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From The Asian Reporter, V16, #6 (February 7, 2006), page 12.


The Have a Good Day Cafe

By Frances Park and Ginger Park
Illustrations by Katherine Potter
Lee & Low Books, 2005
Hardcover, 29 pages, $16.95

By Josephine Bridges

Mike’s grandmother has recently come from Korea to live with Mike’s family in the United States. She misses Korea terribly, and the family speaks mostly Korean, but she’s learning some English. "Her favorite words," Mike reports, "are hi, bye, and delicious!"

The Have a Good Day Cafe is a good read even if you’re not a fan of Korean food, but if you’ve sampled bulgoki and bibim bap, and are eager for more, you’re in for a real treat. There’s a glossary at the end of the book, but it’s easy to learn the names of various Korean dishes just from reading the narrative. "When your father was small, his favorite food was mandoo," Grandma tells Mike. "I would hold a hot, steaming dumpling up to my lips and make a smile with it. How he would laugh and laugh!"

Mike’s parents have been selling bagels, hot dogs, pretzels, and some of Mike’s other "favorite American foods" from their food cart on a busy corner of a park, but two new carts on the same corner are eating into the family’s business. One rainy afternoon when business is at its worst, Mike’s father worries that they may have to give up their cart. "And go back to Korea?" Grandma asks. It’s what she wants more than anything, but later that evening, while Mike is helping her "make the noodles and sauce for chajang myun," he thinks of a way to save the food cart, and it’s clear to his grandmother how she can help him.

The relationship between grandmother and grandson in The Have a Good Day Cafe is as delicious as the Korean food the two are constantly cooking together. In one especially delightful illustration, Mike holds up a sign he has made that says "I love Grandma" while the object of his affection leans against a tree, fans herself, and beams at the boy. Illustrator Katherine Potter has a wonderful feel for Korean faces, and she depicts Grandma as a beautiful older woman, a refreshing sight indeed.

The Have a Good Day Cafe comes to a close with Grandma and Mike talking about — what else? – food, specifically naeng myun, or noodles, and kalbi, or spare ribs. In a little aside to the reader, Mike confides, "I think she is feeling right at home now."

To buy me, visit these retailers:

Powell's Books