Today was Artbeat, an arts festival right around the corner from my home. Always a great time,I love walking the streets full of musical acts, art sculptures and vendors. So, while I was perusing the bright glass jewelry, a large green object caught the corner of my eye. What was that? Someone was dressed as a large vegetable. Was it a zucchini? Was it a squash? No! It was a bitter melon!
This vegetable is also known affectionately in my book The Ugly Vegetables as a ku gua. In the book, a mother, to the chagrin of her young daughter, insists on growing Chinese vegetables in her garden instead of flowers like the neighbors. The daughter, unenthused by the bumpy bitter melons growing in their garden labels them "ugly vegetables," only to appreciate them at the end when the mother makes a soup so enticing that the neighbors invite themselves over for dinner.
The Ugly Vegetables was my first published book and has been well loved and received since its release. When it first came out, I had grandiose ideas of trying to promote it--including having Ki-Ki dress up as a bitter melon. But, I was unsure of the appeal...I can honestly say there are not many picturebooks made about bitter melon, so its popularity as a character costume did not seem promising. However, here it was--a giant bitter melon parading around.
Considering the odds of this happening, I decided it was fate and ran back to my house and got my camera and my book. Not only did I need to document this, anyone who dressed up as a bitter melon needed to have a copy of The Ugly Vegetables. It just seemed mandatory.