Themes of racial discrimination, saving nature, and food and cooking are braided seamlessly in this picture-book biography. At the turn of the 20th century, Chinese men—whether immigrants or American-born—had little choice when it came to work. Most ended up as cooks in restaurants or laundrymen. But Tie Sing “had dreams as big as the country he loved” and made correspondingly expensive plans. Fueled by a love for the outdoors and a passion for cooking, he soon earned a reputation as the best trail cook in California. In 1915, Tie Sing was hired by millionaire Stephen Mather, who had invited a special group of men to go camping in the hopes of convincing Congress to protect the country’s natural wonders. For the first few days, Tie Sing kept everyone well-fed with sardine hors d’oeuvres, sizzling steaks, and fresh-baked sourdough rolls. Unfortunately, disaster struck, not once but twice, and Tie Sing lost much of his provisions but tweaked the menu to carry on. Tie Sing’s talent and resourcefulness played a huge part in the success of Mather’s mission, and within a year, Congress created the National Park Service. Pimentel’s lyrically told account is to the point, explaining that “America was a tough place to be Chinese” before zeroing in on Tie Sing’s culinary wizardry. Lo’s illustrations have an appropriately faded look, neatly evoking both the times and the craggy wilderness. A frontier adventure that spotlights one of the many significant roles ethnic Chinese played in American history.
– Kirkus Reviews
This picture-book biography features a little-known Chinese American who ingenious meal planning was instrumental in the ultimate success of the National Parks Service. During a time when Asians in America had few or no rights, Tie Sing aims high. He takes “a job cooking for mapmakers as they tramped through the mountains, naming peaks,” and his reputation for excellent cooking gets the attention of millionaire Stephen Mather, who hires Tie Sing to cook high-class, restaurant-style meals for 30 men on a backcountry tour of what is now Yosemite National Park, in an effort to secure political support for a federal parks program. Tie Sing’s creature solutions to the problems of cooking on the trail are fascinating, and stories of minor disasters on the Yosemite tour highlight his ingenuity and resourcefulness. Paragraphs of straightforward text are more advanced than typical picture books, but the soft, expressive watercolor illustrations, some of which are based on historical photos, are a pleasing accompaniment. Ideal for the classroom, particularly this year, when the NPS celebrates its centennial.
Yosemite’s Sing Peak honors Nevada-born backcountry chef Tie Sing. Chosen to be the chef for the Mather Mountain Party in 1915, Sing had to feed 30 men, some of whom were being wooed to back a plan for a national park service. Pimentel sets the stage by introducing readers to the inequality Chinese immigrants and Chinese Americans faced at the hands of white Americans. She fictionalizes, but modestly. This title stresses both Sing’s foresight and his resourcefulness–resilience being necessary in this era of legal anti-Chinese discrimination. final pages provide extra historical information with period black-and-white photos. The illustrations are well suited for a read-aloud: lively, expansive (usually spreads), and with a bright magenta vest identifying the hero. Considering the overtly positive nature of the work, adult readers might stress that while Sing overcame the immediate setback of accidents, he could not be expected to defeat the systemic prejudice that deprived him–and other Chinese Americans and Chinese immigrants–of countless opportunities, no matter how big his dreams. Only two or three mules are depicted (not possibly enough for the job). Overall, this pencil and watercolor illustrated and eloquently written account of a Chinese American will satisfy every taste. For any library wishing to enhance its diversity and inclusion collection.
– School Library Journal