The adorable My Day with Gong Gong follows a little girl, May, who’s sullen about having to spend the day alone with her grandpa, or gong gong as she calls him in Cantonese. He doesn’t know much English, she can’t speak much Cantonese, and she’s worried about the lack of mutual intelligibility. What follows is a story of the importance of nurturing intergenerational relationships.
May’s day with her gong gong is sketched out by illustrator Elaine Chen in colourful renderings that resemble cartoon animation done with watercolours. The images are light and fluid while containing a high level of detail. The scenes of Toronto’s Chinatown are a particular treat, with its vendors, restaurants, and street musicians drawn with bright, happy strokes. Parents can point out Spadina Avenue’s recognizable street corners, pigeons, and streetcars.
Sennah Yee writes the story in simple, accessible language that’s nonetheless musical and fun to say out loud, allowing readers and listeners a chance to explore the sounds and shapes of different words, and the way they fit together like notes in a song. The text is interspersed with a few basic Cantonese greetings and phrases – including nei hou (hello) and ngo oi nei (I love you) – and a page of translations is found at the end of the book.
At the conclusion of the story’s gentle and touching moral arc, May learns that just because her gong gong communicates with her in different ways doesn’t mean he’s not paying attention. She comes to see how older relatives can help you engage with your culture, develop patience, and grow as a person. Though it may take effort, patience, and adjustment, staying connected with your elders and community members can be fulfilling and emotionally significant.