack and the Beanstalk" and part "Robin Hood," Compestine's satisfying tale of a poor family's good fortune is actually a retelling of a Danish tale, "The Talking Pot." Ming is sent to trade his family's last eggs for rice to make stir-fried rice to share with neighbors on Chinese New Year. When he encounters an old man selling a rusty old wok with the magical power of singing, he trades their food for this apparently worthless object. Ming's parents are distressed until the wok sings to them. After they polish it to a shine, the pot runs off to the family's wealthy employers, the Zhangs. One after another, the wok tricks members of the greedy family, returning to Ming's household filled with delicious food, toys, and money to share with their neighbors. Compestine's well-paced and engaging narrative will hold children's attention to the end, during which the poor family finds lasting success while the Zhangs are spirited away forever. Vibrant paintings bring a stylized Beijing of once-upon-a-time to life. The illustrations are rich with colorful traditional clothing, patterned ceramics, Chinese architecture, and delectable-looking food, and readers will welcome the chance to explore Serra's cheery cartoon-style illustrations. Chinese New Year traditions are woven throughout the story and an author's note describes them in further detail, noting the symbolism of New Year foods and of the wok itself. A recipe for stir-fried rice is included. This tale will have broad appeal beyond Chinese New Year units.—Jayne Damron, Farmington Community Library, MI
Set in long-ago China, this story tells of Ming Zhang and his poor but deserving family. On New Year's Eve, Ming buys a magical wok, which promptly sets out to transfer riches from the greedy Li family to the Zhangs, who share it with others. The detailed, vigorous illustrations reflect the mischievous wok's energy. A recipe and Chinese New Year festival facts are appended.

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