Dumplings for Lili by Melissa Iwai

Dumplings for Lili by Melissa Iwai (9781324003427)

When Lili’s Nai Nai asks her to help make baos, Lili is thrilled. After all, baos are her favorite! She even knows all of the secrets of making the best baos from letting the ingredients make friends to shaking the wok just enough to coaxing the filling into the center of the dough and wrapping it snugly. The final secret is to line the basket with cabbage leaves before steaming them, but Nai Nai discovers that they are out of cabbage. She send Lili to the 6th floor to ask Babcia to lend them some. The elevator is broken, so she and Kiki, her dog, have to take the stairs up five flights. Once there, Babcia has cabbage but needs some potatoes. She asks Lili to see if Granma on 2nd floor has any. Soon Lili is running up and down the stairs to bring all of the grandmothers in the building the ingredients they need. She is finally able to head back to her Nai Nai with the cabbage leaves. The day ends with all of the grandmothers bringing their delicious food to the table. There are pierogi, beef patties, tamales, ravioli, fatayer and of course, baos! There is one last dumpling to come to the table too as a grand surprise.

Set in a 6-story apartment building, this picture book celebrates the shared joy of cooking and how food brings us together. The story includes details of Nai Nai’s secrets for the perfect baos and then quickly changes to become a dash from one grandmother to another to get them their ingredients. Each grandmother talks about what they are going to cook and then uses a native expression of exasperation that they are out of an ingredient. It’s a lovely and fast-paced look at a diverse community in a single building.

The illustrations are bright and warm. Each grandmother’s apartment has touches that show their culture, including masks on a wall, plates on a shelf, woven rugs, and tiles. While each grandmother has a unique apartment, the book works visually as a whole too.

Celebrate diversity and community in this picture book that is sure to make you hungry. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Norton Young Readers.