August 22 – National Bao Day

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About the Holiday

National Bao Day, established as an annual holiday in 2017, was founded by Wow Bao to celebrate the anniversary of the launch of their first restaurant in Chicago on August 22 and to honor the ancient Chinese tradition of bao. To celebrate today, order dinner from your favorite Chinese restaurant or make this delicious meal at home.

Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao

Written by Kat Zhang | Illustrated by Charlene Chua

 

Amy can do lots of things well. She can even multitask. But when it comes to making the perfect bao—the thing she wants to do most of all—she has no luck. “Sometimes they come out too small. Sometimes they come out too big.” Sometimes the filling is oozing from the top; sometimes the bao is empty; and then there are the times when the whole bao crumbles before she can even eat it. Everyone else in the family can make a perfect bao. “Their bao are soft and fluffy and so, so delicious.”

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2019, text copyright Kat Shang, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Today, Amy has decided, is the day she will do it. “She’s going to make the world’s most perfect bao.” Her dad helps her mix up the dough. Then they knead it and pound it and leave it to rise. Soon the little lump of dough fills the bowl. Amy’s dad squashes it, rolls it, and cuts little rounds while Amy’s mom makes the filling on the stove.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2019, text copyright Kat Shang, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Now it’s time to make the bao. Amy’s mom, dad, and grandma gather at the table and start filling the dough. Amy fills a round too, but turns out a little lumpy, so she tries again. This one is too full and no matter how much she pinches the top, it just doesn’t close right. Her dad, mom, and grandma are all making perfect bao. They try giving her advice, but it doesn’t help. Amy feels dejected. Then she has an idea. She looks at her hands, she looks at the grown-ups’ hands. She looks at the dough. “She whispers her idea into her grandma’s ear.” In a moment she has two “Amy-size pieces” of dough in her hands. She rolls out the dough, fills it just right, and “pinch, pinch, pinches it shut.” Amy holds up her “perfect bao!”

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2019, text copyright Kat Shang, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Amy makes perfect bao after perfect bao. Now it’s time to steam them. Inside the bamboo steamer are all of Amy’s bao—the good and the bad. When they’re done, the family sits down to munch. Amy eats two of her perfect bao. Then she eats one of her lesser attempts and discovers that it tastes just as good as the perfect ones. The next day she takes her bao to school to share at lunchtime, and her classmates think they are just perfect.

Amy’s family recipe for bao follows the story.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2019, text copyright Kat Shang, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

In her charming culinary tale, Kat Zhang introduces a little girl who dreams of perfection. In Zhang’s straightforward storytelling, kids will recognize their own desires to reach perfect heights—whether in art, music, sports, or other activity. Kids will be captivated by the step-by-step process in making bao—especially if their own family has joined the bread-making phenomena of recent months. As Amy begins assembling her bao, only to have them turn our lumpy or empty once again, suspense builds. Amy’s realization of problem and solution is an empowering lesson for children struggling to achieve their own goals while her discovery that both perfect and imperfect bao are just as delicious is a reminder that perfection isn’t everything.

Charlene Chua’s Amy Wu is a powerhouse of enthusiasm and personality who tackles tasks with everything she’s got, and she has her heart set on making the perfect bao. Chua depicts Amy’s imagined perfect bun floating above her, surrounded by light and celebrated by a dragon and a fenghuang, humorously portraying the lofty goal Amy, like many kids attempting to achieve a goal, has given herself. As Amy sets her plan in motion on the appointed day, Chua realistically illustrates each step. Readers will empathize with images of Amy struggling to fill and close her bao, and a clever close-up illustration of Amy with her family behind her reflects the way people, advice, and even one’s own thoughts can intrude. When Amy realizes that the size of her hands in relation to the amount of dough is the problem, savvy readers may think back to the first spread, where Amy has similar problems with a toothpaste tube and her shoelaces. 

An empowering story, Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao inspires children to keep striving to achieve their goals while including comforting reassurance for the journey along the way. The book would be a welcome addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Aladdin, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534411333

Discover more about Kat Zhang and her books on her website.

To learn more about Charlene Chua, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Bao Day Activity

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Amy Wu’s Family Bao Recipe

 

Try your hand at making perfect – or not so perfect – bao. Either way, you know they’ll taste delicious! You can find Amy Wu’s family recipe at Simon & Schuster.

Amy Wu’s Family Bao Recipe

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You can find Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 4 – It Is (Not) Perfect Book Tour Launch

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About the Holiday

A new book in a favorite series is always something for readers to celebrate. Today, I’m thrilled to be launching the book tour for the fifth installment in Anna Kang’s and Christopher Weyant’s beloved You Are (Not) Small series, starring two fuzzy friends who take on life’s lessons with humor and friendship. We’re also beginning Get Caught Reading Month, which promotes the fun of reading for all ages and encourages people to set aside a special time each day to read. To join in the fun, you can take a picture of yourself reading and share it using #GetCaughtReading. Why not get started with today’s book?

