Review of ‘The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling’

Title: ‘The Surprising Power Of A Good Dumpling’
Author: Wai Chim
Publisher: Allen & Unwin (2019)
Awards: Shortlisted Best Young Adult Literature, Prime Minister’s Literary Awards 2020 AU; Shortlisted Readings Young Adult Book Prize 2020 AU; Shortlisted Book of the Year for Older Children, ABIA Awards 2020 AU; Longlisted Best Book for Older Readers, CBCA Awards 2020 AU; Shortlisted Best Designed Young Adult Cover, Australian Book Design Awards 2020 AU; Winner Best Young Adult Novel, Indie Book Awards 2020 AU
Age Range: Young Adult, Adult
Themes: School, Family, Responsibility, Food, Second Generations Australians, Mental Health, Taboos

Teachers’ Notes here.

Click on ‘Buy from Booktopia’ when shopping online in Australia to #supportaustralian. Apple and Amazon options for overseas & eBook purchases. Purchase in store from your local independent bookstore where possible #supportlocal.

Children’s Books Daily reader, Sophie Fu, has become an occasional reviewer for us and you can find reviews by Sophie and her children by selecting the theme ‘The Fu Family’. Sophie has recently read and enjoyed ‘The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling’, a book I rather adored myself, and you can my interview with author Wai Chim here.  Thank you Sophie!

‘The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling’

A novel about growing up in a migrant Asian family with a mother who is suffering from a mental illness.
Anna Chiu has her hands pretty full looking after her brother and sister and helping out at her dad’s restaurant, all while her mum stays in bed. Dad’s new delivery boy, Rory, is a welcome distraction and even though she knows that things aren’t right at home, she’s starting to feel like she could just be a normal teen. But when Mum finally gets out of bed, things go from bad to worse. And as Mum’s condition worsens, Anna and her family question everything they understand about themselves and each other.

Allen and Unwin

Who doesn’t love dumplings I ask you?

Dumplings are everywhere at the moment! It seems they are taking over the culinary scene. If we are not eating the intricate delicious morsels of goodness, we are looking to see when to try them again for the next meal.

There has always been struggles with parents through time, raising teenagers. Adults spend the majority of their time trying to work out what is inside teenagers and how to go about making them better!

Understanding the teenage experience

Wai Chim’s YA book ‘The Surprising Power Of A Good Dumpling’ covers many relevant and realistic themes encountered by high school teenagers today.  Chim has perfectly weaved teenage trials and tribulations into an easy digestible book. Essentially the aim of a teenager’s existence, is dealing with and overcoming a mixture of struggles and triumphs. Whilst adults have their own set of ideas on discipline, school and life successes for teenagers to aspire to.

Chim empowers the reader to  understand the troubles teenagers traverse. She is on point describing the angst from a teenage perspective in the struggle to fit in at school, home, socially and ethnically.

Similarly, it is worthwhile noticing, as depicted within the story, how astute teenagers are in observing and analysing the troubles encountered by their parent/s and care givers as well. It is important to keep in mind that everyone has their own struggles within the world around us; if we remain aware and only give and take a little from each other’s plates in the buffet of life experiences and lessons,  we can really learn and help each other a lot.

A modern take on a familiar story

This book is a great read for adults and teenagers. It is an important story highlighting everyday struggles and triumphs of a high school aged girl faces in the 2020’s. I see many similarities to the coming-of-age cult following of the book ‘Looking for Alibrandi’ by Melina Marchetta published in 1992 (Sophie’s review of this book is here.) This is a modern-day adaption of the problems encountered by a teenager growing up as an Asian/Australian as opposed to an Italian/Australian and the microaggressions encountered. With an added twist of black dog in the form of depression, adding elements of mental health issues.

Wai Chim’s superb story takes us on an eye opening journey of life experiences through a young person’s perspective of the world. Take a bite of the book and you will enjoy the experience.

By the same author:

‘Chook Chook: Mei’s Secret Pets’

The Fu Family are a family of book lovers, with a teenage girl aged 15 and a young boy aged 9.  They read many genres from Manga and graphic novels, to autobiographies and novels. Books have always been a big part of their lives and they like to read and share their joy of books. ‘We hope you enjoy our reviews!’ 

June 9, 2021 at 05:14AM Megan Daley