Everyone Loves Lunchtime but Zia

Knopf. Feb. 2023. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780593425428.
K-Gr 3–A familiar story with a fresh twist grounded in Cantonese cooking. Zia loves the Cantonese food that her family makes at home but when it comes to lunch at school it just makes her feel different from everyone else. The other students ask hurtful questions about her food and when she takes this concern home her parents devise a clever solution. Each of the subsequent days of the week she is sent to school with a Cantonese dish and a special meaning for each item. On Wednesday, for example, Zia brings soy sauce chicken, called see yao gai (also written in Cantonese), and her father explains that it is eaten to bring success. After eating the dish, Zia gets a star on her art project and wonders if there is a connection between her lunch and her reward. By the end of the week it is Zia’s birthday and her family sends her to school with a feast for the whole class. Her classmates celebrate Zia and her family’s cuisine and Zia now loves lunch time. The ending includes extensive illustration notes on the huge variety of Chinese cuisine and detailed information on Cantonese cooking, plus a recipe for Zia’s favorite noodles.
VERDICT While the resolution to the protagonist’s problem might have come relatively easily in one week, children will connect with Zia’s struggles and will be encouraged to share their family traditions with others.

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