The Ugly Vegetables
by Grace Lin

The Ugly Vegetables
Children's book review by P.J. Rooks

Ages 3+

"For my mom and her ugly gardens" reads the author's dedication at the front of the book.

It is funny how some of the things we either don't notice (or wish we hadn't) in our childhoods catch up with us as adults in one way or another. How childhood horrors over parental eccentricities become cherished memories, knickknacks, or rituals that pass from generation to generation. This is one such story.

It's springtime and the whole neighborhood is out planting their gardens.

A little girl watches and waits with much interest for her plants to grow, but can't help noticing that things are different in her own little patch of green.

Eventually, when pretty flowers bloom and surround the neighborhood in fragrant beauty, a batch of ugly, warted and crumpled vegetables appears in the little girl's garden.

She is vastly disappointed and repeatedly asks her mother why they can't just have flowers like everybody else. Her mother is tolerant and reassuring.

Finally, harvest time arrives for the ugly vegetables.

The little girl's mother picks, washes, slices and begins to make a soup in the kitchen. She keeps up a running discourse about each vegetable but the child, disinterested, goes out to play. She soon notices, however, that there is a delicious smell wafting about the neighborhood and that all the neighbors are out on their porches, sniffing the air.

When they arrive at the door with hungry curiosity written all over their faces, the little girl realizes that the ugly vegetables have been transformed into a delicious stew. Maybe being different isn't so bad after all.

Though the aim of Grace Lin's The Ugly Vegetables is to introduce children to Chinese culture, it is a fantastic concept book that most any kid can relate to.

Being different, being different -- is there any kid in the world that believes that his house is like everyone else's or that she herself is the lucky trendsetter, the blissful kid about whom all the other kids fling their whining mantra, "but-everyone-else-is doing-it-so-why-can't-I?"

Chinese or not, Grace Lin gently reminds us that being different is okay. After all, you might just start something that people like.

Special: Grace Lin blogs on Amazon. If you click the link above and page down, you can read what Grace herself has to say about the book and how it came to be!

More multicultural books.

Read more of P.J.'s reviews.

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