Mahjong All Day Long

The Asian Reporter's Book Reviews (June 7, 2005)

Filled with the sounds of clacking tiles and the tastes of snacks and tea, Mahjong All Day Long tells the story of a marvelous game and a family — three generations — that plays it. Early readers and their grown-ups can share this story whether or not they play mahjong.

The author and the illustrator are sisters, and each page of Ginnie Lo’s text is accompanied by one of Beth Lo’s illustrated ceramic plates. Each plate contains Chinese ideograms, and an English translation appears on the facing page below the text. "Uncle T.T. sings Chinese opera while he plays," confides JieJie (Big Sister), who narrates the story. In the plate opposite, JieJie is holding a tape recorder and saying the words "tape recorder" in Chinese characters while DiDi (Little Brother) plugs his ears and grumbles, "Sounds terrible!"

"Auntie Helen nibbles on watermelon seeds. MaMa serves everyone Long Jing tea." And time passes. "We used to think mahjong tiles were for building tower bridges and long, winding snakes … or for learning how to count in Chinese. Now we’re grown and have children of our own." The two illustrations that accompany these pages are particularly delightful. In the first a devilish DiDi and an angelic JieJie illustrate the words "Working" and "Playing." In the second, pictures of DiDi and JieJie as they grow up and create new families appear on mahjong tiles.

Mahjong All Day Long concludes with a couple of pages for grown-ups. "About Mahjong" is packed with fascinating information about the game, including its history, the meaning of the word mahjong, and rudimentary instructions for playing. A sumptuous bibliography almost brings the book to a close …

… but wait, don’t miss the back book flap. The author and illustrator photograph is in the running for best ever, and mahjong is deftly worked into their biographies. Here we learn that the sisters grew up in Indiana, and that Beth Lo lives not too far away now, in Missoula, Montana. Ginnie Lo lives even closer, right down the valley in Eugene.

Mahjong All Day Long is the Lo sisters’ first book. Let’s hope there are many more to come.

Copyright Ginnie and Beth Lo. Website designed by Sawitree Wisetchat and Maika Nicholson.