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Dim Sum, Here We Come! by Maple Lam

Updated: Mar 28

Maple Lam shares Dim Sum, Here We Come! (Harper), a celebration of the traditional Chinese customs passed on from generation to generation: togetherness, love, family--and FOOD!

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About the book: Dim Sum, Here We Come! by Maple Lam. Published by Harper.

From author-illustrator Maple Lam comes a new picture book about a Chinese American girl and her younger sister as they attend their weekly dim sum family gathering. A celebration of the traditional Chinese customs passed on from generation to generation: togetherness, love, family--and FOOD!

Today is Sunday and that means its dim sum time with my whole family! I can't wait to see everyone, especially Grandma.

I'm going to eat lots of shrimp dumplings, rice noodle rolls, egg tarts, and my favorite--char siu buns. We will have to order enough for us all to share.

So what are you waiting for? Dim sum, here we come!

Episode Transcript:


Matthew: Welcome to the Children’s Book Podcast. I’m Matthew.

I am a teacher, a librarian, a writer, and a fan of kids. 

This podcast, now in its 11th year, has such an interconnected guest list. Some guests are household names. Some are library favorites. Some are making their debut. And others still come recommended from one friend to another, or one past guest to another. Today’s guest is a name I’ve known for a long while, and an Instagram page I’ve known and loved even longer.

Today I welcome Maple Lam to the podcast.

At the time of recording, Maple’s newest book was Dim Sum, Here We Come! (Harper), a celebration of the traditional Chinese customs passed on from generation to generation: togetherness, love, family--and FOOD!

Let’s step into my conversation with Maple Lam. Ready? Here we go.


Maple: Hi, my name is Maple Lam. I was born in Hong Kong and moved to, uh, greater Los Angeles when I was 11. Okay. I am a children's book author and illustrator, and the latest picture book that I wrote and illustrated is Dim Sum, Here We Come. 

Matthew: Ooh, so, jealous that you got to like, have dim sum with my buddy Benson.

That'll be, when I go out your, your coast, let's get your reading group together. Absolutely. Please, please, I would love to be a guest. But this is all to say for those listeners that might not know, Maple, what's dim sum? 

Maple: Dim sum is a very regional type of Chinese meal. It started off in Canton, which today we call Guangzhou, which is the southern tip of China. And Hong Kong is located in the southern tip, which is why we also speak Cantonese. And we also have the tradition of eating dim sum for breakfast and lunches.

It consists of small dishes of a variety of food like dumplings, rice noodles. Buns and tarts. My favorite is the egg tarts, which is like a creme brulee inside a cookie. Um, in fact, like, yeah, I just had dim sum with two talented author illustrator friends yesterday. That's Ken Min and Benson Shum. And we definitely ordered egg tarts.

It was delicious. 

Matthew: Egg tarts made it into your, of course, egg tarts made it into your book, but egg tarts made it into your book too. I wondered when you were illustrating, I was like, I wonder how many of these are like, Oh, this is my favorite. I'm going to sneak it in. Um, that's wonderful. 

Maple: It was very hard! 

Matthew: Yeah? Your end papers are just fantastic 

Maple: because they have so many, uh, little dishes and I just like, Oh, but I can't possibly draw all of them. So you have to which ones that these are my favorites. I'm just going to go with those. 

Matthew: I love that is getting dim sum of food tradition in your family to maple.

Or do you have any other food traditions that you, that you hold? 

Maple: You know, when I was growing up in Hong Kong, I didn't recall having a lot of dim sum, to be honest, and that has to do with a lot of big companies and corporate corporations started investing in the city. So we have a lot of McDonald's and, you know, Wendy's, Pizza Hut coming in, and they all have playgrounds and they, you know, the meal comes with toys.

