IT'S A SPECIAL DAY! NAI NAI SAYS, "LILI, DO YOU WANT TO HELP MAKE BAOS?"
Lili is delighted. Bao are little bundles with a delicious things inside, soft and warm and juicy dumplings! And Lili loves making them with her grandmother. But there is one problem. When Nai Nai goes to her refrigerator she finds she has no cabbage! How is that possible? She always has cabbage--except when she doesn't! Nai Nai's recipe's secret is big fresh cabbage leaves to line the steamer to simmer the dumplings properly!
"ZAO GAO!"NAI NAI EXCLAIMS IN EXASPERATION!
But... no problem! Her Polish friend Babcia on the sixth floor usually has cabbage. She sends Lili to borrow some. Lili discovers that the elevator is out of order, so she dashes upstairs, where Babcia is having a problem with her special recipe for pierogi. Her potatoes have sprouted. She hands Lili a big cabbage but asks her to run down to Granma's apartment on the sixth floor to see if she has some potatoes to spare. Lili thanks Babcia and hurries down with the cabbage to Nai Nai and back up to Granma's kitchen to borrow the potatoes for Babcia. But Granma has her own culinary emergency, too!"HOWDEEDOO!" SHE SAYS, HUGGING LILI.
She has potatoes, bu she's making her special Jamaican meat patties and her garlic buds are all wrinkly and dried out. She wonders if Lili would run down to Abuela on the fourth floor to see if she has some to spare for her recipe. Lili agrees and runs upstairs with the potatoes for Babcia and back down to Abuela's, who has plenty of garlic to spare for Granma, but she is fresh out of cumin for her tamale fillings! She asks Lili to run down to see if Nonna on the third floor has some to spare. Nonna does, but by the way, she asks, could Lili trot up to Teta's to see if she has some olive oil to share for her ravioli recipe?
By this time Lili's trot has slowed down to a tired trudge, but there's a heavenly smell coming from Teta's kitchen.TETA IS MAKING FATAYER!
Teta has a big bottle of olive oil for Nonna, so Lili treks up to make her delivery to the waiting Nonna and finally heads back down to Nai Nai's kitchen on the ground floor to recount her grocery delivery adventures. Nai Nai and Lili laugh at the ups and downs of her travels as they take out the dumplings steamed with cabbage leaves "imported" from the top floor.
The tall building is filled with the smells of irresistibly delicious finger foods, so what else is there to do but to leave their hot kitchens and take their special dishes downstairs to the cool courtyard to share a potluck party for everyone, in Melissa Iwai's just published Dumplings for Lili (Holiday House, 2021).
Little Lili has certainly worked up an appetite procuring ingredients for the tasting party feast, and author Melissa Iwai includes the recipe for baos and even saves one big surprise for Lili (and her readers) for the ending. Iwai's sprightly, colorful, and joyful illustrations of cooks from all over the world making their specialties set off a funny story that proves that many cooks definitely don't spoil the broth in this modern multicultural version of the old folk parable of Stone Soup.
Says Publishers Weekly, "A resonant portrait of intergenerational care, and a toothsome celebration of how food unites a multicultural community.