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The Runaway Wok: A Chinese New Year Tale
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The Runaway Wok: A Chinese New Year Tale

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  587 ratings  ·  155 reviews
When a boy goes to the market to buy food and comes home with an old wok instead, his parents wonder what they'll eat for dinner. But then the wok rolls out of the poor family's house with a skippity-hoppity-ho! and returns from the rich man's home with a feast in tow!

With spirited text and lively illustrations, this story reminds readers about the importance of generosit
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published January 6th 2011 by Dutton Books for Young Readers
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Average rating 3.87  · 
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This book was on hold at the library and I just got it a few weeks after Chinese New Year. I loved this story based on the Dutch folk tale The Talking Pot. Ming and his family are one of the poor people. Like Jack, Ming trades a bowl of eggs for a rusted looking wok that he hears singing. It turns out to be a good trade.

The story has a lot of do with poverty and wealth and not sharing our riches. The wok evens the playing field. The wok is good luck for one family and bad luck for another. This
Jan 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
Ming's family is poor, even though Poppa works for the richest man in Beijing. When Ming's mother sends him to trade for food, he comes home with a battered old magic wok. Soon after Mama washes the wok, it rolls down the street to the rich man's kitchen, where it loads up on every bit of food they have, and skips back to Ming's house. Ming's family unloads all the food, and the wok rolls away again, back to the rich man's house. This time it loads up all the toys. In the wok's third trip, it ta ...more
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Readers Looking for Children's Stories Set During Chinese/Lunar New Year
When Ming's parents send him to the market, to trade their last eggs for some rice, he returns home with a rusty old wok instead - a seeming disaster with a surprise outcome. For the wok isn't just any old piece of cooking ware, but a magical object, and after being washed and shined, sets out to provide all the food, toys and games, and money that Ming's family, and all their poor neighbors in Beijing, need...

Unlike some of the other reviewers who rated this poorly, I was not offended by the "t
Nicole G.
1. Culture or group portrayed: Asian (Chinese, set in Beijing).
2. Book information: Compestine, Y. (2011). The Runaway Wok: a Chinese New Year Tale. New York: Dutton Children’s Books.
3. Summary: It’s Chinese New Year, and the Zhang family wants to celebrate with their friends, but they are short on money. They send their son, Ming, to market with the last of the eggs so that he can buy some rice. At the market, however, Ming is distracted by an old man with a broken-down wok, which speaks to him
Jan 20, 2017 rated it liked it
The storytelling has a fun cadence, and the illustrations are tantalizing, especially of the food. I was a little surprised at how blithe the story is about the wok stealing everything from the rich family and then making them disappear. It makes all of the people happier, and they don't really know what the wok is doing necessarily, so it's not as strong an endorsement of theft and kidnapping as it could be, but it still may not be the best message. ...more
Jan 15, 2015 rated it liked it
This was a decent story. It was a blend of the Grinch, Peter Pan, and Jack and the Beanstalk. I enjoyed it.
Alex  Baugh
This starts off like a bit of a Jack and the Beanstalk story, except there's not giant, just a rusty wok with no handles. It's almost New Year and Ming is given some eggs to trade for a bag of rice for his family's celebration. Even though Ming's father works, the family is poor because Mr. Li, the richest man in Beijing, doesn't pay his workers enough. On his way to the market, Ming meets a man who sells him a rusty wok after Ming hears it singing "Boy, Boy, trade for me/I am more than what you ...more
Sep 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
The Runaway Wok is a book about a magical wok who helps a poor family in Beijing to celebrate the Chinese New Year. The poor family wants to bring in the New Year by celebrating with their friends and family, inviting them over for a feast, and sharing their fortunes and toys with them. One day, the mother sends her young son to the market to trade the last of their eggs for a bag of rice in order to make fried rice for the celebration. On his way, though, a old man with a rusted wok convinces h ...more
Robyn Reece
Apr 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: multicultural
Compestine, Ying Chang. (2011). The runaway wok: a Chinese New Year tale. Dutton Children’s Books. New York, NY.

