Picture Book Pairing: Dumpling Books!

After spending two weeks in Singapore earlier this year and then two weeks in Shanghai, I’m in serious dumpling withdrawal. So what better time than to read picture books about dumplings? A quick search revealed that other authors also have dumplings on the brain. I only needed two books to do a Picture Book Pairing post, but somehow I ended up buying four, so here is a Picture Book Quad!

First up is LITTLE DUMPLINGS by Jekka Kuhlmann, Krissy Kuhlmann, and Haley Hazell, illustrated by Manita Boonyong. Technically, this is a board book–stiff cardboard instead of paper, fewer pages, simpler text and story. But you can think of board books as picture books, too, for the youngest readers.

How kawaii are the illustrations of all these dumplings?! It makes me want to hug and eat them at the same time. This book is an introduction and celebration of thirty-three different kinds of dumplings from all over the world. Like the first spread says, “We’re found everywhere!”

LITTLE DUMPLINGS is a super cute book with rhyming text and lively, colorful illustrations that will engage tiny readers. The back matter includes pronunciation info as well as the regions where the dumplings are associated with. As the authors note, “Most are enjoyed beyond just the region(s) where they originated, and it’s often hard to know where any dumpling truly ‘came from.'” I like how kids will probably be able to find a type of dumpling they’ve eaten before represented in these pages. And if not, hopefully they’ll be inspired to try something new!

Next up is DUMPLING DAY by Meera Sriram, with art by Inés de Antuñano, and recipes by Laurel P. Jackson. This book feels like the slightly-older sibling to LITTLE DUMPLINGS, as it includes many of the same kinds as the board book.

The premise of the book, stated on the first page, is that there is a dumpling party in town where everyone is going to share the dumplings they’ve made. The following pages show ten families of various ethnicities and compositions cooking dumplings from their cultures. Along the way, readers encounter names of different family members in different languages, such as “Oji-san,” which means “uncle” in Japanese. These words are explained in the back matter along with a map showing where each dumpling is from. Here, too, the author explains that, “Many of these dumplings come from regions of the world, not just single places.” I appreciate this inclusivity.

Besides the addition of words in non-English languages, there is another layer to the story– a mathematical one! As each family is shown making their dumplings, the reader is presented with a simple math problem–adding one to the number of dumplings we had before. The answer is shown in a colored circle, and readers can also count the number shown on the table in each spread. There are recipes for each of the ten types of dumplings in the back, too, making for a very interactive book!

The third dumpling book is one of my favorites, Melissa Iwai’s DUMPLINGS FOR LILI. This beautiful book has a circular structure–or maybe it’s more of an “up and down” structure (😆)– as we follow Lili running up and down the stairs of her apartment building to fetch and deliver ingredients to the other grandmas. It starts with Lili’s Nai Nai needing cabbage for their bao and sending Lili to see if Babcia on the 6th floor has any they can use. Babcia has cabbage, but needs potatoes for her pierogi. Granma on the 2nd floor has potatoes, but needs garlic for her beef patties. And so on and so on, until Lili is winded but all the grandmothers have what they need.

Similar to DUMPLING DAY, there are different names in different languages, but here, they are all words that mean “grandmother.” Themes of kindness and sharing abound in this book as well, shown not only by the giving of ingredients, but by Lili and all the grandmothers gathering for a dumpling party at the end (plus a little surprise twist that makes the ending sweeter). There is also a recipe for “Nai Nai’s Baos” in the back. In her bio, Iwai states that she incorporates both traditional and digital media into her art, and I think the results are just gorgeous.

The final dumpling book quadruplet is AMY WU AND THE WARM WELCOME, by Kat Zhang and illustrated by Charlene Chua. It’s also the third book in the Amy Wu series, which coincidentally started off with another dumpling story, AMY WU AND THE PERFECT BAO. (Go read that one, too, it’s so heartwarming. Actually, go read them all!)

In this installment, a new student named Lin joins Amy’s class. Amy tries to give Lin a warm welcome, but her efforts seem to fall short when Lin doesn’t respond, and Amy feels discouraged.

But after school, Amy sees a different side of Lin as he chatters in Mandarin to his little sister. Soon, she comes up with a “brilliant plan” to invite Lin and his family to–you guessed it–her dumpling party!

I really like how the art incorporates the Chinese characters for Lin and his little sister’s dialogue, and there is a translation in the back matter. What I love even more is that Amy, who is not fluent in Mandarin, tries to welcome Lin in his native language but feels shy and can’t bring herself to speak–giving her and readers a deeper understanding of what Lin must have been feeling in school. The back matter consists of a brief note from the author about her inspiration for the book–as a bilingual student, teachers would ask her to translate for Mandarin-speaking kids who were new and not yet fluent in English. There’s also an activity for readers to make a welcome banner, with ideas on what to include when welcoming a new student to your school or a new friend to your hometown. The illustrations in all the Amy Wu books, including this one, are bright and engaging and full of diverse characters.

So there you have it–a quadrifecta of dumpling books! Although there are many similarities between these books, including themes, back matter content, non-English words, and the types of dumplings themselves, each book approaches the topic in a different way. Don’t be discouraged if you suddenly get an idea to write a book about a particular subject and then discover that there are several books on the same topic already. Start thinking instead about how you can make your story stand out from the others: what layers you can add to it, how you can structure the story differently, or even how you could convert it into a different format such as a board book. There’s more than one way to make a dumpling book!

For more info about the creators in this post and how to buy their books, click on their names to go to their websites (if they have one). Or you can follow them on socials:

  • Jekka Kuhlmann: IG: lilkuhlj
  • Krissy Kuhlmann: IG: kuhlsers
  • Haley Hazell: IG: @haley.hazell
  • Manita Boonyong: Twitter and IG: @mntttk
  • Meera Sriram: Twitter: @Meeratsriram; IG: @meera.sriram
  • Inés de Antuñano: Twitter and IG: @inesdea
  • Laurel P. Jackson: IG: @laurelpjackson
  • Melissa Iwai: IG: @melissaiwai1
  • Kat Zhang: Twitter: @KatZhang; IG: @KatZhangWriter
  • Charlene Chua: Twitter and IG: @charlenedraws

Andrea Wang

Andrea Wang is an acclaimed author of children’s books. Her book Watercress was awarded the Caldecott Medal, a Newbery Honor, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor. Her other books, The Many Meanings of Meilan, Magic Ramen, and The Nian Monster, have also received awards and starred reviews. Her work explores culture, creative thinking, and identity. Andrea holds an M.S. in Environmental Science and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing for Young People. She lives in Colorado with her family and pandemic pup, Tupelo.


  1. Angie Quantrell

    Now I’m craving dumplings! Great lineup of books! Thanks, Andrea!

  2. Me too! I love dumplings of all kinds. What a fantastic roundup!

  3. I like this quadrifecta of dumpling books! I’ve been making mine from scratch since moving back to the states. And I also have a dumpling story in my files, not sure if it’ll ever be published… Great post, Andrea!

  4. Two sweet little dumpling books! How fun is this!

  5. Love this post

  6. WOW, what a round-up! This was a fantastic post, Andrea. Thanks so much! Can’t wait to check all of these out. 🙂

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