Sagebooks Challenge

I’m so excited!

I finally get to announce that Sagebooks HK and I are working together for the next four months.

If you have been reading me for a long time, you’ll know that I’m a super fan of Sagebooks HK and that I think they are without a doubt, the most effective way to teach Chinese characters for children in Chinese speaking families.

I have dreamed of partnering with them on anything for at least several years. And now, at the start of 2018, my dream has finally come true.


Enough preamble. Here’s what’s coming to Mandarin Mama and the Sagebooks HK Blog.

Sagebooks Challenge

Starting Monday, February 5, 2018, I will be featuring a weekly series called The Sagebooks Challenge.

Every week, I will be chronicling Glow Worm (4) and I going through the Sagebooks HK Basic Chinese 500 series and their Treasure BoxesWe’ll go over our objectives, our challenges, our wins, and pretty much anything I think will be helpful to someone going through Sagebooks for the first time. (This will be my third time through – I’m definitely getting my money’s worth!) I will also include photos and videos for people wanting to check out the sets before they purchase.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Sagebooks, it is a series of 5 sets of 5 books that teach your children how to read the top 500 high frequency characters in children’s books. The books come in both Traditional and Simplified characters, with pinyin and an English translation at the bottom. Each chapter builds on the previous chapter so that your child acquires new vocabulary and character knowledge in a trackable, systematic way.

They also have a set of Treasure Boxes of 5 books per set for a total of 25 Treasure Box books which are readers that ONLY contain the characters they have learned up until that point (with maybe an additional new character or two).

Sagebooks Basic Chinese 500 Set and Treasure Boxes

Sagebooks Basic Chinese 500 Set, Treasure Box Sets 1-5, Idioms 1-5, Antonyms 1-2, Bunny Comics

I will be coming back to this post and updating it with links to the ongoing series.

Sagebooks HK Parent Support Group

In partnership with Sagebooks HK, I will be managing the new Sagebooks HK Parent Support Facebook Group. If you are thinking of buying this series or already own the series, join us!

We all know how hard it is to do something alone – let alone the prospect of teaching our children how to read Chinese! Join the group and meet other parents who are teaching their kids Sagebooks Basic Chinese 500 at all different ages and levels.

We just opened up the group and would love to have you!

This group provides a space for you to have accountability, ask and answer questions, exchange ideas, and have partners as you go through the sets. The more your participate, the more you will receive.

Plus, I’ll be doing weekly Facebook Live videos on how to use Sagebooks Basic Chinese 500, the Treasure Boxes, and other special announcements!

One note: Please remember to answer the membership questions. All requests without answers will be deleted.

Sagebooks HK Blog

In addition, every Tuesday morning, I will be on the Sagebooks HK Blog providing a time tested tip from our more seasoned parents as well as a fun and easy activity/game to help your kids remember the characters in a way that doesn’t involve a book or flashcards.

The more ways we can make learning Chinese characters fun, the better!

I am super excited.

In case you can’t tell, I am ecstatic about working with Sagebooks HK. I’m a little bit terrified, too (but don’t tell them that).

I hope you will join me on the Sagebooks Challenge with me and Glow Worm and either follow along with us or, if you’ve already started, to continue ahead of us. Then, check out the Sagebooks HK Blog and finally, tell us what worked, what didn’t, what you need help with at the Sagebooks HK Parent Support Facebook Group.

Have you tried Sagebooks before? Let me know in the comments.

My Word of the Year 2018

If your newsfeeds are anything like mine, you’ve likely been inundated with posts about choosing your Word of the Year (WotY), what was your WotY, what is your new WotY, etc. for at least since Thanksgiving.

I think it’s great because I LOVE the WotY trend and in case you can’t tell, I’m super into it. However, since I’m me, I tend more towards Phrase of the Year (PotY) because I can’t be brief for the life of me. I partner it with very specific goals for my year because I have found that for myself, if I do not lay down SMART goals, I might as well save myself the time and do nothing.

