Crouching Tiger by Ying Chang Compestine

Author Ying Chang Compestine and Illustrator Yan Nascimbene with “Crouching Tiger”

Author Ying Chang Compestine and Illustrator Yan Nascimbene show off their book “Crouching Tiger”

I love taking my kids to author readings at our local bookstores, so when Ying Chang Compestine came to Hicklebee’s Children’s Bookstore, we made sure to attend. Compestine, a Bay Area resident, was there promoting her new picture book, Crouching Tiger (Candlewick Press, 2011), a subtly heartwarming tale about a Chinese grandfather and his American grandson.

Crouching Tiger explores the sometimes awkward relationship between an immigrant grandparent and an American (Hapa) grandchild. The main character, Vinson, finds his grandfather difficult to talk to, and generally sort of strange and foreign.

Although he spoke English perfectly well with Dad, Grandpa always talked to me in Chinese.

“My name is Vinson, Grandpa.”
“Your Chinese name is Ming Da. You are Chinese as well as American,” he said firmly.

The book’s illustrator, Yan Nascimbene, was also at the book signing. As revealed during the discussion, it was actually the first time Ying and Yan met, as their work was all done through correspondence with their editor. Nascimbene lives in France, but created his ink and watercolor illustrations through sketches of characters and photographs of Chinatown sent by Compestine.

While Nascimbene sketched in our copy of Crouching Tiger, Compestine chatted with me about her own family and career. She actually has a son named Vinson — just like the main character. However, the book is not based on a real life, as her own father passed away when Vinson was only two years old.


“Whenever I see a grandfather and a boy, I wondered what it would be like if my father were still alive,” Compestine told the crowd.┬áThe story was not an easy one for her to write. Over ten years, Compestine worked on Crouching Tiger (among numerous other children’s novels and cookbooks), imagining the bond that could have developed between her father and her son. The book was published in December of 2011. Vinson will be graduating from high school this spring.


Shop Indie Bookstores

In the story, Vinson’s grandfather says he is an expert at martial arts. However, as the boy practices with his grandfather, all they do is stand and make slow movements, not kick and punch. Compestine led the crowd in a Tai Chi pose, and pointed out that while the gestures may look easy, they actually require a great deal of inner strength and discipline — a lesson Vinson learns in Crouching Tiger.

Win a Copy of Crouching Tiger

My boys and I really enjoyed Crouching Tiger, and Candlewick Press has offered to give a free copy of the book to a lucky HapaMama reader.

Just leave a comment below telling a little bit about your relationship with your grandparents, or how your children relate to theirs.

We’ll announce a winner next week.

The giveaway is now closed. Thanks for participating!






    • says

      Virginia, thanks for reminding me that grandparents can enter to win a book to share with grandchildren, too. Good for you in nurturing that special relationship!

  1. says

    What a great book, always nice to see Chinese American authors. I did not know my grandparents well as they passed away when I was young. My daughter has a good relationship with her grandparents though we don’t get to see them much as they live in another state. But we talk on the phone almost everyday and sometimes Skype.

  2. says

    When I grew up, my only living grandparent lived in France. My grandmere is still kicking it there, eating the fresh foods out of her garden. My parents live a few hours from us, so my daughter doesn’t see them often. My father has recently starting sending her weekly one page letters about his life, starting with his childhood. This is very cool. Stories I have never heard before. We are keeping them in a binder. My daughter is really lucky to have a wealth of cultures in her family, one of the positive things coming from the splits in nuclear families. She has grandparents born and raised in Mexico, France, Germany, the USA and an Ojibway community in Ontario. We have a lot of options for family vacations! The active relationship between family members, especially across generations, is one that allows for so much learning and growth.

  3. Christy says

    My Grandma instilled in me a love for books and reading ~ she would let me borrow all of her old Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, Hans Christian Andersen, etc. books.
    Now, I’m building a “Grandma Library” for my 5 grandchildren. Whenever they come to visit they can “check out” books to read.

  4. Lori says

    My maternal Japanese immigrant grandmother was always a bit of a mystery to me. She was a warm person, wonderful cook (incredible platters of tempura butterflied shrimp!) and incredible seamstress who made many of my clothes and used the scraps to make matching outfits for my Barbies. Unfortunately, she didn’t speak much English, so I feel like I never really got to know her. This was in marked contrast to my paternal Japanese-American grandmother, to whom I was very close, and was fortunate to have in my life until I was an adult.

    My own hapa daughters are very close to my parents, especially my dad. For various reasons, they have never really developed close relationships with my in-laws. I feel like the greatest thing I have ever done is give my parents and my children each other. The close grandparent/grandchild relationship is truly something to be treasured.

  5. Jae Rin says

    I had very little relationship with my grandparents since they lived in Korea and I lived in the US, although one grandma did live in the US with us for a short while. Since she spoke no English and I spoke little Korean, I’m not sure how we communicated when I was young. When I was older and knew a bit more, I was able to communicate a bit more, but I always feel a sense of loss b/c I couldn’t communicate with them well. I hope for stronger relationships for my parents and in-laws with my children and so far it is the case, mainly b/c my parents speak English well and my MIL speaks well enough though. My FIL doesn’t speak English well and although we try to teach our children some Korean, it is not enough yet to have a real conversation. My children are young though so I hope that they will learn more to be able to communicate well with them.

    • says

      Jae Rin, Have you seen the book “Halmoni’s Day”? It’s a story about a girl whose grandmother comes to visit from Korea, and she is embarrassed and uncomfortable at first because halmoni is not like the other grandmas she knows. I thought of you when I saw it!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *