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Children's Literature Reviews
Item 1 of 1

The cook's family
Laurence Yep.
New York : Putnam, c1998.
184 p. ; 22 cm.

Annotations:

Sequel to: Ribbons.
As her parents' arguments become more frequent, Robin looks forward to the visits that she and her grandmother make to Chinatown, where they pretend to be an elderly cook's family, giving Robin new insights into her Chinese heritage.

Best Books:

Best Children's Books of the Year, 1999 ; Bank Street College of Education; United States
Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Eureka! California in Children's Literature, 2003 ; Book Wholesalers, Inc.; United States
Kaleidoscope, A Multicultural Booklist for Grades K-8, Third Edition, 2001 ; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
Middle And Junior High School Library Catalog, Eighth Edition, 2000 ; H.W. Wilson; United States

State and Provincial Reading Lists:

Charlie May Simon Childrenís Book Award Reading List, 2000-2001 ; Nominee; Arkansas
Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award, 1999 ; Nominee; Colorado

Reading Measurement Programs:


Accelerated Reader
Interest Level Middle Grade
Book Level 4.7
Accelerated Reader Points 6

Reading Counts-Scholastic
Interest Level 6-8
Reading Level 5
Title Point Value 11
Lexile Measure 690

Reviews:

Stephanie Zvirin (Booklist, January 1 & 15, 1998 (Vol. 94, No. 9 & 10))
Although an author's note hangs the story on an actual incident, the setup of Yep's latest novel demands that we suspend our disbelief. As they pass a small restaurant in Chinatown, Robin and her grandmother are recruited by a waiter to pretend to be the family of the restaurant's Chinese cook, who is refusing to perform his duties. The fantasy is haltingly played out by all, with Robin and her grandmother returning to the restaurant the following week to pick up their roles (a real leap for Robin, who looks more like her Caucasian father than like her Chinese mother). For Grandmother, the game is a link to a homeland left behind; for Robin, it is a respite from her parents' bickering and a chance for her to understand more about her Chinese heritage. It is Robin's learning about Chinese history and custom that is the most intriguing part of the story, which also strikes at the heart of what family means in different cultures. Category: Middle Readers. 1998, Putnam, $15.99. Gr. 4-6.

Karen Porter (Children's Literature)
Robin Lee is watching the destruction of her family due to the conflicts between her Chinese mother and her mainstream American father. Her mother feels compelled to honor her Chinese heritage by helping her brothers start a business. Robin's father resents the time spent away from the immediate family. Robin feels out of touch with her Chinese heritage. When she visits Chinatown with her grandmother, the two are adopted by a cook at a local restaurant. They become an imaginary family and Robin learns to appreciate her heritage and feel part of her Chinese family. The story is interesting and easy to read, but as the plot unfolds, it becomes too simple. The happily-ever-after ending is too easily achieved. A sexual reference in the fifth chapter is neither necessary nor appropriate for children. 1998, Putnam, $15.95 and $3.99. Ages 11 to 14.

Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, 1998)
In a poignant sequel to Ribbons (1996), two strangers comfort a lonely old man with a shared, ongoing fantasy. Drawn to a disturbance outside a San Francisco Chinatown restaurant, Robin and her grandmother find themselves play-acting, soothing a drunken cook named Wolf by pretending to be his lost wife and daughter. Wolf isn't fooled, but reminiscing with his "wife" and watching his brown-haired, green-eyed "daughter" dance makes him feel better, so he willingly goes along. On what becomes weekly visits, Robin receives as much comfort as she gives, for the domestic war between her Chinese mother and non-Chinese father (and the tension between traditional Chinese and typically American ideas of family obligation) has made home a hard place to be. In his characters' banter and behavior, Yep makes clear the difference between ethnic stereotypes and what is simply common--and when Wolf's real daughter, an illegal immigrant living in San Diego, puts in a surprise appearance, her loud, nasty rudeness casts an ironic light on Robin's efforts to be more "Chinese" for Wolf, i.e., silent, obliging, and submissive. Yep sensitively explores the complexities of immigrant culture from several points of view, creates an appealing, diverse cast, and gives his plot both a memorable premise (drawn, as he explains in an afterword, from actual incidents) and a strong, bittersweet ending. 1998, Putnam, $15.99. © 1998 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.

Pat Mathews (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, May 1998 (Vol. 51, No. 9))
In this sequel to Ribbons (BCCB 2/96), Robin Lee accompanies her Chinese grandmother to Chinatown where they are pressed into pretending to be the long-lost family of Wolf, a despondent cook at The Celestial Forest restaurant. This one-time visit turns into a weekly event as Wolf and grandmother form a semi-romantic friendship, with Robin along as a kind of junior chaperone. Meanwhile Robin's family life is evaporating with her parents' constant bickering, especially about her mother's involvement in the family's electronics store. Robin and Grandmother make a formidable team against the backdrop of splintering family relationships and the fragile family fantasy they've created with the lonely Wolf. The appearance of Wolf's real daughter dissolves the illusion, however, and when Grandmother intervenes to have Mom "fired" from her job at the store, peace is restored on the homefront in record time. The parental arguments seem banal rather than terrifying, although Robin's attempt to protect her younger brother, Ian, is quite affecting. Readers who enjoyed Robin's struggle as an aspiring ballerina may be disappointed to see ballet take a backseat, but they will appreciate the dynamics of Robin and Grandmother's deepening relationship. It is Robin who takes a backseat to her Hong-Kong-born Grandmother, whose multidimensional personality is the most engaging in the whole novel. Ad--Additional book of acceptable quality for collections needing more material in the area. Reviewed from galleys (c) Copyright 1998, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 1998, Putnam, [192p], $15.99. Grades 4-7.

Cynthia Ann Grady (VOYA, February 1999 (Vol. 21, No. 6))
Yep's story of Chinese-American Robin Lee that began with Ribbons (Putnam's, 1996) continues here, though both books can be enjoyed independently. The sequel opens about a year later when Robin is twelve. She continues to study ballet, but her parents argue even more than before, which upsets Robin and her younger brother Ian deeply. Yep succeeds in showing Robin's alternating frustration with and sympathy toward Ian. To escape these family troubles, Robin and her grandmother agree to help a lonely, gifted cook by pretending to be his lost family from China. Robin's need to feel loved by a parent is confounded by her failing attempts at playing the "dutiful daughter." Her limited experience in traditional Chinese culture and shifting adolescent angst keep her from succeeding in her role. Yet through her visits to San Francisco's Chinatown, Robin begins to take pride in her dormant Chinese identity and serendipitously discovers a lively woman in her grandmother. In this second tale of Robin Lee, Yep illuminates the emotional and psychological isolation that adolescent egocentrism so often invokes, regardless of cultural identity. Ribbons introduced Robin to the horrors of the centuries-old tradition of footbinding that existed in most of China until relatively recently. Here she gets a glimpse into the complexities of immigration. Neither of these issues are described in depth, but rather are mentioned only briefly, at arm's length, as if Yep would have Robin dancing a pas de deux with the social history of her ethnicity. VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P M J (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 1998, Putnam's, 184p., $15.99. Ages 11 to 15.

Subjects:

Chinese Americans--Juvenile fiction.
Chinese Americans--Fiction.
Family problems--Fiction.
Grandmothers--Fiction.
Interracial marriage--Fiction.
LanguageCall NumberLCCNDewey DecimalISBN/ISSN
English (eng) PZ7.Y44 Co 1998
97023892 [Fic]
0039929078
9780039929077
9780039929077
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