So it's like, “I want that over dim sum”. So when I do remember not having a lot of dim sum, every time parents asked me, what do you want for breakfast or lunch on Sundays? I'm like, burger. But when I came over to America, I do. That was when I was 11. I do think something changed. And somehow, all of a sudden, I really wanted dim sum, and I think that has to do with the fact that now that I live in America with my mom and my sister, and my dad lives in Hong Kong to work, I don't have a lot of opportunities to be with the family to eat together like the whole family as a whole together. But whenever my dad comes to visit in the summer because he's a teacher, he has summer vacation, we can have dim sum together. And I think somehow I really cherish that, that whole family time together, which, uh, yeah. So since coming to America, I just love dim sum and I've loved it since.

Matthew: Well, you do such a beautiful job in the book of really showing a family gathering together. This is our time to all be together, to break bread, to have food together, to, uh, pass the food, to share, to savor, um, to be hopeful that, Oh, I really want that. There's one of my favorite thing left. Please let me have it.

Um, I think that that's really wonderful and neat to know that it's making me think. There are, there are food traditions in my family that make me think of home. And I think that's. I think that's a universal thing for people that we often think of things we remember growing up or when we were in a certain place.

But, um, no, I, sorry, I'm just wistful. I'm wistful as you're sharing this to think, um, you moved and then, It made you, it made you desire this thing even more. I moved from Pennsylvania when I was, uh, around a high school age. Uh, my family moved, um, to Maryland and even just the distance of being away from my grandparents made me wistful for the food that they always had that I never really was into, but was like, Oh, but I'm, I miss that that was the thing that we would eat when I was with my grandmother or whatever.

Yeah. Anyway, um, I digress. Sorry. 

Maple: I think it's one of those where it seems like it's just a very ordinary occasion that you're having food with your family. It happens every day. It happens all the time. So when you're experiencing it, you don't think twice about it. But, you know, when you grow up a little and look back, all of a sudden, it carries a lot more meaning to you, because it, you know, it's the sharing part, like breaking bad, breaking, breaking bread.

Um, it's, it's like a subtle message of saying I love you without saying I love you. 

Matthew: You, you are, you are saying all the right things. I am. What is, what is the phrase I'm picking up What you're putting down. That might've been something that Marcy taught me. That line. Um, maple. Was there a, a particular moment or idea or event that inspired dim sum?

Here we come. Or were you just reflecting on childhood or what, what, what was the, what was the spark for this bug? 

Maple: What was the spark for this book? I think that's an excellent question. Uh, truly, it's just, it's just me cherishing the good times together with family and As an adult, every time I go back to Hong Kong, I get to have dim sum with my family and my extended family, all my cousins, relatives.

It's a tradition. And, you know, at a dim sum place, it would be, it would be really noisy because everyone is trying to catch up with everyone. It's just an exciting moment. And I just wanted to capture that moment and put it in a story, especially as, uh, as Chinese, we don't say, I love you constantly. It's not, it's not in the culture to do it, at least not in Hong Kong, but these little moments in life, to me, that's, that's, that's you guys saying, I love you and me saying, I love you back, but, you know, ordering food, especially dim sum, because it's meant to be shared.

So that moment of sharing food all together, gathered around a round table, I think that's something that, um, I really want to remember, so I'm putting it into a book. 

Matthew: I'm so glad that you did that, because, you know, like books have the power to do, then it draws this connection between you and the reader.

I, I wonder even if there are. If there aren't readers that have similar stories to you of my family, always wanted to eat this thing. And I never wanted to, but then something changed. And now I do, even if it's, um, this, the, this special guest came to town and, Oh, we have to make sure we do this because this is the thing we do with this guest, with this family member, with this friend.

Um, I guess also it sort of makes me hopeful for you that you'll go to different school visits and there'll be like, Let's take you out to dim sum before you go back home. Uh, no, but, um, I'm glad that you, you were able to catalog a memory and a value through this book catalog one for yourself. And, and, and that way it connects us to you too.

It's nice. 

Maple: Yeah. I also hope that for, um, children who has similar experience, just like I do going out to dim sum all the time with families and relatives that they could relate to that experience. And even if you don't have dim sum, you definitely, if you've ever had the opportunity to just share meals with your family, I think that's something that everyone could probably relate to that kind of food and love at the end of the day. 

