Review: The Dinner That Cooked Itself
The Dinner That Cooked Itself by Jennifer C Hsyu and Kenard Pak blends magic and realism to revive an ancient Chinese folk tale for a modern day audience.
Aimed at children ages 3 to 7, the book tells the story of Tuan, a young man who, despite the best efforts of his matchmaker, struggles to find the wife he longs for. Disappointed, and a little lonely, Tuan befriends a giant snail. Each night after, increasingly elaborate dinners appear on Tuan’s with no evidence of a chef.
This mysterious premise take a turn for the majestic as a fairy named White Wave is introduced. As well as being a magical addition to the story, White Wave is the visual climax of the book. Created with a mix of collaged shapes, swirly, pastel textures and a colour scheme of rich teals and golds, the impact of the fairy’s arrival is out of this world!
Giving fresh life to this ancient fairytale are Jennifer C Hsyu and Kenard Pak. Kenard studied at Syracuse University and California Institute of the Arts whilst Jennifer is a graduate of UCLA and the Clarion Writers’ Workshop. Both now live and work in San Francisco. Between them they have an impressive client list including Ammo Magazine and Nobrow.
The creative pair have both worked for Dreamworks and Disney, giving them a solid understanding of the target market and ability to create children’s books filled with breath-taking cinematic landscapes. Inclusion of a variety of gorgeously illustrated animals, inky Chinese Characters and some delicious looking food, builds upon this style and makes each page a space to explore.
The book is also educational in more ways than one. As well as the important and heartwarming moral that if you work hard, good fortune will follow, at the end you will discover a “find the Chinese characters” quests for the children to go back and embark on. This transforms a charming story into an exciting adventure and gives children an introduction to the Chinese Zodiac and Chinese Culture.
The Dinner That Cooked Itself is an extraordinary example of what Flying Eye Books set out to create – stories which push the boundaries of the Children’s book genre.