Hot Pot Night!
"What's for dinner?" is an end-of-day call to action in homes everywhere. Debut author/illustrator Vincent Chen answers with Hot Pot Night!, a toothsome treat that gathers family, friends and neighbors for what will be an evening of delectable communal dining.
As the residents of an apartment building return home, thoughts turn to an evening meal. As the hungry lean out of windows, not quite sure how to quell the pangs, a boy shouts out for all to hear, "Let's have hot pot!" Apartment by apartment, the neighbors assemble, each bringing a necessary component. Everyone takes turns preparing--boiling the broth, washing and chopping the ingredients, adding the meat. The anticipation is well worth the results, as spoons, chopsticks and bowls sate the brood with "hot pot, hot pot, tasty hot pot" until all that's left is the promise of future gatherings for more hot pot.
Rhode Island School of Design-trained Chen creates a diverse community with characters of various ages, ethnic backgrounds and familial units. His short and rhythmic text invites even the youngest readers to join in. "Hot pot," Chen explains at book's end, "is a Chinese soup that literally brings people together and encourages them to share." Adding his mother's recipe further encourages participation--with the added caution to "always cook with an adult." Chen's digitally rendered pages, presented predominantly in a palette of golds, oranges and browns, seem to reflect the fading light outside, while beckoning audiences into brighter cozy spaces inside, where friends gather, appetites grow and hot pot entices. Warm and welcoming, Hot Pot Night! proves to be a nourishing experience for bellies and hearts alike. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon