Reviews for Banquet for Hungry Ghosts : A Collection of Deliciously Frightening Tales


Booklist Reviews 2009 November #2
Compestine (Boy Dumplings, 2009) presents an eight-course offering of chilling tales honoring Chinese food and ghost lore. It is believed that those who die without a decent last meal or were wronged in death come back to seek revenge. The book, divided into appetizers, main courses, and desserts, centers chapters around individual dishes, for which Compestine generously provides a recipe, along with a cultural note relevant to events in the story. Most of the tales are more gory than spooky, and the juxtaposition of recipes for beef stew and steamed shrimp dumplings with stories of harvested organs and cannibalized Great Wall workers turns the stomach a bit. It's not discernable whether the sensationalism of some dishes, such as brains from a living monkey, will help or harm the demystification of Chinese tradition among young readers, but they certainly won't walk away without having learned something new. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2010 Spring
According to Chinese tradition, hungry ghosts are appeased with food. So, while these grisly ghost stories introduce various elements of Chinese history and culture, Chinese cuisine also plays a key role. The collection offers up enough fright--and food--to keep readers returning for seconds. Each tale is followed by historical notes and a recipe; together they represent an eight-course banquet. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2009 #6
According to Chinese tradition, hungry ghosts are appeased with food. So, while this collection of grisly ghost stories introduces various elements of Chinese history and culture, Chinese cuisine also plays a key role. First, an innkeeper who used human meat in his steamed dumplings returns to haunt the efforts to refurbish his inn as a modern tourist spot. Then, the guardians of a hospital's mortuary scare some kids off and snack on the tea eggs meant for the deceased, only to find, rather unpleasantly, that the corpse objects. In another story, a conceited and careless neurosurgeon feasts on the brains of a living monkey and, in an ironic twist of fate, finds himself succumbing to the schizophrenia he used to treat. Five additional stories round out the collection; each is followed by historical notes and a recipe; together they represent an eight-course banquet. Although the information about Chinese culture sometimes overburdens the stories (Compestine weaves in such disparate elements as the importance of the university exam in China, the history of mahjong, and laws governing organ harvesting), this collection offers up enough fright -- and food -- to keep kids returning for seconds. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2009 October #1
Eight grisly horror stories are arranged to feed the hungry imaginations of readers fascinated with blood, gore, murders and ghosts, who, like their Western counterparts, want to avenge their deaths and have the things they had in life, especially their favorite foods. Some tales have a folkloric feeling, a few are set in today's China and one concerns a family in New York City's Chinatown. The modern tales are among the most disturbing because of the contemporary issues that Compestine has woven into her narratives (and explains after each story). Fraudulent Buddhist monks and doctors who take bribes (and unusual foods) for underground medical services in today's "new-rich" society, children who had to make dangerous fireworks when their schools became factories during the Cultural Revolution and a tale of a gambling man, his iPod and his butcher's cleaver are all on the menu. Polhemus's black-and-white illustrations lend a spooky air. This will whet the appetites of a certain type of ghost gourmet with a sophisticated palate; those with weak stomachs should stay away. (recipes) (Short stories/horror. 12-16)Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 November #2

Compestine (Revolution Is Not a Dinner Party) pens a gruesome but delightful grouping of eight stories about so-called hungry ghosts--"the spirits of people who often died hungry, prematurely, and unjustly"--who return to seek vengeance. In one tale, Jiang plays up the fact that his modern inn is haunted (centuries earlier, the previous owner was murdered after being caught filling his dumplings with human flesh-- la Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd), but things don't end well for the ghost-seeking tourists who visit. In another, Chou is sentenced to death for accidentally killing his boss during a fight ("Chou raised his arm to block her blow. As he told everyone later, he had forgotten about the cleaver in his hand"), but when his organs are harvested, they turn the patients who receive them into murderers themselves. Compestine includes historical context for the stories and a number of recipes (though some readers may find they lack an appetite). The stories are laced with beautiful (as well as lurid) images and chilling illustrations of the ghosts and their victims. Like the ghosts themselves, Compestine's memorable stories should prove difficult to shake. Ages 12-up. (Nov.)

[Page 47]. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2009 December

Gr 6-9--In this collection of gruesome ghost stories, Compestine takes readers through China's history, from the building of the Great Wall to the modern day. Organized like a traditional Chinese banquet, with each story as a dish, the tales revolve around the spirits of those who died unfairly and prematurely. Most feature murder victims exacting their revenge, usually disposing of their killers. These stories are not only deliciously frightening but also introduce readers to ancient and modern Chinese customs and beliefs. The author postscripts each selection with background about something in the tale such as the resurgence of Buddhist temples, insect fights, or exotic delicacies. Food plays a prominent role in each tale, and Compestine includes a recipe with the back matter for each story. Polhemus's black-and-white atmospheric illustrations add to the spookiness. Not for the fainthearted, these offerings are a step beyond Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (HarperCollins, 1986).--Jennifer Rothschild, Prince George's County Memorial Library System, Oxon Hill, MD

[Page 110]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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