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please, mr. panda + tea icing donuts from thirsty for tea!

22323647Please, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony (2014).

The premise is simple and the words are few. The characters are all black and white animals and the only color in the palette is from that bright, poppy box of doughnuts.



This is a manners book, but done funny with a dose of edge. Come see!




Just look at Mr. Panda! His gloomy eyes. The slight smudge of his shape. His “Doughnuts” cap! He looks like an apprehensive offerer. It’s like he already knows what’s going to happen.


Screen+Shot+2015-05-07+at+12.25.19And what happens is every animal he approaches doesn’t say please. They’re kind of an entitled (to doughnuts) bunch. And that’s the pattern of the book, with slight variation. Mr. Panda asks an animal if they’d like a doughnut and they respond with “I want the blue one and the yellow one” or “No, go away” or “I want them all! Then bring me some more.” No doughnuts for those guys.




Then, brilliantly, a new animal shows up. A lemur, who turns the pattern and even the orientation of the illustrations upside down! A lemur who says please and thank you and gets all the doughnuts. That last spread with the polite lemur in the box of doughnuts, bright pastry rings on his tail tells us that if you’re a nice lemur, you get doughnuts. Which is a pretty good deal.



One exuberant treat and one straight-faced panda. And the need for PLEASE.


Please Mr. Panda images from Steve Antony’s website.  




My talented friend Bonnie at Thirsty for Tea is a seriously creative cook and tea connoisseur in addition to being one of my favorite people. Her blog recipes are always gorgeous and full of fun!

For our Please Mr. Panda collaboration, she made a box of donuts, just like Mr. Panda’s! To a tea!

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No artificial colorings found in these poppy pastries. Bonnie whipped up icing that’s colored and flavored using pea flower, hibiscus, matcha, Earl Gray, and rooibos tea! (I told you she was amazing.)

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These are also on the healthier side—baked not fried and with a couple ingredients like coconut oil and flax seeds. But mostly, they’re fun and delicious and would make most creatures say, yes, PLEASE!

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For the recipe, more photos, and Bonnie’s take on the book, visit her blog!


applecake_juliepatchkisYou may be interested in my first collaboration with Bonnie too. Apple Cake: A Recipe for Love + Apple Cake Recipe by Thirsty for Tea.


food-centric picture books to savor

Picture books touch on so many topics, including elements surrounding food—feasting it, traditional kinds of it, and the connections shared over it. Here’s a roundup of 18 food-centric picture books to savor! Bonus, some of these include recipes in the back matter too!



Freedom Soup by Tami Charles, illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara (December 10, 2019).

Ti Gran teaches Belle to make Freedom Soup for the new year in a book that celebrates the history of the Haitian Revolution, family, and the joy and connectivity of traditions. Includes a recipe at the back and the most wonderful, gestural illustrations by Jacqueline Alcántara.



Amy Wu and Perfect Bao by Kat Zhang, illustrated by Charlene Chua (2019).

The main character struggles to make the “perfect” bao with her family until she discovers her own answer—making some just her size. Sweet, relatable, delicious.



Priya Dreams of Marigolds and Masala by Meenal Patel (2019).

Babi Ba reminisces about her memories of India by relaying sights and smells and spices with her granddaughter while they make rotli together.



Apple Cake: A Gratitude by Dawn Casey and Geneviève Godbout (2019).

A series of thank you’s to nature and its ingredients for, you guessed it, apple cake!



Wild Berries by Julie Flett (2013).

A contemplative journey in the woods for blueberry-picking with words in Cree and a recipe for wild blueberry jam. (You’ll find this one in my feature of Julie Flett’s Picture Book Life too.)



No Kimchi for Me by Aram Kim (2017).

Yoomi  loves her grandmother’s food—except for kimchi, something the “big kids” eat. She’s determined to develop a taste for it to prove she’s a big kid too.



A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin (2018).

An inventive, gorgeously illustrated mother-daughter moon myth inspired by Mid-Autumn Festival and mooncake midnight snacks!





