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Friday, November 30, 2012

Maggie's Chopsticks, written by Alan Woo and illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant. Kids Can Press, 2012. $18.95 ages 3 and up

"I hold my chopsticks
Behind my back
Like a magician getting ready
To wow an audience.
But as hard as I try,
I just can't do this magic trick.
I practice under the table
So no one can see."

I know just how Maggie feels. Whenever I go out with family or friends and chopsticks are the utensil of choice, I have to ask for a fork. I try, but I just don't practice enough...I think I need Maggie in my corner!

Everyone in the family seems to have their own special way of handling their chopsticks, The ways that they use them perfectly match their personalities. Brother is bold, Sister is graceful, Mother is quick and sure while Grandmother is old (like her chopsticks) and opinionated. Even Maggie's cat doesn't know how to help, nor does the Kitchen God. It's embarrassing, and it makes Maggie sad.

She diligently practices, tyring every which way. Only Father encourages her and suggests that she  ignore what others are saying:

"Maggie, you shouldn't worry
What other people think.
Everyone is different.
Everyone is unique."

That makes all the difference to her quest to learn this special something new. It turns out that Maggie's way of holding her chopsticks also reflects her personality...and Father thinks she's perfect!

The illustrations are a rich complement to the Alan Woo's text. which is poetic and heartfelt. Maggie is a vulnerable little girl, who just needs encouragement to be her own best self, and he is able to relay that in a lovely, gentle way. The bold colors, the expressive faces, and the glorious dinner table set with bowls of favorite foods add charm and detail that is sure to attract attention. 

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