A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts

A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts: A Collection of Deliciously Frightening Tales by Ying Chang Compestine

The publisher did not oversell this title when they decided on “A Collection of Deliciously Frightening Tales” as the subtitle of Compestine’s newest offering. Eight nightmare inducing stories are great for reading alone and sharing at any haunting hour.

It is truly rare to read stories set in modern day China for children and I appreciate the authenticity in Compestine’s writing, backed up by researches and her own life experience. It must be noted, however, that since these are stories mainly about greedy and corrupt people, the pieced-together large picture shows a fairly unsavory angle of China, old or new. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that Compestine has an agenda, but I would say that matter like organ harvesting, cooking and eating endangered animals, and government corruption and bribery are serious topics that, might make a Chinese reader feel uncomfortable or even ashamed: especially when the author includes notes after each “course.” On the other hand, these are human rights and animal rights issues that the Chinese and the Chinese Government should address. In this way, this book serves as a political treaty, exposing atrocities for the world (and young readers) to examine. I will recommend this to many of my students and their teachers who are always on the lookout for something really scary to read!

The recipes are authentic and wonderful — but I can’t bring myself to try or make these dishes after reading the stories and remembering how they are tied to the stories.

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