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The Ugly Dumpling Multicultural Picture Book Features Friendship, Feelings, and Food

Disclosure: I received a PDF file of this multicultural picture book to review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Ugly Dumpling Book Cover Multicultural Picture Book
Multicultural picture book The Ugly Dumpling by Stephanie Campisi was released recently by Mighty Media Press and is set in a dim sum setting. I am a big fan of dim sum, having grown up eating it with my Chinese family and later with friends when I lived near New York City’s Chinatown.

For those not familiar, dim sum is a Chinese eating occasion, similar to brunch, that includes many small plates of foods (Spanish cuisine features a similar concept with it tapas). Dim Sum plates can include anything from cha siu bao (steamed barbecue pork buns) and dumplings to rice noodles and egg tarts.

The Ugly Dumpling caught my interest not only because I love to eat dim sum, but also because it’s not common to find a multicultural picture book featuring Chinese culture in the mainstream children’s book market (ninja books do not count!).

Ugly Dumpling Page Sample 1 Multicultural Picture Book

The Ugly Dumpling follows a steamed bun that a chef accidentally groups into a dumpling dish at a dim sum restaurant. The steamed bun, or “ugly dumpling,” looks different than the other items around it and is shunned. An open-minded cockroach befriends the Ugly Dumpling, helping the misfit realize that ugliness, and beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Author Stephanie Campisi tells Bicultural Mama what inspired her to write her debut book: “One day I was sitting in my office back home in Melbourne, Australia, and my co-workers were all eating dumplings for lunch – a pretty common thing in Melbourne where dumplings are cheap and ubiquitous! The title popped into my head, and I knew that I had to write it. It’s a loose retelling of ‘The Ugly Duckling,’ but with a couple of twists!”

Campisi explains why a multicultural theme was important to her book: “The notion of ‘yum cha’ and dim sum was pretty central to me growing up where I did and with the friendship and family group that I had. I actually had a few rejections over the fact that the setting wouldn’t be familiar enough to a lot of readers which I thought was interesting, particularly having grown up in such a diverse, multicultural city. That in itself shows exactly why multicultural themes are important! I was really fortunate to be able to work with such a great publishing team – Mighty Media and Shahar Kober, the book’s wonderful illustrator, worked extensively to ensure that the book itself is thoughtful and inclusive in terms of how it depicts the dim sum restaurant setting.”

Ugly Dumpling Page Sample 2 Multicultural Picture Book

Ideal for children ages 2 to 8 years old, the book sends a positive message to readers about friendship and feelings. It touches upon diversity and self-esteem without overpowering the story. The beautiful illustrations by Shahar Kober are eye-catching, fun, and engaging. I did notice that the only Asians in the illustrations were the cook and wait staff, and it seemed none were included in the diverse set of customers eating at the restaurant. It would have been even more powerful to include Asians as customers as well so children can see them not just as servers. Nevertheless, the overall themes of the story about being different and self-acceptance is something that’s relatable to children no matter their background, and it’s a positive, much needed message.

Interested in purchasing this multicultural picture book? The Ugly Dumpling is available throughout North America at most major and many independent booksellers, as well as via Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online retailers.



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