I received a copy of It Is (Not) Perfect from Two Lions for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Blue Slip Media and Two Lions ina giveaway of the book. See details below.

It Is (Not) Perfect

Written by Anna Kang | Illustrated by Christopher Weyant

 

Two fuzzy friends are at the beach, building a sandcastle. It has two bucket-shaped turrets, a trio of shell decorations, and a low wall around it. The orange friend happily declares, “It is perfect!” But his purple companion looks at the castle askance and says, “It is not perfect.” If only it had flags then it would be perfect. But for the orange fuzzy creature, the flags only emphasize how short the castle is.

With a little extra sand patted into a cone on top of each turret, the castle is now perfect. Until…. Two beachgoers passing by think the castle could use some improvement. The blue fuzzy one gives it a good examination and decides the wall “is too small.” Orange fuzzy and purple fuzzy look on with disappointment and distress. They bring in more sand and dig furiously until the blue fuzzy judge finds it to be “perfect!”

But not so fast. Other beachcombers have more suggestions. Lots of suggestions. Purple fuzzy and orange fuzzy go to work. They dig, they sculp, they decorate. And when the flag is finally ploinked down on the tallest tower, everyone shouts in jubilation, “IT IS PERFECT!” Everyone gathers around the castle to take a picture just as… “SPLASH! CLICK!”… the castle is reduced to little more than a mound. But it’s nothing that a little patting, a couple of shells, a seaweed flag, and two delicious rainbow snow cones can’t make “Perfect. Truly.”

The latest book in Anna Kang’s and Christopher Weyant’s best-selling series examines a difficult conundrum: when is a work of art perfect? As the orange and purple fuzzy friends put the finishing touches on their sandcastle, happy in its perfection, niggling doubts come to the fore, causing them to reconsider if their creation couldn’t be just a little more…perfect. When others begin chiming in with their suggestions to make the castle bigger and “better,” these two friends go to work to improve it. While the result is a sensational, award-worthy spectacle, when a wave wipes it out, the two friends are just as happy with their original effort. For kids who may struggle with their inner critic or yielding to others’ opinions, this story humorously encourages them to stay true to their vision.

Anna Kang’s sparse text, conveyed entirely through short sentences of realistic dialogue, is funny and relatable as the crowd grows bigger and each person has their own suggestion for improvement. Readers may want to jump in themselves and talk about how they would build their own sandcastle. Kang’s superb storytelling is paired with Christopher Weyant’s expressive characters to create a fast-paced and entertaining page-turner.

As each iteration of the sandcastle brings smiles and then furrowed brows of doubt to the two fuzzy characters, readers will recognize feelings they may have about things they create or do. Add in the beachgoers, and the issue gets even more muddied. One enormous voice in the crowd will have kids giggling and wanting to hear it again and again. Weyant’s images of the purple and orange fuzzy friends furiously digging and patting, planning and decorating under the watchful eye of the group ramps up the suspense for the final reveal.

The rogue wave is sure to bring cringes and cries of “Oh no!,” but the resulting photo will elicit laughs. As the people disperse after the castle is destroyed, kids will understand that their interest was only fleeting while the orange and purple fuzzy characters’ friendship is forever. The final pages provide a sweet sense of satisfaction. While the final castle was a thing of beauty, it’s momentary perfection is nothing compared to the perfect day the two fuzzy characters spend together.

A delightful book for emergent and beginning readers to enjoy on their own as well as for dramatic read-alouds, It Is (Not) Perfect is a must for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7 

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542016629

Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant are the creators of Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner You Are (Not) Small as well as series titles That’s (Not) Mine, I Am (Not) Scared, and We Are (Not) Friends. They also wrote and illustrated Eraser, Can I Tell You a Secret?, and Will You Help Me Fall Asleep? Christopher’s work can also be seen in The New Yorker, and his cartoons are syndicated worldwide. This husband-and-wife team lives in New Jersey with their two daughters and their rescue dog.

You can connect with Anna Kang on 

Her website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

You can connect with Christopher Weyant on

His website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

It Is (Not) Perfect Book Tour Activity

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Personalized Painted Pail

 

A trip to the beach isn’t complete without a pail to make a sandcastle with or to collect shells, seaweed, sea glass, or other things in. But why should all the cool stuff be on the inside? With this craft you can decorate your pail to show your unique personality!

Supplies

  • Plastic or metal pail
  • Craft paint in various colors
  • Crystal Clear Acrylic Coating, for multi-surface use
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint designs on the pail
  2. When paint is dry spray with acrylic coating to set paint
  3. Let dry

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You can find It Is (Not) Perfect at these booksellers. The book will be released on May 12. It is available for preorder.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review