My Day with Gong Gong
Written by Sennah Yee and illustrated by Elaine Chen
Published by Annick Press
Available September 8, 2020
May, a young girl, spends the day with her grandfather. At first, she feels shy and later bored, until her grandfather takes her to Chinatown. As they make their way through the city, May cannot always understand her Gong Gong. May does not understand Cantonese, and Gong Gong does not speak that much English. Gong Gong takes May on errands and into shops, and sometimes it seems like Gong Gong’s friends are laughing at her. She does not understand and gets frustrated. She is also hungry. It turns out, though, Gong Gong does understand her: he gives her pork buns when she is hungry, and he surprises her with the stuffed monkey she saw in a gift shop.
Sennah Yee captures intergenerational love and understanding with this new picture book. Illustrator Elaine Chen’s colorful drawings show off May’s full range of emotions and normalizes the frustration and confusion that can often come when a young child is out of their comfort zone. Chen’s pictures feature close ups of May’s face, and as the book evolves, May and her grandfather’s faces turn towards each other, not away. The watercolor illustrations are bright and airy, detailing everything from a living room to the streets of Chinatown. Some of Yee’s best writing comes in situational comedy–May gets pooped on by a pigeon, and the tears flow quickly. Her grandfather comes to her aid, and the tearful expressions soon turn joyful. At the beginning of the book, May was suspicious of the new faces and phrases in Cantonese that she did not understand; by the end of the book, May is more confident and can exclaim, “Nei hou” as well as say “doh je” in thanks for some delicious food. The picture book’s ending has a list of Cantonese phrases May and her grandfather used during their day together.