The Dinner That Cooked Itself by Jennifer Hsyu Book Review

The Dinner That Cooked Itself by Jennifer Hsyu
Illustrations by Kenard Pak
Publisher: Flying Eye Books
Release Date: December 16, 2014

Long, long ago, in a small town in ancient China, there lived an honest and respectful man called Tuan. Tuan was lonely and looked hard for a wife, but even the matchmaker couldn't help him. After bringing home a snail, strange things begin to happen. Onethe first night, Tuan's luck changes as a beautiful meal is laid out before him. But who cooked it? The second night, the same thing happens. By the third night, a huge sumptuous feast appears as does a goddess.
 As I understand it, this is a retelling of a classical Chinese fairy tale called the Swan Maiden. I liked that it had a classic feel with things done by three. Three girls, three nights, three feasts. As with many fairy tales, they tend to be a bit wordier than the average picture book story, but I thought Hsyu and Pak did a good job of balancing text and art. Pak's illustrations are absolutely beautiful, feeling very much like illustrated representations of the careful brush strokes in Chinese calligraphy. There is a nice focus on the calligraphy and how they play a part in ancient matchmaking (probably some modern as well). At the end are two pages highlighting the calligraphy showing the different characters used in the book and how to write it. Definitely a great book for introducing Chinese fairy tales, culture, and writing. 

A perfect book for any time of the year, but especially timely for the Chinese New Year (February 19).