From School Library Journal
Grade 6–9—In this collection of gruesome ghost stories, Compestine takes readers through China's history, from the building of the Great Wall to the modern day. Organized like a traditional Chinese banquet, with each story as a dish, the tales revolve around the spirits of those who died unfairly and prematurely. Most feature murder victims exacting their revenge, usually disposing of their killers. These stories are not only deliciously frightening but also introduce readers to ancient and modern Chinese customs and beliefs. The author postscripts each selection with background about something in the tale such as the resurgence of Buddhist temples, insect fights, or exotic delicacies. Food plays a prominent role in each tale, and Compestine includes a recipe with the back matter for each story. Polhemus's black-and-white atmospheric illustrations add to the spookiness. Not for the fainthearted, these offerings are a step beyond Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
(HarperCollins, 1986).—Jennifer Rothschild, Prince George's County Memorial Library System, Oxon Hill, MD
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Compestine (Boy Dumplings, 2009) presents an eight-course offering of chilling tales honoring Chinese food and ghost lore. It is believed that those who die without a decent last meal or were wronged in death come back to seek revenge. The book, divided into appetizers, main courses, and desserts, centers chapters around individual dishes, for which Compestine generously provides a recipe, along with a cultural note relevant to events in the story. Most of the tales are more gory than spooky, and the juxtaposition of recipes for beef stew and steamed shrimp dumplings with stories of harvested organs and cannibalized Great Wall workers turns the stomach a bit. It’s not discernable whether the sensationalism of some dishes, such as brains from a living monkey, will help or harm the demystification of Chinese tradition among young readers, but they certainly won’t walk away without having learned something new. Grades 6-8. --Courtney Jones