BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Hot Pot Night! by Vincent Chen [in Shelf Awareness]

“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. For one young man, his refrigerator doesn’t have much to offer. An older woman sits alone. A daughter queries her mother, who seems to have run out of satisfying ideas. 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. The boy (and his adorable puppy) offers the electrical cooking pot. Mother and daughter provide the broth. The older woman contributes stacks of meat. The young man arrives with a smorgasbord of fresh veggies. 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 to come.

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.” He reveals his own love of sharing hot pot with family and friends “ever since he was a kid,” with fatty pork belly as his favorite hot pot ingredient.

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. As arms reach toward the ready feast, Chen cleverly zooms above for a birds-eye view, turning the text on the side, presenting a well-laden table of diners, dips, dishes, and an oversized pot brimming with happy deliciousness. The cooperation doesn’t end with empty bowls, as the satiated group ensures clean-up also remains a communal event. Warm and welcoming, Hot Pot Night! proves to be a nourishing experience for bellies and hearts alike.

Shelf Talker: Neighbors and friends gather together, combining myriad ingredients to share an abundant, nourishing feast on Hot Pot Night!.

Review: “Children’s Review,” Shelf Awareness Pro, July 22, 2020

Readers: Children

Published: 2020


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