Review by Logaine Navascués
Tundra Books, January 2021
48 pages, hardcover, $21.99 CAD, 978-0-73526-619-3
Ages 4–8, Grades Pre-K–3
Picture Book, Contemporary Realism
Sons can bring good fortune and prosperity to a Taiwanese family, so what could be better than having ten of them? The whole village of Fengfu loves these cheerful brothers. But if we look a little more closely, we see that their quiet sister also shines, despite growing up in the shadow of her siblings.
Based on her own family history, Larissa Fan’s Ten Little Dumplings describes the boys’ heroic, magical, and busy day-to-day life, until she unveils the discreet and curious presence of their sister alongside them, in a playful shift that invites the reader to go back and take another glance at the previous pages. Illustrator Cindy Wume’s colourful and lush art contrasts with Fan’s frugal, verse-like text, almost itself a reflection of traditional beliefs and implicit gender expectations. While the ten brothers fill every corner of town—and the spreads—their sister virtually disappears among them.
As the focus of the narrative turns to the little girl, the voice feels softer, measured, almost constrained. Fan’s control of the language seems to underline how the little girl’s effort and determination enable her to make her way in the world, and shape her future—and luck—for the best.
This is a warm and thought-provoking tale about the importance of discovering one’s worth, and the value of telling the stories of those who have been “left out.” While the narrative contains a subtle hint of resignation in the girl’s voice as she becomes an adult—an awareness and an acceptance of how things were while growing up—it is this understanding that empowers her to forge her own path… and open a new one for her daughter, too, in times to come.
Ten Little Dumplings is a visually rich and meaningful story that highlights how the silent power of observation, will, and persistence can become agents of change.
Logaine Navascués is a Peruvian artist, writer, creative director, teacher and book maker, currently living in Vancouver. She is the proud mother of a beautiful daughter and two artist’s books. You can find her reading, collecting picture books, and eating chocolate while pursuing her Master of Arts in Children’s Literature (MACL) at UBC.