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The Ugly Vegetables

4.11  ·  Rating Details  ·  361 Ratings  ·  65 Reviews
It's easy to appreciate a garden exploding with colorful flowers and fragrances, but what do you do with a patch of ugly vegetables? Author/illustrator Grace Lin recalls such a garden in this charming and eloquent story.

The neighbors' gardens look so much prettier and so much more inviting to the young gardener than the garden of "black-purple-green vines, fuzzy wrinkled l
Paperback, 32 pages
Published July 1st 2001 by Charlesbridge (first published 1999)
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Lisa Vegan
Jul 10, 2010 Lisa Vegan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who want vegetables praised; gardeners; for cross cultural understanding
I read this author-illustrator’s Dim Sum for Everyone! and I liked it but was not wowed by either the illustrations or story.

I liked this book, her first book, much better.

For my entire life I’ve wanted a vegetable and herb garden. Flowers have never done it for me as much as does an edible garden.

So, this story, told by a little girl (thinly veiled as it’s obviously about the author) whose mother grows Chinese vegetables instead of flowers, when all the neighbors grow pretty flowers, had me on
Harold Underdown
Mar 24, 2013 Harold Underdown rated it it was amazing
This is Grace Lin's first published book. I acquired it soon after I arrived at Charlesbridge, having met Grace when she was still a student at RISD. It's a simple story with folktale undercurrents about a Chinese-American family that grows vegetables--ugly ones, in the opinion of the girl narrator--while the neighbors grow flowers. But one day, they harvest the vegetables, and then the magic happens...
Zoraya Brown
Children and I would use this book as part of our learning about plants, foods, flowers and gardens. The book would also be a great way to discuss how doing some things differently than others helps us more in life, while others are for pleasure and looking good. For example in this story, the gardens of vegetables and flowers are compared. Children could bring packs of vegetable and flower seeds that their parents have taken them to select, (or I would probably feel more comfortable having them ...more
Crystal Jackson
Jul 14, 2014 Crystal Jackson rated it really liked it
Shelves: children
This is a great book! I used this book in a lesson to teach children the concept of gardening and planting. Children will learn where fruit and vegetables that they come from.
Oct 09, 2012 Peacegal rated it really liked it
This is a fun story that celebrates vegetable gardening, and introduces children to potentially unfamiliar Chinese veggies and the proper Chinese names of each of them. This book made me hungry for a vegetable stir-fry!

Veg*n parents note: While the story itself is a very positive introduction to the world of plant foods, it includes a recipe for the soup prepared in the story, which includes both chicken and chicken broth. These could easily be replaced with vegetable broth and either tofu or so
Caycee Hatchette
Feb 25, 2015 Caycee Hatchette rated it it was amazing
Personal reaction: I thought this was a cute book and I enjoyed reading it. It would be a good read aloud book and I think more students would be interested in that, rather than individually reading it on their own time.

I would probably read this book aloud to first graders. The main character in the story asks a lot of questions and I think that first graders would be able to easily relate. I would incorporate a science unit with this book reading because it's a book about the family growing ve
Louise Roberts
Feb 13, 2015 Louise Roberts rated it liked it
We have been studying the Chinese new year in a reception class and this story was a nice change from all of the New years themed books that we had been reading.

The story revolves around a little girl and her mother planting a garden full of vegetables while their neighbours fill theirs with pretty and sweet smelling flowers.
The little girl is dismayed with the gardens appearance but when her neighbours come to her house bringing flowers in exchange for soup, she can see that her mother has ac
Lorelei Westbrook
Jul 03, 2015 Lorelei Westbrook rated it really liked it
Categories/Genres for this class fulfilled by this book: Picture Books

Estimate of age level of interest: Kindergarten-Grade 4

Estimate of reading level: Grade 2

Brief description: A girl and her mother start a garden, and the girl wonders why their garden looks different from the other gardens in the neighborhood.

Identify at least 2 characteristics of this genre and subgenre and discuss how they appear in your book: Picture books tell stories through the combined use of text and illustrations. I
Melissa Stasi
Feb 10, 2015 Melissa Stasi rated it really liked it
This book is a wonderful way to get children interested in growing gardens and eating vegetables because the children can relate to this young girl. A girl is planting vegetables with her mother and she is sad because her garden doesn't have pretty flowers like her neighbor's house. As she learns why we have to water the plants and tend the garden, the girl also figures out how plants grow. Once the vegetables grow, her mother makes a miraculous soup and the child loves it. This book shows that ...more
Ting Zhang
Nov 05, 2015 Ting Zhang rated it it was amazing
This book “The Ugly Vegetables” is suitable to use for ages 3 to 6. It was written by Grace Lin. It tells a story of in the spring, a young Chinese girl helps her mother start their garden. They saw their neighbor’s gardens look very prettier. I like this book provide bright and beautiful pictures. This book is very good for teaching vegetable. Vegetable can be used to help children learn about science, health, and safety. This book can help children to know about fruits and vegetables that are ...more
Michael Ho
Oct 11, 2015 Michael Ho rated it really liked it
The Ugly Vegetable is about a Chinese girl that lives in an American neighborhood. She thinks that everyone's garden in the neighborhood looks beautiful except for hers; she thinks her garden looks ugly. "Before long our vegetables grew. Some were big and lumpy. Some were thin and green and covered with bumps. Some were just plain icky yellow. They were ugly vegetables." You can see here that the little girl automatically says that their ugly because of the appearance of the vegetables. She late ...more
Renate Robey
This book contains a lot of vocabulary. A little girl is sad because her mother has planted a garden full of "ugly" Chinese vegetables while the neighbors have planted pretty flowers. She really wants to be like everyone else and grow pretty things. Finally, at the end of the book, her Mom harvests the ugly vegetables and makes a great soup that smells so good people from around the neighborhood come to try some -- asking if they could trade flowers for a taste! There is a glossary at the back o ...more
Dec 09, 2015 Kassandra added it
Shelves: k-4
A little girl and her mom plant a traditional Chinese vegetable garden. Her neighbors plan gardens too but are completely different from theirs, and it makes her upset. Her mom cooks her a very special soup that included most of the vegetables from the garden and the whole neighborhood comes over and enjoys a very delicious bowl of Chinese soup. At the end the little girl learn about all of the Chinese vegetables and how they are cooked and eaten. She learns about her culture and how special her ...more
Cheryl P
Dec 15, 2015 Cheryl P rated it really liked it
This picture book is about a young girl and her family garden. She and her mother planted Chinese vegetables but all of the neighbors planted flowers. All of the neighbors' flowers came up and looked beautiful, but her vegetable garden looked ugly. This made her feel very different. It wasn't until harvest, when the little girl realized how special her vegetables were. When her mother made soup using the vegetables, everyone in the neighborhood could smell it and came carrying flowers to trade f ...more
Amanda Hayes
Oct 16, 2014 Amanda Hayes rated it really liked it
This charming book embraces the Chinese culture in an American neighborhood. The author does a brilliant job of taking something that may seem ugly and uncovering it's beauty. The author Grace Lin embraces her childhood memories as she tells a tale of a young child who wants to know why her family's garden is so different from those around her. In the end the little girl embraces her differences and is glad to be different. It is a beautiful story that expresses to the reader that being differen ...more
Sep 23, 2012 Linda rated it it was amazing
One of my colleagues has chosen to do a 'food' year with her primary students. They will study gardens, growing in the wild, different cultures, cooking, and any other topic connected to food. We share many picture books and I count it as a pleasure whenever I can find a book about food that she doesn't know. I learn a lot from her about books, but also about teaching the youngest students in our school. Recently she shared this book with me, and I am excited to review it. It tells about a young ...more
Hana Sm.
Jan 19, 2014 Hana Sm. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: asian
I love this book because it could show children how to have pride in their family traditions & not be embarrassed. This is the story of a Chinese girl who lives in a neighborhood where everyone seems to be planting a garden. As she helps her mom plant their garden, she notices that everyone else in the neighborhood is planting flowers, but her mom is planting vegetables. She complains but her mom tells her that, "These are better than flowers." The girl is OK with this until...she notices th ...more
Oct 14, 2013 Julie rated it really liked it
One hundred years ago, when I was in middle school, I befriended a girl who had recently moved to the U.S. with her family from Greece.

She invited me to her birthday party, which included roughly 200 people, a pit in the backyard where someone was roasting a lamb, and adults going up onto the roof to shout toasts (maybe to the birthday girl, maybe not) in Greek.

My friend took me roughly by the arm and made me sit with her in her bedroom while she cried angry tears over her weird Greek relatives
Elizabeth Taylor
Mar 08, 2015 Elizabeth Taylor rated it it was amazing
I love this book! It's about this Chinese family that grows some rather ugly looking veggies in their garden. They compare their ugly garden to their neighbors' beautiful flower filled gardens. When the vegetables are ready for harvest, they make a soup with them. The soup is so good and all the neighbors love it! This story shows that you can't judge a book by its cover--a great message for children! I would without a doubt, use this book in my classroom.
Dec 24, 2014 Megan rated it liked it
Shelves: children-s-books
This picture book is one that my daughter brought home from the library. I liked that it was about a Chinese girl and her mother. It's always nice to see children's books that have different cultures incorporated. Most of the ratings on Goodreads for this book are pretty high. It was just ok for me and also my two children. None of us have much experience when it comes to gardening so this could be why we didn't enjoy it more.
Ruqayya Jarad
Jun 29, 2015 Ruqayya Jarad rated it it was amazing
Shelves: eled-413
The Ugly Vegetables, by Grace Lin. It is a lovely and well-formatted story with an enjoyable multicultural narrative. A Chinese-American girl and her mother grow a vegetable garden where everyone else grows flowers. The girl thinks their plants are ugly compared to flowers, but her mother made a delicious vegetables soup that the whole neighborhood wants to try. Later on everyone in the neighborhood is growing Chinese vegetables as well as flowers. Age 4-8
Apr 24, 2012 Frances rated it really liked it
Shelves: nature, community
1.This story gives a different prespective on gardening,and becomes a great introduction to Asian vegetables. It also offers an ugly Vegetables soup recipe.
2.This story offers multicultural look on Asian gardening triditions.
3.In this story community is celebrated, and the joy of gardening is share by all.

Extended Activity

There are many Asian makets in my community,and I have access to many of the asia triditions and people. I would like to get the vegetables that were mentioned in the story suc
Sep 02, 2015 AMOP rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite courses in graduate school was Multicultural Children's Literature. The author, Grace Lin, visited our class a guest speaker & brought signed copies of The Ugly Vegetables for everyone. The book is thoughtfully written from the perspective of a shy young girl. This book has the recipe at the end - perfect reading extension activity with kids.
Mar 27, 2014 Brielle rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-choice
I really enjoyed this book because it was about a girl and her mother planting a garden and the little girl kept comparing her garden to her neighbors. She did not like her own garden and felt that her neighbors gardens were better. In the end when the little girl saw what her garden produced she was proud of her garden.
Sabrina Henry
Jun 17, 2010 Sabrina Henry rated it it was amazing
Shelves: culture
The Ugly Vegetables story is about a little Asian girl living with her mom. They planted vegetable sin their garden, while their neighbors all had flowers. The little girl was very curious about the difference and was a bit perturbed. Her mom explained to her and they cooked soup from their Chinese vegetables. Some of the neighbors smelled it and joined them for soup.
This book can be used to teach children about character, acceptance, different cultures, and names of Chinese vegetables. The il
Jun 14, 2009 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Ugly Vegetables is a book about appreciating culture and diversity. It is a story of a young girl and mother who plant a garden. Throughout the different stages in the garden the young girl is questioning her mother and ashamed of the type of garden they are planting and wishing it looked more like their neighbor's garden. The young girl is from an Asian culture (and right now the culture is drawing a blank) and her neighbor's garden is the "American" version of what a garden looks like.

I li

Megan MacDonald
Acceptance and sharing is a great life skill to teach young children. In this story, a Chinese little girl is planting a garden with her mom. Soon, she notices that her garden is different from the rest of the neighborhood and she begins to ask her mother why they cannot grow flowers instead of vegetables. In the end, the whole neighborhood envies their Chinese garden and the wonderful soup they made with the vegetables. This is a great story about unity and shows how different cultures can join ...more
Very cute! A Chinese-American little girl questions why her mother's garden is different from those of the neighbors, and learns to appreciate her special heritage.
Bethany Anne
Dec 09, 2014 Bethany Anne rated it it was amazing
I like this. I'm hoping that when my daughter is older she will realize that just because something might not look good doesn't mean that it won't taste amazing.
Ashley Correll
Mar 23, 2010 Ashley Correll rated it liked it
Lin and her mother plant seeds in the spring. Lin waits expectantly for the plants to start growing, but is disappointed when her plants don't have lovely flowers like the neighbors' gardens. Her mother tells her to wait for something better than flowers. Finally teh vegetables start to grow, but they are so ugly. Lin is very sad until one day her mother harvests the vegetables and makes a soup. Then all the neighbors come to her house for the delicious soup. Lin is Chinese and illustrations of ...more
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