My chapter book Cat Soup and Other Stories is now published and available in all Commercial Press bookshops in Hong Kong. Here are some recent reviews:
Cat Soup and Other Short Stories by Jane Houng
Review by Blair Reeve, Author.
Cat Soup and Other Short Stories, for children in the middle reader bracket, contains three short stories, all set in Hong Kong. Two of them occur in the imaginative worlds of talking cats and angst-ridden mooncakes. A third, less fantastical drama, has a heroine who receives a new pony for her birthday. The first thing I noticed on opening Cat Soup & Other Short Stories was the pleasant texture of the paper and the generous font size. Each story is divided into short chapters for easy bedtime consumption, with cute illustrations by Stephanie Lin that show up every few pages.
In the first story, two kittens are rescued from a storm drain, but in the process are separated from their mother. They embark on a precarious mission to reunite with mum, travelling all over Hong Kong until they meet up with the lion of Lion Rock - a Hong Kong landmark. They eventually make their way to a clandestine cat soup business operating deep in the New Territories where Mama Meow is being held captive. Can they rescue her before her feline innards are turned into soup stock? This was my favourite of the three stories, and if you like cats, youâll enjoy the cute factor.
Twinkle Toes has a more realist premise - young Twinkle Toes, so named because she was born with six toes on one foot, receives a pony for her birthday from her estranged British Dad. Sheâs recently undergone an operation and canât yet walk, so the pony is a boon for her lack of mobility. Her Hong Kong Chinese Mum and Grandmother are the foil to Dad's plan for Twinkle Toes to move back to Mui Wo and attend school there. The story rides on broken home tension, but a lot happens in a very short space, including a smuggling operation and bust, and the happy ending feels a little rushed. Nevertheless the Hong Kong settings and characters make this story relatable and recognisable for Hong Kong readers.
The third story, Mooncake Magic, is based around the Autumn moon festival and its attendant fables. A mooncake named Moony is able to escape the bakery of his birth home without being eaten by rats. This story pits tradition against trend, but it is tradition that comes up trumps when Moony is selected by the fairies for a trip to the moon. Upon being savoured by Changâe, Moony offers words of wisdom that might help the immortal but despairing Changâe reunite with her past lover Hou Yi. This story piqued my curiosity about the traditions and fairy tale characters associated with the moon festival, yet Houng never gives too much away, leaving just enough mystery if you want to explore further.
Houng manages her language at the appropriate level â" a mix of simple and challenging vocabulary â" in these stories, with a tight combination of descriptive writing and economy of form. There are little pockets of humour scattered throughout the stories that should appeal to any Hong Kong child who enjoys local flavour in their bedtime soaps.
CAT SOUP AND OTHER SHORT STORIES
Review by Irene Bennett, Author
Cats and mooncakes frantically avoid being eaten by monsters, human monsters, that is, in CAT SOUP AND OTHER SHORT STORIES by Jane Houng, illustrated by Stephani Lin.
Both the book title and cover grab attention, evoking either a curious âWhat is that?â or a âyew-ewâ of enticing disgust while reaching for the book. A Hong Kong resident since the 1980s, Ms. Houng spins tales featuring two cats, a girl and a horse, and magic mooncakes in realistic Hong Kong settings. The cover art by Oi Man Yeung artfully represent the three stories in one inspired drawing and Ms. Linâs gray tone drawings add to each story.
Using topics and language appropriate for early readers or for a read-aloud, Ms. Houng creates scenes that satisfy and at the same time draw the reader on to the next scene. In CAT SOUP, the title story, a well-used first line, âA strong wind blew down the mountain,â makes the reader expect a human family, but instead the wind worries a family of cats living in a storm drain. Ms. Houng is adept at such clever little surprises in all of her stories.
CAT SOUP is the story of two brothers who are ârescuedâ from a storm, hunted by several predators who want to eat them, and finally manage to survive to keep Mama Mao from being the main ingredient of a pot of soup. In TWINKLE TOES, a horse provides transportation and a place to belong to an injured girl with estranged parents, while MOONCAKE MAGIC has talking mooncakes rolling toward an uncertain celebration of the mid-autumn moon.
The number of chapter pages increase, maybe by design, from the beginning to the end of this child-sized paperback chapter book, from 2-4 pages to 10 pages each. And MOONCAKE MAGIC is almost half of the book, so appropriately last. This formatting could make a child feel s/he is growing as a reader. On the other hand, some of the chapter titles may need explaining to a child. Another attractive feature of this paperback edition is the bookmarks edging the front and back covers. They work, thank you, QX Publishing Co., Hong Kong. In all, a delightful read for children!
CAT SOUP AND OTHER SHORT STORIES
Cat Soup and Other Short stories comprised of three very sweet stories that took place in Hong Kong. This was especially nice for children living in Hong Kong (my girls) to read stories that took place in a familiar place to them. The stories are about self discovery, courage, friendship, love and more. There are a total 3 stories:
Cat Soup, an adventure about two kittens who gets lost and go about looking for their mum across Hong Kong, only to find that their mum might become someoneâs cat soup! Twinkle Toes Twinkle Toes is about a girl Twinkle, 10, who gets a pony for her birthday and then rides across Lantau Island, making new friends and discovering all the little things along the way. The story brings out little details that little girls like Twinkle will find fascinating. Mooncake Magic The author puts on a modern twist to the well-known fairy tale of the Moon Festival. Pecan Pie, Red Bean, Shanghai Pink, Moony, Nutty, Meaty Suzhou Ham: just the name of these characters make it an fantastically fun story to read. The mooncakes are in a contest to see who will get selected by the Moon Goddess, will it be a traditional one or a modern one? This one was my favourite story.
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