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The Ugly Vegetables

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  717 ratings  ·  108 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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Average rating 4.14  · 
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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
Brady Merrill
This was a feel good book to read for me. After watching Grace Lin's TED Talk, this book goes so much deeper than a Chinese family growing vegetables. This book shows the pride in her culture that she did not have as a younger girl. Lin's book acts as a mirror to young Chinese girls and boys. This allows them to develop that sense of self-worth that Lin struggled with as a child.
Jul 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A random choice from my daughter at the library turned out to be a surprising winner. We love this book! Highly recommend.
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.
I'm not sure how many times I read this book to my kids over the last few months. Too many to count. It's still enjoyable and that says a lot to me.

Being a picture book one might expect a simple, fun story but The Ugly Vegetables manages to be more than that. I find a mother working to keep a piece of her culture alive for herself and her daughter, and more than that, share that culture with those around her in the most delicious way.

This is a 5 star book for me (Excellent, would read again!)
Brooklyn Smith
Oct 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book shows the difference between a young girls garden of Chinese vegetables compared to the neighbors gardens of beautiful flowers. At first, the girl wished her garden looked like all the neighbors gardens. However, at the end of the story, her mom made a delicious soup out of their vegetables and all the neighbors wanted some. They brought over their flowers to trade. Then, the next year everyone was growing both flowers and Chinese vegetables. I love this story because it showed that ju ...more
Robbi Hawkey
Sep 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Ugly Vegetables is a fantastic book for many different reasons. There is such rich vocabulary and description words for the Chinese vegetables they are growing. The Chinese culture in this story is also embedded very well, and the soup they create at the end looks and sounds delicious. There are many times throughout this story that allow for questions and predictions, specifically with what everyone is growing. This book also provides children with an understanding of a neighborhood or comm ...more
Melanie Mccausland
I recently read the book "The Ugly Vegetables" by Grace Lin. I found this book to be very interesting as it taught me about various Chinese vegetables and taught me how to use those vegetables to make soup. I felt this book was a very delightful read as it was full of colorful images and accurate illustrations. This book really emphasized the benefits of being unique and demonstrated how following everyone else's lead isn't always the best route to take because being different could be greater t ...more
Nov 05, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was written and illustrated as a debut by Grace Lin, according to flap. It's about growing Chinese vegetables even though everyone else grows flowers. Once they're harvested and cooked, though, the whole neighborhood comes together in community and joy. Read for the "November 2020: Shared Meals / Food-Based Gatherings" theme in Children's Books group.
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.
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 that t ...more
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
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
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
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
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
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

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: community, nature
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
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