小胖小 Book Review

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Title: 小胖小 (xiao3 pang4 xiao3)/Small Fat Small (nursery rhymes)

ISBN: 9789861614861

Author: 潘人木

Publisher: 信誼

Level: Beginning Reader, Zhuyin, Fiction

Summary: A collection of a few silly nursery rhymes for kids.

Sample Pages:

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

5 Minute Review: It’s not that the book is bad, per se. It’s okay for what it is. But neither Gamera (5.75) nor Cookie Monster (6.5 at time of reading) liked the book much when they read it.

The main difficulty is that because these are super short nursery rhymes, there really isn’t a plot to follow. Because of that, it’s hard for the kids to guess or predict what the words will be because it’s not enough for context to give any hints of what will come next.

Of course, if you’re an adult, it is much easier because we understand rhyme schemes and know there are only so many words they would be able to use in that context.

This book is good for teaching about rhymes and rhyming sounds.

Otherwise, the illustrations are alright and cute enough (though not nearly as engaging as the illustrations in other books).

Here is a quick video of Gamera reading an excerpt of this book.

Taiwan Trip 2017 Post Mortem

Now that we’re back from our Taiwan Trip, it’s time for the post mortem. (Note, I did not call it a vacation because let’s face it. No trip with small children is a vacation.)

I totally thought I would have written more on this trip. I mean, last year, I seemed to be writing a lot! But then, I remembered that I had Sasquatch strapped to me and that I was out almost all day and by the time the kids were in bed, my brain was mush.

I did a lot of FB Live videos, though!

But honestly, I felt silly blogging about my trip this year because quite frankly, it was remarkably similar to last year. I mean, the kids were in pretty much the same camps and schools, the routes I took were the same. I ate, hung out with friends, and took care of kids at night.

Oh, don’t worry. I will probably do at least one more Taiwan related post unless I really get off my ass and turn some of my FB Live videos into blog posts. I will do a financial write up of the trip and maybe a Chinese update/summary/camp thingy. But otherwise, my brain has moved onto the new homeschooling school year.

Sorry, folks.

I see no need for guilt about posts I should have written to hang over me.

HOWEVER. Here are some random, disparate thoughts/mental flotsam nougats to hold you over until the more substantial posts. (Just thinking about writing those is exhausting.)

1) Being in Taiwan with three young kids and a nine month old baby strapped to me is SO MUCH BETTER THAN being in Taiwan with three young kids and pregnant.

OMG I CANNOT ADEQUATELY EXPRESS HOW MUCH BETTER IT IS.

Most of you long time readers know this, but last year was just one long, 40 week shitty mood. As soon as the baby was born though, it was great!

I totally thought that Taiwan with four kids would be worse than Taiwan with three kids. IT WAS NOT. Apparently babies are easy. Pregnancies are NOT.

2) It also helped that my kids are older this year. Plus, I already knew what I was doing – everything was familiar. The apartment was the same. The driver was the same. Our schools and camps were the same. And not only that, I built on last year’s knowledge and added NEW knowledge of bus routes, etc.

My mother was there for the first 10 days and I was so sorry she left. She didn’t sit with us on the plane, but she was super helpful in the apartment at bedtime! A lot of my friends were in Taiwan at the same time with their kids (some of them at the same camps) and my cousin’s kid was also at the same camp.

3) This year, I realized early on that though I liked food, what I really wanted to eat was shaved ice. So really, I just spent most of every day eating shaved ice. Food was consumed, but not nearly with as much fervor as Taiwanese shaved ice.

4) I am more than pretty sure that there will be a Taiwan Trip 2018 because I am a glutton for punishment and I am incredibly stupid – but it will be even better because it will be the THIRD year at the same schools and camps and hopefully, apartments.

5) I don’t really think my kids’ Chinese improved that much this time around. I think because this year, despite being in the Chinese environment, Cookie Monster (7.5) resisted speaking Chinese and thus, so did Gamera (5.5). Glow Worm (~4) was in school though, so his Chinese improved a lot. Their vocabulary still expanded so I guess that is still a good thing.

This is a lot of the reason I want to go back again next year. I worry if I skip even one year, the chance to catch Cookie Monster up or stem the inevitable English slide will not be in time.

Actually, come to think of it, Cookie Monster and Gamera’s Chinese did improve, but it was in super specific areas pertaining to their camps. I really would NEVER encounter these new words because I am never going to talk about science, water rockets, ripsticks, or even the random games they played.