Matthew: To be even, even just to get big enough to have to pass a plate and know that you wait, that you receive, that you give. There's definitely something circular, uh, to that giving and receiving. Yeah. Uh, yeah. Oh, I'm with you. Um, Maple, were there any. interesting or new to you things that you learned while making this book?

Obviously, your experience is not the only experience, but, um, you also were drawing from your own experiences of getting dim sum. Um, Yeah, I, I, I just wonder, there doesn't need to be, but I wonder if there were just any, um, new to you things that occurred while you were making this play, even if it was, Well, I learned to draw this new way and now I will always be drawing.

No, I don't know. 

Maple: Um, well, one of the things that I learned was that drawing a huge cast, It was very time consuming. It was a family of 12. I've never done that before because with my previous books with My Little Sister and Me, it was mainly focused on the brother and sister throughout the book. With What Can You Do with a Two Box and Check My Sillies Out, there are more characters but nothing compared to a big family of 12. So every, every time I draw a spread or a page, I would be thinking about, have I forgotten a character somewhere along the way? Like, what is grandma doing while this character is doing, is, is like eating a bun? I have to make sure they don't run away from the page all of a sudden.

So that was keeping track of all these characters. That was something new, very new to me. Um, I remember too that I was on so many different Zoom calls when I was working on this book. A, because it did take a very long time, and B, it was during the pandemic times when I was working on the book. So, Cindy Derby, Benson Shum, we had a lot of studio times together where we all, we just each work on our own project as we talk.

This way we feel less lonely. Yeah, very, very memorable times, actually. But I remember, this is pretty normal for me. I do that all the time with a lot of different kidlit illustrators, but This is memorable, particularly because I have a family of 12 in the book to take care of. So I had so many Zoom calls with different friends.

Just, I, I still remember what, like when I'm working on this spread, this is when I was talking to Brooke Boynton Hughes. When I'm working on this spread, this is this spread. This is when I'm working at talking to Cindy. It's, it's, it's an interesting experience altogether, but I had a lot of fun. 

Matthew: And I was going to say that it just feels like.

I mean, for lack of better words, you, you, you had to be a good hostess. in this book, you had to make sure that everyone was being served through your art, that no one was being forgotten about. And you do, and you've got such a one, there's, there's that one, there's a couple of spreads, but you've got a couple of spreads where you've got everyone around the table.

And it's just this fourth perspective that is terrific. Not only that, like gorgeous, I know this is a podcast, but I'm just telling you that gorgeous shot there. And the other one where the table is. Sort of a U, where I'm just like, this is spectacular. This one, so good. Oh my gosh. Yeah. And you probably I'm showing you and you're like, Oh yeah, that was Benson and that was Cindy, but, um, such, such a really, really wonderful job on this.

I mean, your detail, your attention to detail to me really feels like that great post of wanting to make sure that. Everyone's being cared for. Everyone's being shown. Everyone's getting that, that visibility, that time. It was wonderful. 

Maple: No one gets left behind. Everyone is included. 

Matthew: I'll save some for you.

I'll save a page for you. Don't worry. There's leftovers. Okay. So, um, Mabel, I would love if you don't mind, if you have a copy of the book in front of you. Um, uh, again, you don't need to show us. We're just doing audio, but I'd love for you to please share an excerpt of Dim Sum, Here We Come, whatever you'd like to read.

Um, and then, uh, feel free to talk about the art that's on the page for those listeners too. 

Maple: Absolutely. Dim Sum time. I want a char siu bun, but that basket is on the other side of the table. I start to move the turntable, but grandma stops me. Taking turns shows respect. Grandma's turn. Grandpa's turn. Uncle Jeremy's turn.

Cousin Ed's turn. Cousin Vincy's turn. Will it ever be my turn? Aunty Jessica's turn. Aunty Anita's turn. Uncle Irvin's turn. Daddy's turn. Mommy's turn. My turn! Yay! I take the last char siu bun. I carefully peel off the paper, blow off the steam twice, break the bun in half, and eat it. and share it with Cece.