Julia, Child by Kyo Maclear, pictures by Julie Morstad (2013).

A fictional imagining inspired by Julia Child on keeping the joie de vivre of childhood in cooking and eating no matter how old you are. And the one and only Coco Cake Land made chocolate almond cupcakes from this picture book in our collaborative blog post a few years ago too!



Thank You, Omu by Oge Mora (2018).

Omu’s stew smells so good, it attracts all kinds of visitors from her neighborhood, who she shares it with. When she has none left, those same people show up to return the favor. You can check out my post and craft to go with this lovely picture book here.



Magic Ramen: The Story of Momofuku Ando written by  Andrea Wang, illustrated by Kana Urbanowicz (2019).

A biography of Momofuku Ando who invented instant ramen with the desire to provide convenient, tasty meals to hungry people after World War II.


Frankie’s Favorite Food by Kelsey Garrity-Riley (2019).

A school story about food and costumes that’s full of cute food puns!




Dumpling Dreams: How Joyce Chen Brought the Dumpling from Beijing to Cambridge written by Carrie Clickard, illustrated by Katy Wu (2017).

This picture book is the story of Joyce Chen who brought dumplings from Beijing to Cambridge and became a restauranteur and TV show host!




Porcupine’s Pie by Laura Renauld, illustrated by Jennie Poh (2018).

A sweet story of baking, sharing, and friendship.




Saffron Ice Cream by Rashin (2018).

Rashin visits the beach in Brooklyn and compares and contrasts it to the beach she used to visit in Iran, the home she misses. Luckily, she meets a new friend and a new ice cream flavor in her new home, both ways to sweeten it.




Tea With Oliver by Mika Song (2017).

This one centers on two tea drinkers destined for friendship, eventually.




Max Makes a Cake by Michelle Edwards, illustrated by Charles Santoso (2014).

A story of a sibling making a birthday cake for his sister that folds in the Passover story and Jewish traditions as well.



To Market To Market by Nikki McClure (2011).

An exploration of a farmer’s market—its food and its growers.



Please, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony (2013).

This picture book has two key ingredients that make it a fit for a food list: manners and donuts! Plus, you can check out the donut recipe my dear friend at Thirsty for Tea made to pair with Mr. Panda’s story a couple of years ago.


Your turn! Any favorite food-centric picture books to share?




the ugly dumpling + steamed dumplings two ways from thirsty for tea

MMP-5871_UgDu_COV_MKThe Ugly Dumpling (April 2016), story by Stephanie Campisi, illustrated by Shahar Kober.

I’m a big fan of “The Ugly Duckling” because it’s a story of feeling less-than because of how others treat you and then finding out you’re pretty special and they were wrong all along.

I’m also a big fan of dumplings (and steamed buns!), especially having grown up in Singapore and Hong Kong.


So this picture book is a perfect literary and culinary combination!


(click image(s) to enlarge)


Setting: Golden Swan, a dim sum restaurant. Of course!—because that’s where dumplings live! (And nodding to the original tale in the eatery’s name is pretty smooth.)

Ingredients: a lonely, misunderstood dumpling and the cockroach who befriends it. (Yeah, this is one classy cockroach, another unexpected element to admire.)

Favorite garnish: the expressions on the main character’s and other steamed buns’ faces.

Flavor: clever, funny, and lively writing with undertones of deeper meaning.

Yelp review: a story about seeing past appearances that will have you coming back for seconds.






Cockroach accepts the ugly dumpling and shows it beautiful things in the world of a restaurant kitchen. One of those things is even a bamboo steamer with its own kind. But it turns out cockroaches are pretty misunderstood too. (Big time!) And in return for the cockroach’s welcome and kindness, the dumpling offers the same, forsaking sameness for authenticity. And that is the beginning of a beautiful, unusual, boundless friendship.


Big thanks to Mighty Media Press for images!