So, I guess the only way to know whether their Chinese improved is if they all of a sudden start speaking incomprehensible Chinese words to me.

Incidentally, I never knew 營 (ying2/camp) was a word you could use by itself. Like, “This week, we are doing blah blah blah 營.”

Looks like Cookie Monster learned something after all!

6) Back in 2014, Cookie Monster only ate white rice the first four weeks and didn’t venture to try beef noodle soup until the last week we were there. Gamera was a tiny bit more adventurous, but still mostly ate white rice. Only Glow Worm ate everything set in front of him, but since he was 11 months old, I didn’t think it would last.

Terrible.

Last year, they expanded their food repertoire and ate a lot of fried rice, a variety of noodles, potstickers, and 小籠包 (xiao3 long2 bao/soup dumplings). Glow Worm again ate everything set in front of him – including a bunch of fruit.

This year, they were even more improved! (I firmly believe it’s because I have been so good about cooking with the Instant Pot and making them eat things they don’t necessary like.)

In fact, we managed to NOT eat at McDonald’s the entire trip except for the last weekend – and even then, it was only because I had the flu and Hapa Papa needed to take them somewhere easy for him to order.

You guys. DO YOU EVEN KNOW HOW AMAZING THAT IS?

I consider it a WIN.

Oh. AND THEY EVEN ATE ON THE PLANE.

7) Kids were much better about going to their camps this time around. Glow Worm only cried the second day when he realized that school was a permanent situation. But then we had a conversation, he no longer cried and RAN to his teachers and barely glanced at me when I dropped him off. He was such a big boy.

Oh, and THIS year, he actually participated (and with great enthusiasm) in all the session end performances. HE WAS ADORABLE.

Gamera was much happier this year because she was with Cookie Monster and not bored out of her mind learning characters she already knew. They took Chinese yo-yo, Ripstick, and games sessions. Gamera also took a sewing class and Cookie Monster took a science class.

They LOVED the courses. Surprisingly, Cookie Monster liked the science class the most! Gamera liked the sewing class the best. They both complained that they wanted to take a cooking class – so I told them I would try to sign them up for it next year.

8) If we go next year, (which we probably will), I will likely keep it at the 4.5 week mark. Both the kids and I are sick of Taiwan by then – and I think it’s better to leave wanting more vs. staying until you are sick of a place.

I might stay a few extra days at the end because the kids complained that we didn’t play enough, but truthfully, by the end of each stay, they are so sick of the heat that they never want to leave the apartment.

9) Because I had the flu, Hapa Papa took Gamera to buy breakfast and she did all the ordering and paid. I think she was a little shy about it, but she did a good job.

10) Of course, my kids loved all the DIY crafts. I resisted though and we managed not to go completely bankrupt. I suppose I should just consider it one on one paid Chinese arts and crafts instruction.

11) Oh, and people wanted to know how it was traveling around Taipei with a fat 8-9 month old baby on my person. Just like 2014, it was hot and my entire front would be dripping wet. Sasquatch would also be dripping wet from my sweat. But ultimately, it was pretty easy.

Because I am his food and tend to nurse him in the Ergo, it was such a gross mix of fluids. There was my boob sweat, my hand sweat, his head sweat, his saliva, and my milk. Mmmmm… slippery.

But mostly, since he only just started cruising and is otherwise, non-mobile, it was very easy. Just slippery with sweat. People are endlessly kind and always offering seats on MRTs and buses (which I refused because like all my babies, Sasquatch insisted on me standing).

Since I hate strollers, I really didn’t have to make much of an accommodation to Sasquatch’s presence. And once I realized I needed to be home for part of the day to allow him a nice long, uninterrupted nap, he was much happier. It was easy peasy.

Alright. I think that’s it for now. Hopefully, I will not burn out on the Taiwan Trip topic and you will not be bored too terribly to have to read more about it. And again, if I am feeling really on top of things, I will turn my FB lives into posts.

Thanks for reading! I’m so happy to be back home.

奇先生妙小姐 (Mr. Men and Little Miss) CD and Book Review

Like my reviews? Want more tips and advice on how to teach your kids Chinese? Want someone to just give you an Action Plan that you can follow? Check out my book (affiliate link), So You Want Your Kid to Learn Chinese.

Title: 奇先生妙小姐 (qi2 xian sheng miao4 xiao3 jie3)/Mr. Men and Little Miss Stories

ISBN: 4712834275481, 4712834275498, 4712834275528, 9789865984465, 4712834275504, 4712834275511

Author/Illustrator: Roger Hargreaves

Publisher: 鴻仁文教

Level: Beginning Reader, Zhuyin, Fiction

Summary: There are 6 sets of 4 CDs, each with 4 stories for a total of 96 stories. These are supremely high production value CDs with background music, sound effects, narrators, and consistent voice actors.

There are also 96 thin books that are translated from Roger Hargreaves Mr. Men and Little Miss series in English.

Sample Pages:

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

5 Minute Review: If I could give a million stars for this product, I would. My kids (3, 5, 7) LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE these stories.

They love listening to the CDs over and over and over again. Thank goodness there are 96 stories because otherwise, I would have thrown them out the window because we listen to them SO MUCH.

I rotate 6 CDs (24 stories) in the CD player of my minivan every 4-5 weeks. We aren’t even finished with listening to all the CDs, there are so many.

Seriously, if the amount of money I paid included ONLY the CDs, I would have considered it worth every penny. As it is, there are also books with pictures.

The stories themselves are funny, the characters are silly, and truly, there are some problems with it in terms of actual morals or emotions or whatever. But my kids have learned SO MANY new words, phrases, idioms, emotions, adjectives, descriptions – YOU NAME IT, they’ve learned it. (Oh, who am I kidding? I HAVE LEARNED SO MUCH.)

They request specific stories, characters, and beg to listen to the CDs as soon as we enter the car. It has gotten to the point where I ask them to please let mommy listen to the radio for 5-10 minutes before I have to listen to any more of the Mr. Men and Little Miss.

They love it so much that they VOLUNTARILY read the books – and because they have heard the stories, they can immediately identify which character is which based on the pictures alone. And of course, they are reading it, too.

I know Guavarama has mentioned a few times that the actual reading level is more difficult because there are so many words, but because my kids have heard each story at least a bjillion times, they have no problem reading them.

My kids even try to draw all their favorite characters and will spend hours re-drawing plot lines and illustrations they find in the books. They love it so much that I actually bought a book with stencils and instructions on how to draw these characters.

The best part is, the narrators and characters speak in all types of Chinese accents so my kids are also getting used to hearing Mandarin in the many different forms it comes in.

The only downside is that since we’re listening in the car, I often have to stop and look up terms because I don’t always understand what they’re saying. However, since we listen to each story many many many times, my kids will ask new clarification questions each time so their understanding deepens (as does mine).

This series is worth every single penny. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND.

For a more detailed review, I direct you to Guavarama’s excellent breakdown (it also includes links to where you can buy the set).

Catch Me Live

So, we’ve been in Taiwan ten days and I have not written a word about our trip. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing stuff for my public!

Thanks both to a challenge in a blogging group I’m part of, as well as great ideas and encouragement from my friend, Brittany Minor of Clumps of MascaraI have been trying out Facebook Live Videos.

(Seriously, Brittany is really amazing with her own videos – and she suggested all sorts of great topics to discuss, checkout, and asked so many great questions that I feel kinda guilty that she so generously helped me without asking for anything in return. All she got were some FB Live videos of questionable value.)

Now that I have done a few of them, I don’t know why I was so hesitant about doing them before. I think part of it was that it never occurred to me that people would want to see videos of me wandering about Taiwan. I mean, a city is a city, right? Just how interesting is a tour of 7-11?

Well, just because I personally am not interested in this stuff, I suppose doesn’t mean that other people wouldn’t be! And I also realized that I have been taking my trips to Taiwan for granted.

Most people do not get the chance to travel to Taiwan, let alone often enough for it to become familiar and not entirely intimidating. And even if they came, perhaps their language skills are nonexistent, not good enough or if they are, they still don’t necessarily know how things work.

Plus, all this knowledge that I now take for granted (eg: going on an MRT, shopping for stuff in a store, what to bring, how to shuttle kids around) – that is interesting and helpful to people! And folks, I am what we call a helpful person.

Also, I am somewhat of a narcissist.

So, because I’m a giver, I am collecting a bunch of my FB Live videos into this post, but if you are not following my personal FB page (sorry, I only friend folks I know In Real Life), you can still follow along at my Mandarin Mama Facebook Page.

Also also, because I’m never one to let a good suggestion go, please let me know if there is stuff you want to see or ask or watch a FB Live about. If I can swing it, I’ll do it. 😀

Anyhow, without further ado, here are most of my FB Lives up until today. (Holy cow, I did a lot!)

