On My Way to Buy Eggs
by Chih-Yuan Chen
picture book tells of a girl's walking adventures on the way to, from and at the neighborhood store. Shau-Yu
wants to play outside, but her father asks her to go to the store to buy eggs before she plays. Along the
way, she walks in a cat's shadow and "barks" a hello to a dog, Harry. She finds treasures: first, a "lost
marble . . . the color of cats' eyes." Looking through the marble, Shau-Yu's world turns blue.
Shau-Yu is delighted: "I am a little fish, swimming in the big blue sea." In an aside, the reader
learns that "Shau-Yu means 'little fish.'" Next, Shau-Yu finds "a pair of glasses that
wants someone to wear them." Donning them, Shau-Yu "looks like Mother now." Although
with the glasses on "everything is blurry," Shau-Yu "knows the way to the store."
At the store, Shau-Yu pretends to be her mother: "I would like to buy some eggs, please. . . . I
am cooking fried rice and eggs for my family tonight." The shopkeeper plays along and smilingly suggests:
"maybe your little girl, Shau-Yu, would like some chewing gum?" Of course!
On the return trip, Shau-Yu notices some flowers growing from a crack in a wall. She picks them
and carries them home. Shau-Yu and the eggs arrive home safely, and the little girl exclaims, "I've had
such a busy day!" Father gets to work making dinner.
Markers. There are several cultural connections in this picture book, beginning with its premise (going
to a neighborhood store). Other connections include: Shau-Yu (Chinese for "Little Fish," as noted
above); leaves crunching beneath Shau-Yu's feet say "chi-cha;" and eggs are put singly into a translucent sack to be carried
home (i.e., no carton). One name was probably anglicized - Harry, the dog. The specific
setting and culture are not indicated except through the publisher's note on the last page:
Traditional stores are little neighborhood
stores, of the kind before supermarkets and convenience stores appeared. And, while there aren't quite
so many of them anymore, they still exist in most neighborhoods in Taiwan. People can get almost anything
they need there, from light bulbs to snacks, toilet paper to bug spray. They are combination drug stores,
hardware stores, markets and marriage consultants (the shop owner!).
Chen's tale and illustrations link a contemporary event with his past: "Today when I looked out
of my window I saw a little girl carrying a bag of eggs. She was coming out of a traditional store. . .
. To me, traditional stores play a big part in my childhood memories."
While the story
is set in Taiwan, Chen's charming illustrations and viewpoint (through Shau-Yu's eyes) draw parallels to children everywhere.
Shau-Yu's errand turns into adventure, as it would for most children, showing "how children largely live in--and appreciate--the
moment."[i] Chen's sepia-toned, gray and white illustrations, created by "collage, paper
cutting, and charcoal to produce surprising perspectives . . . echo the youngster's flights of fancy."[ii] Shau-Yu finds joy in simple activities, and her innocent spirit shines through
the text and illustrations.
[i] Roback, Diane, et al. 2003. Summary of On My Way to Buy Eggs. Publishers Weekly 250 (34).
[ii] Loch-Waters, Marge. 2003. Review of On My Way to Buy Eggs. School Library Journal 49
Chen, Chih-Yuan. 2001.
On My Way to Buy Eggs. La Jolla, CA: Kane/Miller; Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C.: Hsin Yi Publications.
This review was written for a graduate
course in Library and Information Studies at Texas Woman's University, International Literature for Children and Young Adults.