Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic

By Kirkus Reviews

More warm family memories from the Chinese-American creators of Mahjong All Day Long (2005), with cheery illustrations painted on ceramic plates.

The treasured weekend visits with Auntie and Uncle Yang that help an immigrant family cope with feelings of isolation take on a new wrinkle when Auntie Yang spots a field of soybeans on a Sunday drive. Mao dou were considered animal food in this country at the time but widely consumed in China. The armloads of plants that the friendly farmer allows her to bring home begin an annual picnic tradition. It eventually expands to include many Chicago-area families with, as the young narrator notes, “lots of kids just our ages who all spoke Chinese as badly as we did!” Years later, a long-awaited reunion between Auntie Yang and her sibs from China closes these memories of good times and mouth-watering Chinese food on a joyful note. The simply drawn scenes of busy, festive groups reflect the narrative’s happy tone, and they are capped with old snapshots from past gatherings in the afterword.

The pleasure of finding unexpected links between a new country and the old suffuses this autobiographical outing.