Text to Text: This was definitely a spin on Jack and the Beanstalk, though I really enjoyed the different twists of how the wok produced results for the family. Like Jack’s Mom, the mother in this story was disappointed with her son’s choice…..until the wok brought back food for the Zhang family. Reader’s could also make comparisons to the Gingerbread Boy and the running away from the
Carson Anderson
Nov 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wow-books
This is an incredible book centered around Chinese cultures and traditions. I learned a lot about the Chinese New Year and its customs myself, from this book. It starts off with the poor Zhang family who is trying to scrounge up some rice to share with their neighbors for the Chinese New Year. They send their son to the market to sell eggs for some rice. The illustrations are incredible showcasing a Chinese market and traditional decorations. The boy ends up buying a rusty wok from an old man in ...more
Eve Huang
I will read this book after the reading and talking of “A New Year's Reunion: A Chinese Story”, and make sure all students have the background information of Chinese New Year. The beginning for the new book will start with a review, “Do you remember the Chinese New Year’s book? What did we talk about the celebrating when we are reading that book together?” then I will let students to share their opinions about true meanings of Christmas Day and Chinese New Year, “What is the more important thing ...more
Meg McGregor
Mar 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: holiday-reads
Little Ming has to go to market to buy some rice for the New Year's celebration; instead, he comes home with empty wok! His parents are a bit concerned what they are going to put in the wok, but the little wok comes to their rescue.

The wok travels down the road to the miserly rich family and collects festive stir-fried rice, pork, dumplings, steamed buns, walnut shrimp, long-life noodles, Kung Pao chicken, ginger fish, rice cakes; then he hurries to Ming's house, brimming over with delicious foo
Jun 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Inspired by the Danish folktale The Talking Pot, The Runaway Wok: A Chinese New Year Tale is a new folktale about a boy named Ming growing up in Beijing. It is Chinese New Year, and although his parents work for the richest man in Beijing, Mr. Li, they have no money to have a Chinese New Year feast of their own. Ming brings his family's last two eggs to the market to trade for some rice, but is sidetracked by a large, handle-less wok. He brings the wok home instead, where it magically reverses t ...more
Jennifer Kim
Oct 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
“The Runaway Wok” tells a fictional Chinese New Year tale about the happenings in a village during the holiday. It tells of a poor man who works for the richest businessman in China who sends his son to the market to trade their last eggs for a bag of rice to eat with friends. However, the son ends up bringing home an empty, but magical, wok that changes their fortunes while the rich greedy man essentially gets what he deserves. I would use this story to help the students dive into the concept o ...more
Oct 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrens-books
I picked up this book at the library because of the cover art (yeah, I'm THAT kind of reader), but I was not disappointed by the story!
"The Runaway Wok" is about a poor family on New Year's Eve that is struggling to have enough food to share in the celebration. Ming is supposed to go to the market and trade the last of the family's eggs for some rice. Along the way the little boy gets distracted by a peddler and trades the eggs for a rusted wok with no handle. There's something special about th
Dec 01, 2016 rated it it was ok
The setting of this is very Jack-and-the-Beanstalk-esque in terms of a boy sent to market who trades his goods for something seemingly worthless--in this case, a singing wok. I'm all about magical dishware, but the wok goes back and forth between this poor family's house and the dad's boss who is very wealthy and stingy. Rather than magically making things or telling the poor family a better way to live or something, it just steals all of the rich family's stuff and reallocates it like a rusty R ...more
Mary Ann
This is a fun folktale about Ming, a young boy who brings home a "magic wok" instead the rice his family needs. Bay Area author Ying Chang Compestine weaves this story in the tradition of folktales, but this is a fresh spin inspired by the Danish folktale “The Talking Pot”. Ming’s family is startled when the wok suddenly sings out, “Mother, make me shine so bright/ and you shall have food to share tonight.” After Mama Zhang polishes the wok bright and clean, it hops down and skips off to the ric ...more
Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-books
I give this book a 5 star rating.

This book is about the Chinese New Year celebration of Ming and his family. His family can't afford to celebrate the New Year in the proper way because their dad's boss Mr. Li has scammed them. When Ming goes to trade his families last eggs for rice, he meets a older man who wants to sell him a special Wok. Ming decides to do this and this Wok makes his families New Year the best one yet. The Wok helps get all the things that Ming's family doesn't have by stealin
Feb 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Have read this one twice now for storytimes on Chinese New Year (big event in our area) and will probably use it again.

I love the illustrations. Bright and colorful and actually a lot going on in the pictures. I love myths and legends, so this Chinese interpretation of a pretty classic set-up was a lot of fun. And I enjoyed all the aspects of Chinese New Year traditions which were included. Made for a fun discussion with the kids - the special foods, dancing, gifts, etc.

The biggest downside is t
Sarah Sammis
Mar 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The Runaway Wok by Ying Chang Compestine is a retelling of the Dutch story The Talking Pot. The story is moved to China and set around the Chinese New Year. Ming is sent to town to buy some food but comes home with a beat up but magical wok instead.

