The Runaway Wok

Multicultural Picture Book Read Aloud

"The Runaway Wok" by Ying Chang Compestine and Illustrated by Sebastia Serra was published in 2011 by Dutton Juvenile

The read aloud is planned for first graders. "The Runaway Wok" is a picture book about a boy in Beijing, who 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!

The book has been recognized for several literary awards, including:

-2013 Washington Children's Choice Picture Book Award (WCCPBA) Nominee

-2012 Storytelling World Resource Award

-2012 California Collections List, for school libraries

-Scholastic Book Club Choice

-2011 Lasting Connections Top 30 Titles

Author - Ying Chang Compestine

Award winning author and dynamic public speaker, Ying is the author of many children's books, cookbooks and a novel. Ying has been featured on many national television programs and she has been profiled in national magazines and newspapers.

Ying has visited schools throughout the US and abroad, sharing with students her journey as a writer, how her life in China inspired her writing, and the challenges of writing in her second language.

Below is a video clip of Ying demonstrating how to make Chinese dumplings.

How to Make Chinese Dumplings with Ying Compestine

Illustrator - Sebastià Serra

Sebastià Serra was born in Vilanova i la Geltru (Barcelona) Spain in 1966. He studied Fine Arts at the Universitat de Barcelona. Laboratory of image treatment and synthesis and specialised in infographic design. "The Runaway Wok" is Sebastià's first American picture book.


Prior to reading this book, I had never heard of the author or illustrator. I was impressed when I found out just how accomplished each of them are. Ying, having grown up in China, introduces Chinese culture and food in many of her books including this one. Sebastià has done graphic work for reading books, interactive publications, magazines and others. His whimsical, detail-rich illustrations lends itself perfectly to children's books.

"The Runaway Wok" is a Chinese New Year tale. The story takes place in Beijing, at the start of the Chinese New Year celebration. After reading the story for the first time, I did some research on the Chinese New Year, as I was not very familiar with the history and traditions pertaining to the holiday. I was astonished at how much tradition and meaning there was in all the details of the celebration. There was meaning and reason in almost every detail, all the way down to the different types of food that are served.

Evaluate Picture Book

From what I have researched, I have found that the book portrays the Chinese New Year celebration and customs accurately and authentically. The author tells the story in such an appealing and endearing way, it is obvious she is very familiar with the customs and traditions of the Chinese celebration. The story and illustrations are full of rich cultural detail. There is even an author's note about the Chinese New Year, as well as a recipe for stir-fried rice to close out the book. The author did a great job of tying a story that reminds children of the importance of generosity, using a Chinese wok, which is a symbol of sharing, together with the most significant Chinese holiday that emphasizes sharing.

Vocabulary/Instructional Sequence

  1. Prior to reading the story, "The Runaway Wok," I will present the two vocabulary words to the class, (wok and dumpling) and ask if anyone is familiar with them.
  2. I will then read the story, "The Runaway Wok" along with the author's note to the class.
  3. Afterward, we will discuss again what a wok and dumpling are after having read the story.
  4. I will then ask each of them to construct a word poster on a piece of construction paper. The word poster will be split into 4 quadrants. In one quadrant, I will have them draw a picture of the word, (2 quadrants, 1 word each) then define and use in a sentence in the other qudrant (2 qudrants, 1 word each). I will then ask if anyone wants to share their word poster for the class to see.

Thinking Critically Questions

  1. What holidays or traditions do you typically celebrate with your family and friends?
  2. What is something you knew or learned about the Chinese New Year celebration?
  3. In the beginning, why did Poppa Zhang think it wouldn't be much of a celebration this year?
  4. Why is it important to share with others?
  5. What other stories does "The Runaway Wok" remind you of?


· Why was this particular book selected? How did it “match” the funds of knowledge of this particular class/group of students?

My 1st grade class is not very diverse with only 3 students being of a minority group. After revewing some of the different books available, I settled on "The Runaway Wok" because I thought it had 3 things I liked about it: (1) It was a fun and entertaining story, (2) It had a good lesson/theme, and (3) it was a story about a minority/culturally unfamiliar group. Not until after I selected the book did I find out that the students were supposed to learn about the Chinese New Year in a previous lesson that did not happen because of some missed days because of the snow.

· What were the strengths of the read aloud/the picture book/vocabulary teaching presentation?

Strengths of the read aloud was that I got a sense of enjoyment from all of the students after reading the book. I believe they all learned the theme or meaning of the story (generosity; importance of sharing). The picture book had amazing, highly-detailed illustrations that kept the students engaged while I read the story. I also believe the word poster was beneficial to the students as they were able to recall what each of the vocabulary words meant at the end of the lesson.

· What would I need to do differently next time?

Next time, I would pay more attention to my class management skills/style to make sure all the students were actively listening. Also, I did not realize this until after, but I could have held the book higher while reading so the students toward the back of the group did not have to strain to see it. Also, I modeled the word poster on the whiteboard, which helped them, but that also meant I had to turn my back to the entire class a few times. I could eliminate this by having everything on the whiteboard prior to my lesson and reveal it as I go through the lesson.

· Respond to the following open-ended statement: Implementing multicultural children’s literature that is culturally and linguistically diverse relative to my elementary students has helped me...gain confidence in my teaching. It is easier to teach the students something already familiar or to build off of previously taught material. It was interesting to hear and see the misconceptions and questions that arose before and after the lesson relating to the multicultural aspect since for some of them this was the first time being introduced to the Chinese culture.