Book Spotlight: My Day With Gong Gong
Updated: Jul 15, 2022
Written by: Joshua Lim
Published: July 1, 2022
My Day with Gong Gong presents young readers with a personable story set.
Earlier this year we were treated Disney-Pixar's animated film, Turning Red. The 2022 film is set in Toronto, Ontario in 2002, and follows Meilin "Mei" Lee, a 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian student who, due to a hereditary curse, transforms into a giant red panda when she experiences any strong emotion. The film draws heavily from the movie's director Domee Shi's own experience as a Canadian-Chinese immigrant who grew up in Toronto. Turning Red follows Pixar's new direction of using more personable stories (Desowitz, 2022). Kwong (2022) says that these personable stories are exactly what we need, and that this film was one of the first few times she saw someone like herself as the main character. (Click here to read Evelyn Kwong's full reaction piece).
Shi's earlier work includes the 2018 short-film "Bao." Bao is the first Pixar short film to be directed by a woman of colour. Through Bao in 2019, Shi also became the first woman of colour to win the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film (Yglesias, 2019). Boa is one of the materials featured in ACENet's Resource for Educators: Asian Canadian Perspectives.
My Day with Gong Gong: The Story
Sennah Yee draws from her personal experiences of growing up in Toronto and wanting to connect with her Gong Gong.
"A day in Chinatown takes an unexpected turn when a bored little girl makes a connection with her grandpa. May isn't having fun on her trip through Chinatown with her grandfather. Gong Gong doesn't speak much English, and May can't understand Chinese. She's hungry, and bored with Gong Gong's errands. Plus, it seems like Gong Gong's friends are making fun of her! But just when May can’t take any more, Gong Gong surprises her with a gift that reveals he’s been paying more attention than she thought."
To find more Canadian authored stories check out our Books: Canadian page.
My Day with Gong Gong: Classroom Use
Historically, Cantonese was the most widely spoken Chinese language in Canada, however due to a slowdown in immigration from southern China (particularly Hong Kong and the Guangdong Province) combined with a sharp rise in mainland arrivals, the linguistic makeup of the Chinese-Canadian community has changed dominance in Mandarin (Guo & Devoretz, 2007; Statistics Canada, 2017). Cantonese remains one of the most widely spoken languages in Canada (Statistics Canada, 2017). My Day with Gong Gong explores the bridging of generational and cultural gaps between a Cantonese-speaking grandparent and an English-speaking child with the helpful mediator of food. This book represents the lives of many second and third-generation Canadians like myself who've lost the ability to speak or were never taught Cantonese. At the same time, it also represents the universal story of wanting to connect with our family. This is a book that all students can enjoy and relate to! There is a glossary at the end of the book that provides the Chinese characters and English translations of the Chinese words used in the story to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Three questions to ask students after you've read the book by author, Sennah Yee. Found here.
Preschool to Grade 2 Lesson Plan by the publishing company, Annick Press.
Colouring sheet by the publishing company, Annick Press.
Drawing Activity with the book's illustrator Elaine Chen
My Day with Gong Gong: Authors & About
Sennah Yee is from Toronto, Ontario, where she writes poetry, short stories, and film criticism.
Elaine Chen is an illustrator, painter, and visual storyteller. She enjoys using her own expressions to capture life's little things and moments that cannot be put into words. Currently, she works as an artist at a video game studio in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Annick Press is a proudly independent children’s publisher based in Toronto, Canada. Annick is recognized as one of the most innovative publishers of fiction and nonfiction for children and young adults. Founded in 1975 by Rick Wilks and Anne Millyard, Annick’s reputation was built on a commitment to literature for youth that reflects the world of the contemporary child. Annick Press is home to classic picture book stories such as Robert Munsch's "The Paper Bag Princess," and Kathy Stinson's "Red is Best."
My Day with Gong Gong: Awards
You don't need to rely on my suggestions alone as this book has won various awards and recommendations:
A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection
Joint winner, Kirkus Best Books List 2020
Joint winner, Best Books of 2020, CBC 2020
Finalist, Blue Spruce Award, OLA 2021
Joint winner, Best Books for Kids & Teens, Canadian Children’s Book Centre 2021
Desowitz, B. ( 2022). "'Luca': How the Oscar-Nominated Animated Feature Helped Change Pixar's Culture". Indie Wire. Archived from the original on March 22, 2022. Retrieved from https://www.indiewire.com/2022/03/luca-pixar-animated-feature-1234709854/
Guo, S. & Devoretz, D. (2007). The Changing Face of Chinese Immigrants in Canada. Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA). IZA Discussion Papers. 7. 10.1007/s12134-006-1014-0.
Kwong, E. (2022). In 'turning red' I finally saw myself reflected in a main character. thestar.com. Retrieved from https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/movies/opinion/2022/03/14/in-turning-red-i-finally-saw-myself-reflected-in-a-main-character.html
Statistics Canada. (2017). English, French and official language minorities in Canada. Retrieved from https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/as-sa/98-200-x/2016011/98-200-x2016011-eng.cfm
Yglesias, M. (2019). "Oscars 2019 milestones: Black Panther and Roma broke boundaries". Vox. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/culture/2019/2/24/18239135/2019-oscars-milestones-black-panther-roma