In previous magical pot stories I've read, the pot is always full. This one, though, has a life of its own and goes in search of food from those who can spare it but don't want to share. The wok seeks out a rich man's table and comes home with a feast
Holly Wagner
Jul 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: inte-5990
When Ming (son of a poor man working for a very rich man) is sent to trade eggs for rice, he comes back with a (magic) wok. In Robin Hood style, the singing wok steals from the very rich man providing the poor family all they need to celebrate the New Year with all the accoutrements. This tale tells of the cultural heritage of Chinese New Year through a clever (historically European) tale. Compestine, Y. C., & Serra, S. (2011). The runaway wok: A Chinese New Year tale. New York, NY: Dutton Child ...more
“The Runaway Wok” tells a fictional Chinese New Year tale about a poor family that send their son Ming to the market with a basket of eggs. Ming traded his eggs for an old wok instead of fried rice. This is a multi-cultural storytelling for a preschooler group. The illustration is bright, pleasant and very colorful. The wok had no handle for cooking ware, but a magical wok. After Mama Zhang washed and shined set on the table the wok "skippity-hoppily-ho!" went to the rich man house it went. THe ...more
Apr 05, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: childrens-books
This book was another book that won the Washington State Children's Choice Picture Book Award. The pictures were a great depiction of the chinese culture and very detailed and colorful. The book was about a poor family in china that wanted to have a new years party but didn't have much to give and the little boy finds a magic wok and it takes from the very mean and cruel rich family in town and gives it to the poor. The book is very humorous and and it's very cultural and tells the story of the ...more
Feb 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Robin-hood meets the Gingerbread Man in this fun tale about a magic wok who takes from the rich to give to the poor. It's catchy refrain, "skippity-hoppity- ho! To the rich man's house I go," reminds me of the Gingerbread man story (Although the wok is not necessarily running away). It makes for a fun read aloud. What is interesting about this book is that, in the midst of the stealing that is going on, it's main message is in the sharing. The author uses the story as a vessel to explain the tra ...more
Maggie Mattmiller
Feb 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
A fun, whimsical story (that will remind kids of Jack and the Beanstalk, the Gingerbread Man, and others), that is a great introduction to the Chinese New Year (or Lunar New Year). There is some extra information with details in the back, so students can learn more about Chinese New Year celebrations and traditions.

I understand some people may not like the Robin Hood feel of stealing from the rich to give to the poor, but I think kids will see a message of a rich man not paying his employees wel
Dec 06, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books not read this book when you are hungry OR haven't had your favorite Chinese take out in a while!! When I first began reading "Runaway Wok," the chant the wok says throughout the story might lead the reader to initially believe this is a take on "The Gingerbread Man." Instead, you could say that the character of the Runaway Wok is a lot like a Chinese Robin Hood. He does everything he can to meet the needs of the poor while taking away from a family of selfish people throughout the ...more
Jan 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children, holiday
Read this just in time to share with a kindergarten class before Chinese New Year next week! The story is about Ming's poor family wanting to celebrate Chinese New Year but having meager supplies to share with friends and neighbors. Ming is sent to town to trade a few eggs for a bag of rice, and like Jack trading for the magic beans, Ming trades for a singing wok. Only in this story everyone in the family can hear the wok and it provides a fabulous feast, riches, and gifts which Ming's family sh ...more
Jan 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Ming's mother sends him to town to trade their last few eggs for rice, but along the way he meets a little old man who asks him to trade him the eggs for a rusted old wok. Just as Ming is wondering why he would ever make such a trade, the wok begins to sing! Ming makes the trade and hurries home with the wok. His mother isn't happy with him, naturally. When the wok sings out to clean it and his mother does, wonderful things happen!

I plan on sharing this book with Kindergarten as they learn about
Jul 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: kids
Shelves: childrens-lit
I actually read "The Runaway Wok" a year ago with my 5th grade students. We chose the book, read it, deconstructed it, and turned it into a play for the class to perform. It was a big hit!

The kids liked the cute, whimsical illustrations, as well as the funny little wok, with a spirit for adventure and thievery. The tale is pretty straight-forward and simple, but the message of sharing and friendship rings true. The author even adds a recipe for "Festive Stir Fried Rice" at the back of the book
May 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: childrens-lit
The wok is the facilitator in this story - great things have come from our wok too, which gives the story a personal connection. This account of stinginess and generosity at the Chinese New Year revolves around the transfer of wealth and opportunity from the haves (who hoard their goods) to the have-nots (who enjoy and share what they gain). Although the story has a folk-tale quality, it comes close to "taking from the rich to give to the poor" that would be either lost on or confuse young reade ...more
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Ying Chang Compestine was born and raised in China. The spokesperson for Nestle Maggi Taste of Asia products and a national authority on Chinese cuisine and culture, she is the author of three cookbooks for adults, eight picture books for children, and one young adult novel. She lives in California with her family.

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