About the Holiday
The world can’t celebrate Culinary Arts Month without having a special day to recognize and thank the many chefs, cooks, bakers, and other creators of delicious treats. Today is that day! With their special talents for taste, presentation, and innovation, culinarians make life better for everyone!
The Ugly Dumpling
Written by Stephani Campisi | Illustrated by Shahar Kober
“Once upon a time, perhaps last week, or even last night, at your local dim sum restaurant…there was an ugly dumpling.” Sure, you might think all dumplings are ugly, but we’re talking about one particular ugly dumpling. It tried all sorts of tricks to make itself more attractive, but it still remained lonely and uneaten. It sat dejected until a cockroach traversing the kitchen caught sight of it and immediately fell in love.
The cockroach “reached out an arm. (Or a leg.)” toward the dumpling and offered to show it the beauty of the world. Together they traveled to cities near and far, experiencing them through culinary lenses—stacked plate skyscrapers, piled dishes skylines, chopstick bridges that took them over flour mountains and folded napkin peaks. Then, in a certain restaurant, the dumpling saw something astonishing! Not only one, but two, three, four, and more dumplings just like itself!
Suddenly the ugly dumpling realized that it was not a dumpling at all, but a “steamed bun—a golden-hearted, smooth-skinned steamed bun, exactly like all the other steamed buns in the world.” The ugly dumpling puffed with meaning, importance, and…yeast! The restaurant patrons and staff and even the other steamed buns took notice. The cockroach by the ugly dumpling’s side cheered to see its friend receiving so much attention.
The wide eyes and astonished expressions were not for the dumpling, however. Instead, they registered horror at the insect in their midst. The ugly dumpling was familiar with that look and did “something quite beautiful. It reached out an arm. (Or a leg.) And it led the cockroach out into the world, The beautiful, beautiful world.” And in that moment the ugly dumpling realized that it “was not like all the other steamed buns after all” and that “perhaps that was a good thing.”
Stephani Campisi’s The Ugly Dumpling is a fresh and delectable dish-up of the classic Ugly Duckling story for a new audience. Stuffed with charm and off-beat humor, this tale of friendship and diversity embraces all who feel at odds with their environment—with or without the recognition of why. Its sweet and insightful ending emphasizes the idea that finding your niche does not always mean finding your true self and that having the courage to strike out on your own path leads to beautiful relationships and happiness.
Shahar Kober’s dumpling is anything but “ugly.” His adorable puffed dough, lonely and ignored for not adhering to the mold, will melt readers’ hearts as he tries anything and everything—including green pleated pants—to fit in. Kobar’s stylish drawings are the perfect underscore to Stephani Campisi’s quick, dry wit—as in his rendition of three uglier-than-the-next dumplings—and if cockroaches were really as cute as Kober’s, we’d all set out a different kind of Roach Motel. A clever bit of typography transforms steam coming from a wok into the word HISS, and the restaurant scenes will make readers hungry for their favorite Asian eatery.
As readers turn to the last pages and watch the steamed bun and the cockroach leave the restaurant hand in hand (foot in foot?) under the shade of a paper umbrella, they will want to turn back to the beginning and start over again. The Ugly Dumpling is a must read and a must addition to children’s bookshelves.
Ages 2 – 9
Mighty Media, 2016 | ISBN 978-1938063671
Get to know more about Stephanie Campisi and her work on her website!
To view a gallery of art by Shahar Kober for books, magazines, animation, and more, visit his website!
Check out the Mighty Media Press website for more about The Ugly Dumpling and a-dough-able coloring pages!
Take a look at the trailer for The Ugly Dumpling!
Culinarians Day Activity
Embrace Your Inner Dumpling Plush
We are all beautiful “dumplings” in one way or another! With this easy craft you can create a huggable friend and show others what you’re made of!
- Square piece of cloth in any fabric and color. Size of plush depends on size of cloth (the plushes shown are made from 18”-square cotton fabric)
- Poly fill (the plushes shown use about 1 1/8 ounces of fill)
- White cloth for eyes and mouth
- Twine or string
- Fabric glue
- Cut the corners from the square cloth to make a circular piece of cloth
- Fill the middle with poly fill
- Pull the edges of the cloth up and around the fill
- Tie the top closed with the twine or string
- To make the face, cut small circles and a mouth from the white cloth
- Smooth out a section of the dumpling body
- Glue the face to the body with fabric glue