Last year, my PotY was, “Suck It Up” and I checked in every month on my goals and how I was doing with the phrase. They’re not my more popular posts, but I find it helpful for myself because throughout the month, I will think, “Uh oh. I have to check in with my readers so I better get my shit together!”

I found this to be a lot more useful than when I merely wrote about my phrases and goals occasionally like I did in 2016. I mean, I accomplished more than I would have than if I didn’t have a PotY, but it was not as amazing as I had hoped to be.

Anyhow, all this preamble just to say, I’m going to continue my 2017 habit of monthly posts and I invite you all to join me in keeping ourselves accountable and on track for what we wish to accomplish in 2018.

Soooooo… my 2018 Phrase of the Year is: Just Go!

It was originally going to be Continue, but I was called out on it saying that Continue was too safe. Especially after Sucking It Up and Risking Dangerously! I thought about it some more and decided my friend and coach, Brandi Riley, was right.

Thus: Just Go!

Why did I choose this and what does it mean for me?

I am an overthinker extraordinaire.

My brain rushes from zero to eleventy-million in half a second and I have the super powerful ability to turn any simple task with one step into a super complicated PROJECT with 193 steps, 3,287 sub-steps, project management software, a Powerpoint presentation, and a wallaby.

Then, I take a look at the wallaby and become completely overwhelmed and either get further mired in details and never start because I will never bulletproof every possible catastrophe and be an immediate expert, or I start the project and then stop.

If I manage to actually finish something, then I freak out and hold off pushing “publish” because WHAT IF I MADE A MISTAKE?

Gracious, it’s a minor miracle that I have ever finished anything at all in my entire life.

Here’s what has transformed my mindset: the idea of just doing something and finishing it even if it’s not perfect.

Launch it broken; fix it live.

That is my new mantra and I’m going to use it to support Just Go! (Incidentally, the exclamation point is totally vital to my phrase.)

If I wait until I know everything or have everything perfect, it will never happen. Plus, I’m starting to realize that not everyone is hanging on my every single word, move, or post. (I am personally offended by this, but I accept that this fact will lead me to take better risks and be bolder with my actions.)

This has already translated into me trying Instagram and even finally Tweeting on the Twitter. I even participated in a Twitter party and did not die.


I felt foolish. Stupid. Unbearably slow. But I lived.

And now, for the part that fascinates only my super fans (which sadly, does not include Hapa Papa) and is useful only to myself, I will now delineate my Goals for 2018.

1) Take family and self-care seriously and Adult.

I want to do this because when I don’t “adult,” it allows all my triggers to build up and get extra twitchy. When that happens, I yell at my kids and swear and throw tantrums and am a general asshole.

So, this means:

  • Taking daily vitamins so I am caring for my health.
  • Getting at least 6-8 hours of sleep so I’m not grumpy.
  • Eating on a regular schedule so I don’t get hangry.
  • Taking care of my skin because I’m vain and when I look good, I feel good.
  • Keeping my kitchen table 85% clear every day because when it’s cluttered, I get cranky.
  • Not buying more stuff (including toys) because clutter in my house makes me apoplectic. Also, I want to save more money.
  • Doing the household/life maintenance work because when it builds up, I get stressed out and procrastinate and that makes me feel bad.


I have huge (for me) goals that I want to accomplish for my business this year. It feels odd to call myself a business, but I need to treat my work as a business that is in the business of making money so that I make money.

I’m reading (affiliate link) You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth by Jen Sincero and I’m sick of getting in my own way.

So, here are my work goals for 2018:

  • Make enough money to cover business expenses associated with my blog and related events (eg: conferences, CPA, etc.).
  • Stretch goal: to also make enough to cover all my monthly mortgage expenses for the year.
  • Pitch 3-5 times a week.
  • Submit to other publications at least once a month.
  • Write weekly LinkedIn posts.
  • Write a book.
  • Weekly FB Lives.
  • Revamp/rehaul site.
  • Daily interaction/activity on LI/IG/P/Tw.

If I think about it too much, I am going to freak out and become overwhelmed. After all, this is a lot of shit – and doesn’t even include my homeschooling the kids and taking care of them on a day to day basis.

