Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 20, 2021

Book Giveaway: DUMPLINGS FOR LILI by Melissa Iwai

Melissa Iwai has written and illustrated a new picture book, DUMPLINGS FOR LILI , published by Norton Young Readers. Melissa has agreed to send the lucky winner a copy of her book to a United States winner. 

All you have to do is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Melissa.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


A heartfelt picture book celebration of food, community, and family―and little dumpling treasures from around the world.

Lili loves to cook baos, and Nai Nai has taught her all the secrets to making them, from kneading the dough lovingly and firmly to being thankful for the strong and healthy ingredients in the filling. But when Nai Nai realizes that they are out of cabbage (Secret #8: line the basket with cabbage leaves!), she sends Lili up to Babcia’s apartment on the sixth floor to get some. Babcia is happy to share her cabbage, but she needs some potatoes for her pierogi. . . .

What follows is a race up and down the stairs as Lili helps all the grandmothers in her building borrow ingredients for different dumplings: Jamaican beef patties, Italian ravioli, Lebanese fatayer, and more. Energized by Melissa Iwai’s engaging artwork and kinetic storytelling, Dumplings for Lili is a joyful story of sharing food, friendship, and love in all their forms.


My newest book, Dumplings for Lili comes out June 1 with Norton Books for Young Readers. It is the same week as my birthday, and I couldn’t be more thrilled!

In the story, Lili, gets to make baos with her Nai Nai, but they soon discover they are missing cabbage!

Image of Nai Nai’s kitchen)Luckily, Babcia, a Polish grandma on the sixth floor has cabbage for her. But she discovers she needs potatoes for her pierogis! Gramma, on the 2nd floor has potatoes but she needs cumin for her Jamaican beef patties. The story continues with Lili retrieving and passing along missing ingredients to all the grandmas in her building so they can each finish making their dumplings.

(Grandmas carring dumplings)

At the end, they all celebrate together in the courtyard and share the dumplings from their culture.

(Dumpling Party)

And Lili gets the best surprise of all – her own dumpling treasure!

(Lili holding baby brother)

My process for writing this story was different from every story I have written because it was a collaboration with my editor, Simon Boughton at Norton Books for Young Readers. He had a desire to see a story about dumplings that included grandmas. He brought this idea to me and asked me if I would like to write a story having these components in it. I had never worked this way before, but I immediately had all sorts of ideas and inspirations and I enthusiastically said, “Yes!”

(Lili Saying YES)

Dumplings are basically some sort of dough covering delicious fillings inside. There is a form of a dumpling in almost every culture. I loved this idea of multiculturalism together with the concept of universality – we can be different on the surface yet all the same on a deeper level. I also love the idea of the humble dumpling being a compact package of yumminess. I knew early on that I wanted a new baby in the story, because I have always thought of babies being human dumplings ever since my son was born!

After we discussed the idea of all the grandmas living together in a tall apartment building, we came up with the idea of Lili running up and down the stairs. I wanted to tie it to the making of dumplings, and it made sense to have her helping each grandma find the right ingredient for them to complete their dumpling dish.

It was great fun to do the research for this book. I took many tours at the Tenement Museum in NYC and did onsite sketching there while I learned about the immigration experiences of different waves of immigrants over many decades. I scouted out “locations” in NYC, and I took many photos of buildings for reference and then created my own building.

(Building in Queens)

(opening title page image of building)

In choosing the dumplings for the book, I knew I had to limit the number of them. There are so many dumplings in the world! It was hard to choose! We thought six was a good number. I knew I wanted the dumplings to be as diverse as possible, in terms of geographic origin, flavor, shape, method of making. And I wanted the grandmas to be diverse in ethnicity and race. Within Chinese cuisine alone, there are many kinds of dumplings. I chose baos because to me, with their fluffiness and round, cute shape, I thought they most represented a baby.

The type of dumpling each grandma was making then determined what ingredient might be missing that they needed. It was somewhat of a logic puzzle figuring out which common ingredient might be used in two different cultures and also be related to dumplings! I also had to figure out Lili’s path throughout the story. I would get confused myself while writing it, so I needed to have a sort of a map to keep it straight in my head!

(Rough Map Sketch)

Initially, I hadn’t planned on including a map of this sort in the book, but after doing a rough sketch of Lili telling Nai Nai about her adventures, we decided it really deserved a double page spread!

(Rough Single Spread Sketch)

(Final Double Page Sketch)

This was the most difficult spread to do because I wanted it to communicate all the things! I wanted to show Lili’s linear path (shown with the arrows), I wanted to show what she borrowed and from whom, and I wanted to show what each grandma made. This is the final piece in the book.

(Final Double Spread Map)

I really hope readers enjoy this spread. It is the kind of thing I would have loved to have seen in a book when I was a kid. I always loved detailed graphics and illustrations, and I would spend hours poring over books such as Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever and Pietro Ventura’s Book of Cities.

