By John Sooja,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Taiwanese girl drives fast-paced, tasty cooking drama.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Some engagement with Taiwanese culture, traditions, and cuisine. Different dishes are named and in some case there are brief summaries of how to make them. Some beginner cooking lessons (how to blanch or saute) and directions for making basic dishes (like oil rice or potato pancakes). Recipe ingredient lists are also shown.
Strong and simple themes of family, friendship, doing your best, and staying true to who you are. Steady message of finding similarities in difference and realizing we are more alike than different from one another. Don't listen to irrational, ignorant, or insensitive comments, beliefs, or accusations. Try your best not to lie.
Positive Role Models
Main character Cici shows bravery, courage, and dedication to achieve her goals, and on top of pleasing her parents, who expect straight A's. She's is inventive, creative, and clearly very bright, determined to learn and discover new things. Cici misses her grandmother back in Taiwan and wants to make her grandma and her dad happy at the same time. She also shows confusion and hurt after others tease her about her food, showing it's OK to feel this way. Aside from some insensitive remarks from unnamed characters, all the characters around Cici are postive, supportive, and want the best for her. Her new friends come through for her. While Cici's parents still represent some stereotypical attributes of Asian parent child raising, like being upset about one B+ grade amids an otherwise flawless record of scoring 100 percent on tests, it's clear that everything they do and have done is for Cici and her future: their respective work and jobs, their moving to the United States for "better education," and their "tough" expectation of nothing but the best academically. Cici's grandmother is also loving and supportive.
Violence & Scariness
Brief discussion about death and how different cultures deal with it.
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Some boys make fun of a girl's food (pickled cucumbers) and call them rotten worms. Characters call Ceci and her food "Thai" and "Chinese" even after Cici reminds them she's Taiwanese. A father makes a racist comment about her food: "Oh, so Chinese takeout?" A boy makes the racist comment: "I'm not a math person, like her."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Lily LaMotte's Measuring Up is a middle grade graphic novel about a 12-year-old Taiwanese girl named Cici who learns how to cook and compete in order to accomplish her mission to make her grandmother, her parents, and herself happy. While her parents mainly want her to study, get perfect grades, and make the most of their moving to the United States, Cici desperately misses her A-ma (grandmother) back in Taiwan, but they have no way of quickly getting a green card for her (which would allow her to stay in the U.S.), and they also don't have the money for a plane ticket. But Cici has a plan. All she has to do is enter a kids' cooking competition and win. The winner gets $1,000. But her competition might be tougher than she thought. Expect light engagement with Taiwanese culture, traditions, and cuisine, as well as cooking and food preparation. Some techniques and methods are discussed, like browning a protein, blanching, or how to cook rice al dente. There are strong themes of family, friendship, and staying true to yourself, and a positive representation of finding similarities in difference. A handful of brief scenes show racist attitudes, behavior, and comments toward Ceci. Characters call her "Thai," and "Chinese," even after she tells them she's Taiwanese. A father unjustly accuses Cici of spying and stealing. A boy invokes an Asian stereotype and suggests Cici is just naturally good at math.
Where to Read
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What's the Story?
In MEASURING UP, Cici and her parents move to the United States so Cici can have better "education opportunities." Her parents demand that good grades lead to a good college, which leads to a good job, and then a good life. But Cici has a plan to make everyone happy, and it has to do with cooking. She just needs to balance keeping her grades up, learning new cooking techniques, her new friends, school, and not giving away her secret plan -- to win a cooking contest and use the prize money to bring her grandmother to the United States. Will she be able to do it all?
Is It Any Good?
Cici's journey in this quick and sweet graphic novel is straightforward but satisfying. Measuring Up features a strong girl lead in Taiwanese Cici, and her parents, while falling into the stereotype of the Asian "Tiger Parents," clearly work hard to give Cici every opportunity. The story doesn't serve up too much of a challenge, but there's something pleasant about its structure as it bounces from cooking competition to school to friends to home life and back around again. Each new cooking test features new ingredients, new ways of cooking, and new dishes. As Cici gets closer to her goals, the stakes ramp up a bit, with her deciding to lie about a B+ grade on a math test, which leads to her father canceling her involvement in the cooking competition. But the motivation for why Cici is so desperate to accomplish her goals remains unquestioned throughout, and this grounds Cici and her story in the importance and warmth of family, good friends, and good food.
This graphic novel might really speak to immigrant and/or Asian American kids dealing with the kinds of daily social and school-related challenges that Cici has to face. Like worrying over having friends or anyone over to her home, not being able to do "American things" like sleepovers, or preferring to eat boiled dumplings, pickled cucumbers, and oil rice over "American food" like cheese puffs, butter, bread, or spaghetti. Cici ends up exploring different but similar culinary cultures and traditions, as well as discovering herself.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the challenges Cici's family faces in Measuring Up, and what immigrant families and kids face generally in the United States. What does Cici worry about? What does she worry about her new friends finding out?
Do the racist moments in the story feel accurate? Why might this be important? What other books and graphic novels have you read that deal with racism? Did they do a good job?
How or why did Miranda start to like Cici? Likewise, what made Cici begin to like Miranda? Can you think of other differences between people that are actually also similarities?
- Author: Lily LaMotte
- Illustrator: Ann Xu
- Genre: Graphic Novel
- Topics: Cooking and Baking, Friendship, Middle School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperAlley
- Publication date: October 27, 2020
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 208
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: September 28, 2021
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Where to Read
Our Editors Recommend
Books with Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander Characters
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