Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Author: Frances Park and Ginger Park
Illustrator: Katherine P
Publisher: Lee and Low Books
Reading Level: Ages 4 to 8
Picture source: Publisher website
Stories that offer a glimpse of immigrant experiences have always appealed to me. Most books I have read on the theme to my children are ones I picked purely based on a whim. Lee and Low, an independent publisher with a mission "to meet the need for stories that all children can identify with and enjoy." , whose books on diversity are an absolute favorite in the household. One of their books, “Have a Good Day Café” captured my attention during a trip to the local library.
Mike’s Korean grandmother has moved to the States recently. She is bored and misses her life in Korea. It often pains Mike to see his grandma feel lonely and sad in the apartment, sitting all day long, yearning for her Korean life. While she is adjusting to her new home, Mike teaches her English. She also engages herself in the kitchen cooking delicious Korean dishes. Having experienced most of this first-hand whenever my parents visited the States from India, my children could immediately relate to Grandma’s feelings and experiences in a new land.
Early each morning Mike and his family drive to the city with their food cart. The food cart sells a range of American foods - bagels and orange juice for breakfast, hot dogs and pizza for lunch. Being resourceful, she is eager to contribute to the family in a positive way. Grandma decides to join the family as they set up their food cart on a busy park corner every morning. While Mike spends time drawing pictures, Grandma often fans herself resting in the shade, reminiscing over her life back home in Korea.
After a while, business starts slowing down when two more food carts start to sell pizza and hot dogs by the street corner. Mike’s parents are worried about their food cart business and are almost on the verge of quitting. Just in time, sharp-witted Mike comes up with a wonderful idea. He and grandma wake up early the next day and start making Korean foods and surprise the parents with a completely revamped menu. He also draws a sign on the food cart calling it “Have a Good Day Café”. Business starts picking up, and eventually proves to be a success.
The gentle story offers a neat glimpse into the lives of elderly immigrants. The book turned out to be a very meaningful read, giving me an opportunity to discuss with my children, so many things specific to Korean culture, their foods and traditions. Also, in general, it opened a forum to discuss with them various issues immigrants face including families like ours that live far away from grandparents. We could instantly connect with Mike and grandma.
Names of Korean foods are interspersed throughout. The glossary of words, definitions and pictures included in the end is a real neat icing on the cake. Simple illustrations done with soft pastel balance the uncomplicated text. The special relationship grandma and Mike share are captured beautifully through the creative pictures. Oozing with warmth, the book is a celebration of the ingenuity of old people, especially grandmothers - an aspect common to cultures all over the world.