Tofu Takes Time by Helen H. Wu and Julie Jarema

Hello, Helen H. Wu! Thank you for stopping by Watch. Connect. Read. to discuss Tofu Takes Time! What ran through your heart the first time you saw Julie Jarema’s cover illustration for Tofu Takes Time?

Helen H. Wu: It's truly an honor to be on Watch. Connect. Read. Thank you for hosting me. I am thrilled to share more about Tofu Takes Time. Julie Jarema’s illustrations capture the spirit of the story and exude such a beautiful, tangible warmth. There’s a sense of wonder as the grandma and granddaughter marvel at how patience brings a whole universe together in one simple dish. The book is set in a modern Chinese-American family, and I love the way Julie has illustrated the setting. The color palette of mint and pink and the background pattern lend the cover gracefulness—traditional yet modern.

During the character design phase, my editor Naomi Krueger asked me to share some photos of my grandma with Julie for inspiration. My parents in China helped me! They went through stacks of family albums and dug out some old photos of me at about five years old with my grandma and grandpa. Julie used the hairstyle of the five-year-old me, and I almost cried tears of joy to see the little girl on the cover! And with my name on a children’s book representing Chinese culture! I am so incredibly grateful that I got to work with her on this book.

What planted the seed for Tofu Takes Time?

Helen H. Wu: The inspiration for this story was born of my tofu-making experience with my grandma. When I was a kid, I often sat by my grandma and watched her cooking, including making tofu. She washed vegetables, chopped meat, stirred porridge, and cooked all the meals for the whole family. While cooking, my grandma always told me stories, which brought me to faraway places and times. After I moved to the US and had my own family, I made tofu with my kids, and they asked me a lot about the process and all the tools we used. This reminded me of the sweet time I spent with my grandma in the small kitchen across the ocean. A story began to take shape.

But I knew for it to be a true story, it had to be about something bigger and more relevant to kids. When I cooked with my own kids, they would start their imaginative play and occasionally complain about how long it took to cook a meal. This inspired me to include the topic of patience. When I took a closer look at the tofu-making process in an imaginative way, I discovered it contained an assortment of elements that connected to nature and even the universe. I was pleased to find a sweet spot to include food, culture, patience, nature, and intergenerational love in one book.

Please finish the following sentence starters:

Lin brought back the memories of when I was a kid spending a lot of time with my grandparents in a small town in East China. Lin and NaiNai were also a reflection of my kids and their grandma, who are often an ocean apart with visits that are always too short. Writing this story reminds me to cherish our loved ones, to cherish every moment with them. I truly marvel that books have the magic power to travel through time and space and generations.

Picture books have the potential to pass on joy from generation to generation. Picture books are one of the channels that children can learn about the world when they snuggle on their parents’ and grandparents’ laps. It’s a magical format that can perfectly encapsulate a feeling, a moment, a subject, a place and time. As an art lover, I also find it’s very entertaining and soothing to simply enjoy the artwork of picture books.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about the fun pre-order campaign for for Tofu Takes Time!

If you pre-order Tofu Takes Time anywhere books are sold or request it at a library and send proof of purchase or the library request to, you'll receive a signed bookplate, a bookmark, and 20 food stickers. There are also monthly prize drawings! The prizes include books, art prints, critiques, school visits, and more!

Thank you, Helen!

Helen H. Wu is a children's book author, illustrator, and translator. She was born and raised in Hefei, China, and now lives in San Diego, California. Helen illustrated the educational coronavirus picture book Be a Coronavirus Fighter by Songju Ma Daemicke, which received many praises all around the world and has been translated into 12 languages. Helen is the Associate Publisher of Yeehoo Press, a San Diego based children’s book publisher. Being fascinated by the differences and similarities between cultures, Helen loves to share stories that can empower children to understand the world and our connections. Her proudest moments are when her own two children listen patiently to her stories again and again.

Julie Jarema is an illustrator, writer, and bookseller. She graduated from Bard College with a degree in Written Arts. When she's not making up stories, you can find her going on backyard adventures, sending snail mail, or practicing her circus skills.

Look for Tofu Takes Time on April 19, 2022.

Beaming Books’ Description:

Homemade tofu is good, and good things take time.

CLICK CLACK WHIRRRR . . . Lin and her grandma, NaiNai, are making tofu from scratch! When NaiNai goes through each step, from blending soybeans with water to molding curd into shape, Lin gradually becomes impatient. But she soon discovers that making tofu not only takes time, but also takes the whole universe! It takes the seed from soil and sunshine, the cloth from thread and fiber, weight and space, books of words and pictures. And most of all, it takes spending lovely time with her beloved grandmother.

In this charming tale by Helen H. Wu, readers will marvel at how patience brings a whole universe together in a simple dish made by a modern Chinese American family. Perfect for fans of Fry Bread, Drawn Together and Thank You, Omu.


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