Char siu buns are her favorite too. Yummy! Dim sum means everyone gets to share. So this is the excerpt that I wanted to share and the spread that I wanted to talk a little about is the aerial shot. where, where the camera is looking down on a table and everyone is doing, like I said, because it's a such a huge cast.

It's a family of 12. Everyone is sort of interacting with each other. The siblings, she, the older sibling is feeding the younger one. Uh, grandpa, grandpa, dad, uncle, they're ordering different dim sums at the same time. Uh, the aunties are talking across table. It's just, it's a scene that I think would be very familiar to those of us who grew up having dim sum.

And if you have never had an experience with dim sum, then you sort of had a good idea of how this works in general. 

Matthew: I love it. You picked the spread. I love it. I love that you did that. And might I also compliment you on your terrific reading aloud. 

Maple: Oh, thank you. You 

Matthew: know how to perform a book. That is exactly what you need to do.

I love that. The drama in it. I love that. Um, well, Maple, I'm at the end of my questions before I ask you my, my, my traditional closer. 

Is there anything else that we didn't bring up that you want to make sure we say anything I forgot to ask you or anything like that? There doesn't need to be. This is just here as a safeguard.

Maple: Uh, well, actually, I just want to talk very quickly on how a lot of illustrators like to sneak in little things visually in the book for fun, and I too do that. For example, in the opening of the first spread of the book, when it says, Here we come, it's almost dim sum time. So you see that for, you see that there are a lot of palm trees in the background, you see the bird of paradise and some succulents in the front yard.

So, That is because I grew up and currently live in Southern California, and these things together are very SoCal, so I like to celebrate, you know, the place where I live in. And also you see that the house, uh, house plates are 626, and that's because that is the area code of where I live. We have the famous 626 Night Market, which is the largest Asia inspired night market in the United States.

We're very proud of our area. This is me secretly sneaking in, celebrating the 626 area. And also, if you look very carefully, there is a squirrel on the roof. And I sneak in that squirrel. In fact, I sneak in a squirrel on all the picture books I've ever done. And that has to do with because when I first started out being an author illustrator, probably 10 years ago at this point, uh, I met a very good friend in the KidLit community.

Her name is Debbie Ridpath Ohi, and she has like some fantastic stories with squirrels. She, I don't think I've ever told Debbie that, but I, ever since then, because I thought it was so fun and funny that she had these squirrel stories that I draw a squirrel in all my books. Debbie, if you're listening that squirrel joke, that's because That's because I love you, Debbie.

Matthew: Oh, that's so good. That's so good. Also, are we going to get night market? Here we come. You might need that. What a wonderful. Yeah. Well, I'm just adding to the list of things that we get to do together when I, when I come visit. Um, yeah, my, my, um, I don't know. what the timing will be like. But my, my brother in law lives out there by you, um, and is getting married.

Uh, he and Gabe has been, have been engaged for a little while, but they're getting married. Um, they, I don't think they've set a date quite yet, but when they do, I've already promised Marcy, I'll let Marcy, I'll let you know. I'll let you know. 

Maple: That would be so fun. Figure it out. Go out for dim sum.

Matthew: Absolutely. Okay. Maple, um, I will see a library full of children tomorrow morning. Is there a message that I can bring to them from you? 

Maple: Um, yes, uh, I hope that you enjoy and cherish the times that you get to spend with your family and extended family and friends every time you share a meal. And I know it can sound very ordinary because it's just another meal, but that act of being together and sharing food together, uh, that's, that's treasure.

That's truly the message of love. 


Matthew: Thank you to Maple Lam for joining me on The Children’s Book Podcast. 

You can pick up your own copy of Dim Sum, Here We Come! wherever books are found. Consider supporting independent bookstores by shopping through You can also use my affiliate link by clicking on the book’s name in our show notes.

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And on that note…

Be well. And read on.

End Of Episode

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