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The Ugly Vegetables

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  597 ratings  ·  87 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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4.11  · 
Rating details
 ·  597 ratings  ·  87 reviews

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A great story about gardening and culture. Most people want to grow flowers until they smell the great smells from this mothers kitchen with her strange Chinese vegetables. In the end people plant some of them around too.

There is a list of veggies in the back and a recipe to make this yummy sounding dish.

The kids liked this book they said, although they don't want to grow the vegetables which do look ugly to them. I had fun reading this book.
Lisa Vegan
Jul 04, 2010 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 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...
Tiffany Ng
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book presents itself from a child's perspective and how this Chinese girl views her own culture. Everyone in her neighborhood is planting flowers while this little girl's mom is planting "ugly" plants. She had to ask her mom why can't she plant flowers like the other families. The mom had to tell the girl that the vegetables are more useful than those flowers. Later on when the plants are done the mom took the vegetables and made it into a stew. The stew smelled so good the entire neighborh ...more
Wendi Lee
I read this with my three year old, and we both enjoyed it. We're currently growing our own vegetable garden, and it was fun to see how the protagonist's opinion of her mother's "ugly" garden changed. A lovely book about embracing our cultural roots and sharing them with family and neighbors.
Oct 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: chinese-american
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
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
Oct 09, 2012 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
May 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A delightful picture book about a Chinese girl's developing understanding of the beauty of her mother's vegetable garden. This is a great read aloud as it stresses the hidden beauty of vegetables, the importance of cultural heritage, and building community. The illustrations are also colorful and rich.
Crystal Jackson
Jul 14, 2014 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.
Emmanuel Roque
Beautiful colors that translate well to the reader. I like how the author included the recipe in the back. Sweet story
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book made me so happy; I wish it was around when I was little! I always wondered why our garden was never as "pretty" as our neighbors, and then on the return side of that, wondered why the other gardens weren't edible (harsh life lesson - not all plants are edible, no matter how much they look like spinach). Wonderful story and artwork!
May 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
A mom and her daughter plant a garden when all their neighbors are planting flowers in the spring. They plant Chinese vegetables, but the daughter wishes they had planted flowers until her mom harvests the vegetables and cooks up a delicious soup.
Louise Roberts
Feb 13, 2015 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
Hana Sm.
Oct 20, 2013 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
Caycee Hatchette
Feb 25, 2015 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
Sep 23, 2012 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
Katelyn Agnone
Oct 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book, The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin. This book followed the journey of a young girl who was jealous of the beautiful flower gardens grown by her neighbors, while she only had the ugly vegetables that she planet with her mom. She sure did change her mind when the vegetables became ripe and her mom made a delicious Chinese soup with them, which ended up making the neighbors jealous of her instead. Next season, the neighbors grew the ugly vegetables too. The story was lengt ...more
Cheryl P
Nov 08, 2015 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
Ting Zhang
Nov 05, 2015 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
Sabrina Henry
Jun 17, 2010 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
Feb 20, 2012 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
Michael Ho
Oct 11, 2015 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
Jun 14, 2009 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

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
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
Dec 09, 2015 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
Abby Kenski
This book was okay. It was a little bit odd for me. I didn't think anything really exciting happened throughout it and the story itself was strange. However, I really liked the illustrations and the bond between the mother and her daughter. It was really cute to see how a mother and daughter go out and plant vegetables together. This is something that I can relate to, because I do the same thing with my family. As for the illustrations, I thought they were very bright and colorful, catching the ...more
Tim Vandenberg
Jun 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Grace Lin's debut book provides a gorgeous visual precursor of her stunning art to be showcased 10 years later in her Newbery Honor winning novel, "Where the Mountain Meets the Moon" (which also is on the Common Core State Standards Exemplar Text list).

In "Ugly Vegetables", Ms. Lin expresses a strong sense for the Joy of Color and a cross-cultural take on a young child's Delight in Nature (through yummy, unfamiliar Chinese vegetables).

Recommended, especially as part of an author study while prep
Jun 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
In Year of the Dog by Grace Lin, she refers to the picture book "The Ugly Vegetables" she created in school for a book contest. On Grace's website she shows a photo of the original book she created in school and this book. I'm curious about the similarities but also love the fact that she took an idea she had as a child and actually wrote the book as an adult.
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