Grace Lin, the multitalented artist and author of books like the beautiful Newbery Honor winning Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, the excellent The Year of the Dog and The Year of the Rat, both about Pacy Lin, a creative girl whose parents immigrated from Taiwan, and how she balances her family's traditions with her life at school. Lin is also the illustrator for, and often the author and illustrator for, seventeen picture books, including a few of my favorites below.
Now, Grace Lin has written a beginning reader book that has already won the estimable Theodore Seuss Geisel Award honor this year, Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same! I love Lin's illustrations, which are so colorful and playful that it is a snap for her to bring her characters to life. The book has six chapters that follow the twins through their daily tasks while also, subtly, showing how they are not the same. The final story in the book, Mixed Up, has a wonderful circularity to it that finds Ling and Ting having a picnic and Ling asking Ting to tell her a story. Ting proceeds to tell her a story that incorporates the events of the previous five stories, mixing them up just enough and adding a little something new so that the twins and the reader will end the book quite delighted.
My favorite story in the book is the first one, The Haircuts, in which we learn one of the obvious ways in which Ling and Ting are not exactly the same.
In chapters like The Magic Trick, Making Dumplings, Chopsticks and The Library Book we also see the other ways that the twins take a different approach to life. When Ling has a hard time using chopsticks to eat the dumplings she and Ting have made, Ting has all sorts of suggestions. Glue the food to the chopsticks! Tie the food to the chopsticks with string! Ting even offers to feed Ling with her chopsticks. When she refuses the offer, Ting says, "Then how will you eat?" Ling answers, "I will eat with a fork." The simplicity and the charming nature of the answer are exemplary of the tone throughout the book.
While Lin is capable of creating complex situations and emotional hurdles for her characters to overcome in her novels, she is also perfectly suited to writing the best kind of beginning reader book there is - the kind where two friends, be they frogs, toads, mice, moles, hippos, ducks or girls, get along in their daily lives, usually helping each other and enjoying each other's company, but sometimes shaking things up with their differences. But always working it out in the end. While Ling and Ting are not so much the cut-up and straight man the way Dodsworth and duck are, nor are they the worrier and the soother the way Frog and Toad can be, they are two realistic children with realistic interests and concerns who bring a little something extra to their stories by being twins and presumably similar in all ways. It is fun to see how Ling and Ting navigate the same situations as well as different ones and I hope that Lin will grace us with more of their adventures in the future! As always, the shelves need more solidly readable, thoroughly entertaining, thoughtfully written and illustrated beginning to read books.
Book 2: Ling and Ting Share a Birthday
came out in 2013!
Ling & Ting paper dolls!!