1) Traveling in Taiwan with Kids Q&A

2) Tours of Playspaces

Leo’s Playground

Fantasy Island Playspace Tour

3) Tours Around Town

Taking the MRT

Costco

Taiwanese Bus

7-11

Taking out the garbage

Wellcome Mart Tour

My Kids’ Favorite Escalator

Watsons Tour

PierMei Hair Accessory Store

Guang Hua2 Technology Mart

4) Restaurants

Modern Toilet

Costco Food Court Part 1

Costco Food Court Part 2

Yong3 He2 Dou4 Jiang Da4 Wang2 Taiwanese Breakfast

Taiwanese Department Store Food Court

Local Taiwanese Breakfast Place

地下100層樓 Book Review


Like my reviews? Want more tips and advice on how to teach your kids Chinese? Want someone to just give you an Action Plan that you can follow? Check out my book (affiliate link), So You Want Your Kid to Learn Chinese.

Title: 地下100層樓的家 (di4 xia4 yi bai3 ceng2 lou2 de5 jia)/Underground 100 Stories

ISBN: 9789862111642

Author/Illustrator: 岩井俊雄

Translator: 周佩頴

Publisher: 小魯文化事業股份有限公司 (Hsiao Lu Publishing Co. LTD., 2010)

Level: Beginning Reader, Picture Book, Fiction

Summary: A little girl follows an animal down a hole and goes a hundred stories underground. Each level is populated by different animals and creatures as she goes all the way down to the bottom.

Sample Pages:






Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

5 Minute Review: Again, this book is full of fun, extremely detailed illustrations that all my kids love to flip through and look at (even if they are not necessarily reading). Because the book is going down underground, it flips downward (which is my only complaint because it makes me motion sick because having a child hold the book while you attempt to read it is nausea-inducing).

Lots of fun layers underground and lots of fun animals to see. The vocabulary is easy enough to guesd if you are unfamiliar with the characters but I wish it had zhuyin. 

No video this week because otherwise you will see just how bad my Chinese is. 

100層樓的家 Book Review

Like my reviews? Want more tips and advice on how to teach your kids Chinese? Want someone to just give you an Action Plan that you can follow? Check out my book (affiliate link), So You Want Your Kid to Learn Chinese.
Title: 100層樓的家 (yi bai3 ceng2 lou2 de5 jia)/The 100 Story House

ISBN: 9789862110850

Author/Illustrator: 岩井俊雄

Translator: 周佩頴

Publisher: 小魯文化事業股份有限公司  (Hsiao Lu Publishing Co. LTD., 2010)

Level: Beginning Reader, Picture Book, Fiction

Summary: A boy who wants to look at the stars is invited by someone to go to the top floor of a 100 story building. The book follows him as he climbs up 100 stories and you see who lives on each floor as he climbs to the top.

Sample Pages:






Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

5 Minute Review: Despite it being a bit hard for me to read to my children due to my mediocre Chinese skills (and the book’s lack of zhuyin), my children really love to flip through the book and look at all the illustrations.

Cookie Monster (7.5) and Gamera (5.5) can read most of the content and trip over a character here and there (just like me – I don’t know whether to be proud of them or sad about myself). There really isn’t too much story or plot – just a lot of awesome pictures.

One cool thing about this book is that because it’s about a boy climbing UP a 100 story building, you also experience the book that way by flipping UP through the book to read it.

Here is a video of Glow Worm (3.75) flipping through the pages and telling himself the story.

拜託,熊貓先生 Book Review


Like my reviews? Want more tips and advice on how to teach your kids Chinese? Want someone to just give you an Action Plan that you can follow? Check out my book (affiliate link), So You Want Your Kid to Learn Chinese.

Title: 拜託,熊貓先生 (bai4 tuo, xiong2 mao xian sheng)/Please, Mr. Panda

ISBN: 9789862742334

Author/Illustrator: 史蒂夫 安東尼

Translator: 劉清彥

Publisher: 青林國際出版

Level: Beginning Reader, Zhuyin, Picture Book, Fiction

Summary: Mr. Panda asks his friends if they want donuts but they keep changing their minds.

Sample Pages:






Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

5 Minute Book Review: As with the other Mr. Panda book, Gamera (5.5) is also willing to read this book because of the cuteness of the illustrations. And again, Glow Worm (3.75) always brings this book out because he loves the illustrations (but no one reads with him). Poor neglected child.

Here is a video of Gamera reading an excerpt from the book.