Tag Archives: Vivid Characters

The Runaway Rice Cake

The Runaway Rice Cake

Although they have rice flour enough for only one nin-go–the Chinese New Year’s rice cake–the Chang family is determined to make the best of their holiday treat. But when Momma takes the cake out of the steamer, “something incredible happened–the rice cake came alive!” Stunned, the Changs watch as it pops out of the pan and rolls right out of their kitchen, crying, “Ai yo! I don’t think so!” Much like the family in the traditional classic, The Gingerbread Boy, the Changs chase that pastry all through the village, but it eludes them every step–until it runs smack into an old woman. Generous Da, the youngest son, upon discovering that this woman is hungry, too, offers to share the nin-go. This leaves nothing for the Chang family’s New Year’s feast, but their kind-hearted deed reaps them benefits they never imagined from the approving Kitchen God.

Ying Chang Compestine’s tale of compassion and generosity teaches a valuable, perennially fresh message. Tungwai Chau’s acrylic paintings of the family celebrating their most important holiday are rich with details of traditional Chinese life. A note about the Chinese New Year includes recipes for nin-go, the good-luck cake that is said to bring safety and fortune to the entire family all year long. (Ages 5 to 8) –Emilie Coulter

User Ratings and Reviews

4 Stars bought for Chinese New Year
This is a variant of the gingerbread man. It also has magic and a moral. My older daughter, 6 enjoyed this and took it to school.

5 Stars great book about sharing
we loaned this book from library, and it fascinated my 3 yr old. It’s a typical Asian morality story, but with vivid characters and country theme illustrations. the rice cake recipe works really well.

4 Stars a look at the celebration of the Chinese New Year
This book is an excellent addition to a library collection on China or on various types of New Year celebrations around the world. A recipe for both baked and steamed nian-gao is included at the end. In the reading aloud, this book has a subtle message about sharing and compassion although I think the text gets a little irritating when, over and over, “something incredible happened”. Just as a description is not made more so by the endless use of “very”, an event is not made more incredible when it is announced in advance that it will be incredible… and, in fact, it detracts a bit from the magic. I think the text could be a bit more sophisticated but, overall, this is still a wonderful story to share.

2 Stars The Rice Cake Gets Eaten
First, let me say that we own many children’s books that represent Chinese culture, particularly since my husband is Chinese. So, we try to be culturally sensitive to different views of what makes a happy ending. However, both my daughter and I found it disturbing that the adorable rice cake which had been anthropomorphized for several pages was eaten. My daughter and I discussed how the gingerbread gets eaten in some versions too, and that this reflects different views of storytelling. However, this did little to make her feel better for the cute eaten rice cake. She couldn’t sleep–definitely not a bedtime story. Beware if you are used to sanitized fairy tales.

5 Stars Great for the classroom!
I teach 3rd-4th graders with learning disabilities who often also have short attention spans. This book held their interest until the very end. Our class made the recipe for rice cake that is provided in the book. We baked it while I read the story. It is a beautiful story with a nice moral about being unselfish. Illustrations are wonderful too. I loved it and so did the kids. I highly recommend.

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