The artwork for this book was created combining hand painted watercolors and digital painting. This was the first scene I attempted to paint when I first started the finals for the book. I had a rough start! I was never happy with this one and I kept changing it. Then I realized it didn’t work logically, because the window in front of Nai Nai doesn’t make sense with the architecture of the building!!! There is a window where the living room would be!

(Old Opening Spread)

I reworked the whole scene from square one. I’m so glad I did. This was one of the last pieces I did for the book and it’s one of my favorites.

Final Art Shown in Book)

(Dishes and Sauces)

In this scene, I painted each element separately.


(Part of Background)

(Image Swatch)

Then I put everything together in layers in Photoshop and finished the illustrations digitally.

(Image Screen Capture of Layers)

Each grandma is from a different culture, so I wanted each of their environments to reflect that. For example, Babcia, the Polish grandma, has furniture and dishes with motifs inspired by those I found while researching Polish textiles.

(Babcia’s Kitchen)

Abuela, the Mexican grandma, has Mexican masks hanging on her walls and lace and pottery based on those I’ve seen during my travels and living briefly in Mexico.

(Abuela’s Kitchen)

Most of the grandmas have flowers in their kitchens. Nonna, the Italian grandma, has an espresso pot on her stove.

(Nonna’s Kitchen)

I also loved including the different languages spoken! In my former life I studied language and linguistics, so it was fun to incorporate that into the book. I used speech bubbles and hand lettered the phrases. I asked native speakers for words they use for “grandma” and the equivalent of “darn it!” in English.

(Nonna Saying Cavoli!)

I hope readers enjoy the story, saying all the phrases in different languages, and following Lili’s journey up and down her building. And in the back of the book there is a recipe for Nai Nai’s Baos for them to try!

(Image of Recipe)

Thanks again, Kathy, for having me and featuring Dumplings for Lili!


I’m an author and illustrator of children’s books, based in Brooklyn, NY. I’ve illustrated over 30 books and have been lucky to have the opportunity to work with many clients during my almost twenty year career. This includes, but isn’t limited to: Henry Holt/Christy Ottaviano Books, Clarion Books, HMHCo, Viking, Scholastic, Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster, and Random House.

From the time I was a little kid, I’ve wanted to write and illustrate children’s books. I used to staple paper together and make tiny books for my dolls.

I live with my husband, Denis Markell (also a children’s book author), and teenage son in a teeny, tiny apartment. My painting area and computer space do double duty.

Melissa, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I always love your illustrations. You bring life to everything you create. The picture of everyone in the building getting together shows how even when we are different we are the same. Thank you for reminding parents and children of that. Good luck with the book!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. What a fun story!!!


  2. I love this clever book – how fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, I LOVE this book! And this post! How fun (and tons of work). I love how the entire apartment building is multicultural with tasty foods from each culture and how the story all comes together. Fabulous! And now I’m hungry. Congratulations, Melissa!

    I follow by email and I will tweet this fun post.


  4. Thanks so much, Kathy, for featuring Dumplings for a Lili and hosting this give away!! 😘😘🥰


  5. Thank you Kathy and Melissa! Such a fun, kind, importantly positive book just now especially – but timeless! Very special! 😻

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh my gosh -this book is making me hungry! Love how food connects us and is so rich with diversity – congrats on a yummy book!


  7. Wow. What a challenging project. I bet most readers would be surprised to learn how much research was behind a “fiction” picture book. (And now I need to find some fatayer — I’m not familiar with those, but they sound yummy.)

    Kathy, I subscribe to your blog.


  8. What a beautiful book with a wonderful message. I hope lots of kids get a chance to read this story. Thanks.
    I’ve tweeted:, and shared:
    I also follow daily by email: crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com
    Thanks again, have an excellent day!!


  9. A delightful premise with softer illustrations. Love the dumpling/borrowing map.


  10. What a wonderful book to be shared by all! Thanks for sharing, Melissa and Kathy! Kathy, I am a newsletter subscriber 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh, I love this! I love the different nationalities shown, the grandmas, and the familiar story of going from one to the next to find something. Congrats!


  12. This books looks perfectly enchanting. I can’t wait to read it. I follow your blog by email. I tweeted about the giveaway.


  13. I love Melissa’s books and I can’t wait to get it!!! Shared on Facebook.


  14. I can’t wait to read this wonderful book! The research you did was so interesting.


  15. I got hungry reading your book journey! I love how the grandmothers share with each other to make dumplings from their own cultures. I’ll share this on twitter!


  16. What a wonderful premise for a multicultural picture book! Melissa, your book journey was so much fun to learn about! Thanks for sharing it in such detail!


    • Kathy, I happily subscribe to your newsletter. Love it!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: