Six short stories from the life of Chinese-American twins Ling and Ting.
It’s extremely difficult to find suitable early chapter books at all, let alone diverse and culturally appropriate ones. While the availability of novels and picture books are slowly improving, these essential early reader and early chapter book categories remain ridiculously white, able-bodied, etc.
I’ve written about a few we tried back when my last reader was transitioning, but got away from this series of reviews as he turned toward more complex books. Now that my next child is ready to make this transition, I’m going to try a few new-to-us series (and hopefully complete reviews for the ones we bought last time around).
This was a new one I purchased as we had enjoyed some of Grace Lin‘s picture and chapter books previously, so I felt this was a safe bet to start. The language is clear, and occasional difficult words are easy to guess from the illustrations and context.
There are six chapters, which vary a bit in length. The book starts with The Haircuts, which explains how Ling and Ting no longer look the same. In The Magic Trick, Ling is trying to perform a magic trick but Ting does not cooperate! Chapter three is called Making Dumplings and connects up with the next chapter, Chopsticks. In The Library Book, Ting has an adventure at the library. Finally, in Mixed Up, Ting retells the stories from this book to Ling – with her own twists on everything!
These could be read a story at a time to fill short moments, or all at once. They have nice flexibility for classroom and library use. I also adored how this book combined everyday adventures with culturally-specific stories like the chopsticks one. It manages to be accessible for all early readers while still a mirror for Asian-Americans – no easy feat!
The artwork and design are excellent too – clean and readable without being bland. Illustrations are framed, with different colors of frame for each story. My son was particularly taken with the little characters at the beginning and end, and our little girl who is just learning to read was thrilled that the illustrations occasionally allowed her to guess at the story.
Because the two that were reading this with me have personalities that mirror Ling and Ting, I was initially worried that Ling seemed to be coming off as the “better” character. She sits nicely during her haircut, remembers things, can make tidy dumplings. So it was with some relief that I read the story where she’s unable to use chopsticks. In the end Ting is shown to have her own unique gifts just like Ling, and both are valued.
Originally I purchased just this one as I like to see which early readers spark interest in the children. When a child is right at the cusp of transitioning, I like to read a chapter aloud and then casually leave the book laying around to see if it’s picked up. However, this book was so popular that I think I’d better go buy the rest of the series!