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The Runaway Rice Cake

Last updated Friday, December 14, 2012

Author: Ying Chang Compestine
Illustrator: Tungwai Chau
Date of Publication: 2001
ISBN: 0689829728
Grade Level: 2nd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Dec. 2012

Synopsis: Amazon.com Review
Although they have rice flour enough for only one nián-gäo--the Chinese New Year's rice cake--the Chang family is determined to make the best of their holiday treat. But when Momma takes the cake out of the steamer, "something incredible happened--the rice cake came alive!" Stunned, the Changs watch as it pops out of the pan and rolls right out of their kitchen, crying, "Ai yo! I don't think so!" Much like the family in the traditional classic, The Gingerbread Boy, the Changs chase that pastry all through the village, but it eludes them every step--until it runs smack into an old woman. Generous Da, the youngest son, upon discovering that this woman is hungry, too, offers to share the nián-gäo. This leaves nothing for the Chang family's New Year's feast, but their kind-hearted deed reaps them benefits they never imagined from the approving Kitchen God.

Note to readers:
•  Read the section at the back called “Celebrating Chinese New Year.” Share it with the kids.
•  Nian-Gao means New Year’s Cake; there are recipes in the back that you can share with the kids.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Have you ever heard of Chinese New Year?
•  Do you celebrate New Year’s? When is our New Year’s?
•  When does your family get together to celebrate?
•  Where is China? What do you think celebrating The New Year means?
•  Why do you think it is important to think ahead to The New Year?

•  Incense – a pleasing scent
•  Drought – period of dryness which causes damage to crops
•  Scarce – not enough quantity compared to the demand
•  Dumplings – delicious food made out of various ingredients wrapped in dough
•  Cymbals – a brass plate that makes a clashing noise when struck

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Why did the Changs give away their nian-gao even though they were hungry?
•  Why did the nian-gao stop running when they met the old woman?
•  Why did the Changs get a feast? Where did it come from?
•  Why did each of the boys refuse to eat at first?
•  Were the Changs rewarded by The Emperor of Heaven? Why?
•  Why do the other villagers bring the Changs food?

Craft ideas:
•  Make a lion dancer puppet using a paper bag and a cut out lion head
•  Draw a picture of yourself in a new Chinese outfit like the Changs received
•  Make the nian-gao with googly eyes and legs; write the recipe on the back
•  Make a Christmas, Hanukkah, or other holiday card for your family and friends!

Special activities:
•  Write Chinese characters with a practice sheet.
•  Play red light green light with a nian-gao twist!

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!