The Dinner That Cooked Itself is a gorgeously illustrated fable type story set in ancient China. It is one I enjoy reading with my daughter and giving her a small taste of Chinese culture.
Story: Tuan longs for a wife but, for various reasons, all the available women are not suitable matches. When he finds a large snail and feeds it, he is astonished to discover a full meal always waiting at his house. Was it the neighbor’s wife? A friend? Who can he thank for his bountiful meals? It’s then that he discovers the snail he has been feeding is actually a fairy.
The Swan Maiden fairytale (usually referred to as Hagoromo or feather cloak in Asia) fairy tale is given a different spin here, with the shell being the maiden’s home. This is a gentler version of the tale, which usually meant the enslavement of the fairy/maiden. Here, when she is discovered making his food, she says her name is White Wave and she must leave him because he’s seen her. It’s far kinder than the typical Crane/Swan maiden stories.
The artwork is quite lovely – with a painterly feel to the backgrounds and then digital art on top with textures and motifs. The illustrations are full page in several areas and quite striking.
In all, a lovely, light, and enchanting children’s book.
Reviewed from an ARC.