Wise Words

Author channels Chinese culture through children's stories

Boulder author Ying Chang Compestine, a native of Wuhan, China, has been at home in Colorado since coming to the University of Colorado in 1986. Now she's about to move to California, and it's a shame: Compestine's departure is a loss for members of the area's burgeoning Chinese-American community. But it's the kids who will especially lose out. Although she's most famous for her cookbooks, Compestine has written seven picture books for children, all of them based in the folklore and traditions of her homeland. That includes a series about the mischievous Kang brothers, who accidentally invent one Chinese mainstay after another, including noodles, chopsticks, kites and, in the newest installment, paper. As Compestine tells it, "They do something naughty, they invent something, and then they're rewarded." The story line itself is no accident; the author admits that as the younger sister of two older brothers, she's always been charmed by the impish ways of boys. "When I was young, I'd do naughty things," she says. "I got into trouble all the time. But the Kang brothers do things I never dared to do."

Needless to say, the books are a hit with youngsters who identify with the tricksters. But in addition to offering lessons in Chinese culture, which are sewn into their plots, the books end with directions for a themed hands-on project, be it kite-making or cooking dumplings. And the intricate, jewel-toned, cut-paper illustrations by Yongsheng Xuan ice the cake beautifully.

Compestine plans to continue the series -- fireworks are next on her list -- but not until she's completed current projects aimed at preschool and middle-grade kids. Fortunately, the fire for writing the stories is far from burning out. "Sometimes I feel like I've lost touch with China," she says. "Writing these books brings me closer to home." -- Susan Froyd

Truest Seuss
Children's Museum production is the Cat's meow
SAT, 11/29

Forget the big-budget movie with Mike Myers mugging under all that makeup -- not to mention the off-color jokes. We all know the Cat is for kids, and they'll be able to reclaim the consummate Seuss sensation for their own today at the Children's Museum of Denver, 2121 Children's Museum Drive (I-25 and 23rd Avenue). Little ones are sure to purr with delight during the Saturday Family Showcase presentation of The Cat in the Hat, an interactive theatrical affair by Beyond the Horizons that also includes excerpts from such Seuss favorites as Green Eggs and Ham and Oh, the Places You'll Go!After throwing themselves into the story (and, we surmise, having way more fun than child stars Dakota Fanning and Spencer Breslin, or even Thing One and Thing Two) with games, rhymes and all sorts of audience participation, those in attendance will end the experience by making Cat in the Hat pins using recycled materials. Let's face it: This kind of fun is almost always better than the big picture.

Showtimes are 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.; tickets are $1 with museum admission (members free). Call 303-433-7444 or log on to www.mychildsmuseum.org for more. -- Susan Froyd

 
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