And now, for the main course, courtesy of my food-genius friend Bonnie of Thirsty For Tea. I feel so lucky she’s collaborating with me again! Her recipe is perfect for Chinese New Year on February 8th (or any day of any month!) and combines both facets of dumpling’s journey.


Bonnie will be your chef and server:

Steamed Chinese Pork & Napa Dumplings, 2 Ways

Makes 30 mini buns or dumplings.

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1 lb. ground pork

5 Napa cabbage leaves, minced, tossed with 1 tsp of salt, then rinsed and squeezed dry

2 green onions, sliced thin

3 Tbsp oyster sauce

2 Tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp sesame oil

1/2 Tbsp grated ginger

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tsp sugar

1/4 tsp white pepper


Use a 1/2 portion of this Steamed Bun Dough recipe (divided into 20 pieces to create 20 dumplings) and/or store-bought wrappers.


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mixing bowl

Tbsp measure

work surface

bamboo steamer

wok with slightly larger diameter than steamer OR a stockpot with exactly the same diameter as the steamer

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1. Make the Filling. Combine all the filling ingredients together in a mixing bowl.

2. Fill the Wrappers. For Buns: If you are using the Steamed Bun Dough recipe, fill each dough portion with 1 Tbsp of the filling according the directions in this post. After filling the buns, place them in the steamer. For Dumplings: If using store-bought wrappers, fill each skin with 1 Tbsp of the filling, seal opposite edges of the wrapper with water, then place them upright in the steamer.

3. Steam Away! Fill the wok or stockpot with 3-4″ of water. Set water on high heat and let it come to a full rolling boil. Place the steamers in/on top of the wok/stockpot and cook the dumplings for 10 minutes on over high heat.

4. Sip, Eat, Read, & Enjoy! 

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Check out the post at Thirsty For Tea for more! Thank you, Bonnie, for sharing your five-star literary/culinary creation with us! 




You might want to check out my last collaboration with Bonnie on Please, Mr. Panda, too!












fred + milky matcha rice candy lollipops from thirsty for tea

1396304_origFred by Kaila Eunhye Seo (2015).


Like Shaun Tan’s The Lost Thing, this is a book about growing up and losing something magical. But it’s also about the possibility of regaining that magic. Because of a young girl. Because of a lollipop.


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(click image(s) to enlarge)

Fred lives in a small town where he is “quite different from everyone else.” You know it from the illustrations. He carries a green lollipop. He’s in color (those black and red stripes). He also sees furry, monstery creatures. They’re his friends.


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Being different (and sometimes strange) doesn’t bother Fred. He’s too busy being with those monster-buddies.


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But then Fred goes to school. He makes new friends. He forgets the furry, monstery ones from his childhood. He has a routine. He isn’t different or strange anymore. Sometimes he feels alone though and we know why because we can still see Fred’s old friends, though now they’re black and white like his surroundings.


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And then one day a girl shows up, holding a lollipop the way he used to. She sees Fred’s friends. She reminds him of what he’s lost. But of what’s also still there. Waiting.

This is a wonderful book about staying connected to your imagination and never outgrowing lollipops and friendly monsters and magic.


Big thanks to Peter Pauper Press for images!





In the spirit of Halloween and nourishing our childlike imaginations, I asked my dear and uber-creative friend Bonnie at Thirsty for Tea to whip up some lollipops like Fred’s. And she did!

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In her signature style, they match Fred’s lollipop beautifully. Plus, they’re made from tea. Of course! Bonnie’s calling this recipe milky matcha rice candy, which can also be coiled into lollipops if you like. (I like!)

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These treats look like the perfect combination of sweet and creamy with the earthiness of matcha green tea. That vibrant green!

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Head over to Bonnie’s post to get the recipe and see more gorgeous photos of her process!


(Disclaimer if serving to kids: matcha contains caffeine.)


Please-Mr.-Panda-13You might also like Bonnie’s last picture book treat: tea-icing donuts from Please, Mr. Panda!