Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Runaway Wok - Chinese New Year and patterns


Title: The Runaway Wok: a Chinese New Year Tale
Author: Ying Chang Compestine
Illustrator: Sebastia Serra
Publisher: Dutton Children's Books, an imprint of Penguin
Year: 2011
Word Count: 1277
Top 10 Element: Patterns

I am participating in Picture Books 14:14, a challenge created by Christie of Write Wild that encourages bloggers to review 14 picture books in 14 days, starting on Feb. 14th.

The Runaway Wok is a Chinese New Year twist on a Gingerbread Boy-style story where a normally inanimate object (here, the wok) comes to life with consequences for all. In this tale, the wok shows the importance of kindness, sharing, and treating others equally. You can even celebrate yourself with a recipe in the back for Festive Stir-Fried Rice.

Analysis: Patterns

There are many patterns at play in The Runaway Wok. The first is the overall patterning of the story. As it is based on a format familiar to readers of The Gingerbread Boy, you already have some expectations about how this story is going to play out. The second level of patterning, however, is the way that the story skips back and forth between the houses of the Zhang family and the Li family.

The story begins in an unassuming way: a poor family is at the market trying to buy eggs to make fried rice to share with the neighbors for Chinese New Year. But once the boy hears the wok talk and agrees to bargain for it, the patterning begins.

Each round begins with the wok proclaiming, "Skippity-hoppity-ho! To the rich man's house I go." At the rich Li family's home, the wok is filled with all manner of good things, before it signals its departure by announcing, "Skippity-hoppity-ho! To the poor man's house I go." The poor Zhang family is then astounded by the wok's treasures and immediately seeks to share them with their neighbors.

This pattern begins with food from the kitchens, followed by toys from the rich man's son and gold coins from the rich man. After these three times following the proscribed pattern, the four and final time is different. Now, when the wok returns, the greedy family has caught on and attempt to chase it (again, a callback to the Gingerbread Boy patterning). But alas, the family finds themselves caught in the wok, and the wok declares, "Skippity-hoppity-ho! To far away I will go," and they are never heard from again.

Thus are the poor and generous rewarded and the wealthy and greedy punished, and the wok is off on to its next adventure.


Want more picture book analyses? Click here to read my other posts for Picture Books 14:14 or check out these other great posts for the Picture Book 14:14 Challenge going on the rest of this month.

17 comments:

  1. I love reading variations of fairy tales from the past. The patterns sound like they are woven in so well in this version. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks, Joyce! It really is. I actually have another post today about Chinese versions of fairy tales. http://www.thelogonauts.com/2015/02/chinese-tales.html

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  2. I read this and then went to check my email and caught myself singing "Skippity-Hoppity-Ho!" That's how you know you've got a good refrain...

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  3. this sound like an interesting spin-off of the gingerbread man with a very valuable lesson built in. The repetition and silliness will certainly make it a winner with children.

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    1. Exactly, Linda! Kids really enjoy the family getting their comeuppance in the end too.

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  4. Ha! What a great take on the Gingerbread Man story! I love how the author ratcheted up the chase patterns to make a new plot for the story. Great back and forth and what a win in the end! Wonderful review Katie.

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    1. Thanks, Damon! If you want another one from the same author with more chase, try The Runaway Rice Cake.

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  5. I like the fun spin on the Gingerbread Man. I'm surprised that The Runaway Wok: a Chinese New Year Tale has over a 1000 words.

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    1. Thankfully, I didn't sit and count them, but that's what the site Carrie recommended had for the word count. It's a more involved tale with the lessons about greed too.

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  6. Happy Chinese New Year's! (tomorrow)
    Love fractured fairy tales, and this sounds like another good one!

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    1. Happy Lunar New Year to you, as well!

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  7. I found this on YouTube after you recommended it. Delightful story, and the back and forth pattern works so well in it.

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    1. I would not have thought of searching You Tube, interesting. Really glad you enjoyed it!

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  8. I found this on YouTube after you recommended it. Delightful story, and the back and forth pattern works so well in it.

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  9. This is a very cute story! I love multicultural tales and tell a few Chinese New Year folktales through my storytelling company! I love how this tale also picks up on a theme that is seen a lot in Asian folklore -- and that is the kind poor person who receives an award as contrasted with the greedy/unkind person who gets a negative consequence. I'm actually working on a Gingerbread Tale myself from a different culture -- so your post was so helpful as I'm going to look at the patterns that I have created and see how strong they are!

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    1. Glad to help, Lindsay! This same author has another, The Runaway Rice Cake, that cleaves a little more strongly to the Gingerbread themes.

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