Ling and Ting toting popcorn and drinks in preparation for the entertainment to follow. One sister says, "Shh! It is starting!" and the other says, "Oh no! Are we late?" --- an appropriately delightful introduction to these tales, which are liberally and charmingly illustrated by author Grace Lin.
In the first story, a visit to the barber for a haircut reveals how much the twins look alike (at least, temporarily) and how much they are different from each other. The girls themselves are constantly pointing this out. When the people around them say, "You two are exactly the same!" they reply, "We are not exactly the same." Because Ling can sit still, her haircut is quite different from antsy Ting's, who gets a little something extra in her new hairdo.
In the next story, a magic trick goes awry...which not only is good for a laugh, but sets up the punchline for an amusing joke later on. As Ling and Ting collaborate on a batch of dumplings in another story, Ling rolls out the dough while Ting mixes up the filling. They muse that the little pastries are supposed to resemble old Chinese money. So they take extra care with their dumplings. They make a big batch, hoping that will mean lots of money. Like the young cooks themselves, the dumplings made by one girl are not quite the same as the ones made by her sister. Putting her imagination and humor on display, Ting invents nicknames for their "not exactly the same" products.
Story four is called "Chopsticks." One sister has no problem using chopsticks. She comes up with funny solutions for her struggling sister (glue? tying food on?), who finds her own solution, which manages to be unexpected, wholly rational and humorous all at the same time. A story about a library quest ties in to the magic trick tale in a couple of different and satisfying ways.
The final story is rightfully called "Mixed Up." Readers will take as much pleasure as Ling does in unraveling the scrambled-together storylines from the previous tales as narrated by creative Ting. Although Ling corrects her sister on many plot points, she admits that the way Ting sums up the conclusion is perfect:
"...They were not exactly the same," Ting says, "but they always stayed together."
"Well," Ling says, "at least you got the ending right."
With the story over, we get another little bonus on the closing page of the book. Savvy readers will know by the clue in the hairstyle that Ting is asking her sister "Was that the end?" Ling replies, "No, this is!"
The appeal of this winning early chapter book is its pairing of the irresistible fascination of identical twins with a celebration of individuality. Readers are sure to delight in tons of humor, a bit of Chinese-American culture, and adorable illustrations in these good-natured, lively tales. It all adds up to an enjoyable read for youngsters (or the lucky adults who read to them).
--- Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon