I recently read a delightful picture book I’m pleased to share with you. It’s AMY WU AND THE PERFECT BAO, written by Kat Zhang and illustrated by Charlene Chua and published by Aladdin.
What makes it delightful, you ask?
It’s a warm and charming, perfectly structured story with an endearing main character.
Amy Wu, like most picture book characters, has a problem. She wants to make the perfect bao. But she can’t. Her bao are too big, too small, too full or too empty. Sometimes, they even fall apart.
Full disclosure. I love bao. They are one of my favorite things to eat — especially the ones from The Dumpling Haus in Madison, Wisconsin. But, this book works even if you’ve never eaten — or heard of — a bao. (If you haven’t, it’s a puffy steamed dumpling.)
Why? Because all readers can relate to wanting to be able to do something but not being able to quite master it yet.
Amy’s mom and dad and grandmother can all make perfect bao. But Amy can’t. No matter how much they try to help her. So, like any good picture book character, Amy tries. And tries again. To no avail. (Side note: Amy’s grandma in the story is exponentially cool. She’s got pink hair and pink cat’s eye glasses. May I someday be as cool of an older lady as she is. Props to Charlene Chua.)
Anyhow, like all good picture book characters, Amy eventually solves her own problem and learns to make her own perfect bao. Go, Amy!
Then … then … there’s this great section after all the bao are cooked. Are you ready? It says:
“Amy eats one, then another. Then, she eats one of the not-so-perfect bao. And you know what? It tastes just as good.”
Bam. That sentence is for every little or big perfectionist out there who is worried because they can’t do something perfectly. The imperfect bao taste just as good!
So, yes, it’s great Amy learned a skill and reached her goal. But the biggest lesson she learned is in that last line. And kudos to her family for steaming the less-than-perfect bao rather than remaking them the “right” way.
If this book inspires you to want to make your own perfect or imperfect bao, there are instructions in the back.
This is one of my favorite picture books of 2019. I got it from Bookbug, an amazing, independent book store in Kalamazoo, Michigan, which has been on my bucket list to visit. (Much of my bucket list includes bookstores I want to visit.)
The store, and this book, did not disappoint. I hope you’re able to get a copy and enjoy it too.
An opportunity …
In January and February, I will be holding two webinars in conjunction with the Utah/Southern Idaho chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Each webinar costs $10 for SCBWI members and $20 for nonmembers. You can watch live, or later on demand. All from the comfort of your own home. (You can even wear your pajamas. I won’t tell!)
The first is “Have a Little Heart: Writing That Speaks to the Soul.” It will be live Jan. 4 from 1 to 2:30 p.m., Mountain time. You can register here.
The second is “When Less is More: Cutting the Fluff To Find What You Really Want to Say.” It will be live Feb. 22 from 1 to 2:30 p.m., Mountain time. You can register here.
I wish you all a happy, bookish New Year!