But I’m going to take a tip from my Phrase of the Year and Just Go!

I am going to launch it broken; fix it live. I’m going to continue building on what I’ve done the last two years, and 2018 is going to be the best year yet.

Let me know if you do the WotY/PotY and tell me your goals in the comments. We can do it together.

Bilingual Chinese and English Storybooks

** Today’s post is sponsored by Travel, Learn and See Your Friends: Adventures in Mandarin Immersion by Edna Ma. I also received a review copy of the hardcover. As usual, all opinions and thoughts are my own. This post includes Amazon affiliate links (the price you pay is the same; Amazon shares a tiny bit of that with me). Also, leave a comment about your favorite Chinese story on this post by Monday, 1/15/18 at 11:59pm PST for a chance to win this book!

People often tell me that I’m a little bit too hard core for them about teaching my kids Chinese.

I get it. I really do.

I know that most of you who want to teach your kids Chinese are not going to homeschool, spend thousands of dollars on Chinese books, or head back to Taiwan for weeks at a time.

Sometimes, I think I’m just a smidge overboard about it all, too.

I know that many of the books I discuss are hard for folks to access – either because you have to navigate online bookstores in Chinese and figure out international shipping or because you have no way of reading the book to your kids even if you bought it.

This is when bilingual books with both Chinese and English on the same page can come in handy. Today’s book, Travel, Learn and See Your Friends: Adventures in Mandarin Immersion by Dr. Edna Ma, can solve several of those problems for you.

First, you can buy it on Amazon.

Second, it’s a bilingual book! That means the story is written in English, Simplified Chinese, and also has pinyin so even non-speaking parents can “read” the book. Plus, there will be a YouTube video by Linda Yi of Panda Cub Stories narrating the whole book so you can follow along!

As someone who is not functionally literate in Chinese, I cannot tell you how annoying it is to have all these awesome Chinese picture books that are made for parents to read to their children except, womp womp, I’m illiterate.

I see a wall of Chinese text and I want to cry. Or scream.

But now, here’s a book with Simplified Chinese (for my kid to practice), pinyin (to support me or your children as they read the Chinese), and English (so I can understand what I just read!).

Alright, alright. So it helps you overcome these hurdles. What is this book about?

Travel, Learn and See Your Friends is based on the real friendship of Dr. Ma’s son, Dean, and his friend, Ethan, when they were first-graders attending a Mandarin Immersion school. Through their friendship, the boys learn about different reasons to learn Mandarin, their own families, and the world. They even come up with a clever idea to keep in touch when Dean finds out he is moving.

Here’s what I love most about this book. It is a bilingual book featuring children who live in the US, doing normal every day things. That’s practically a unicorn!

It’s refreshing to see a Chinese/English bilingual book that has nothing to do with living in a Chinese speaking country, doesn’t feature animal characters, and is not a re-telling of a Chinese Myth.

Travel, Learn and See Your Friends features elementary school kids at a US based Mandarin Immersion school and is a completely original story.

Furthermore, this book features main characters who are people of color. Dean is Chinese American and Ethan is African American and guess what? The book doesn’t make a big deal out of it at all.

It is so rare for children’s books with main characters of color that are NOT about something “ethnic” or “after school special” or “foreign holidays.”

I cannot tell you how exciting it is to have a book with a Chinese American kid that is not about Chinese New Year or the Autumn Moon Festival or an African American kid that is not about Martin Luther King Jr. or slavery or Civil Rights.

Seriously. This book is a unicorn.

On top of that, the illustrations are engaging and show families of color in loving, normal, every day situations. That is a powerful thing.

Despite there being essentially 3x the amount of text in a normal story book in order to accommodate all the translations, the layout never feels too crowded or claustrophobic. Again, that is a hard thing to accomplish and still have a longer and coherent story.

Third, I love supporting women of color authors. Yes, white people can definitely (and should, if we’re being honest) write characters of color in a fully developed and appropriate manner. But there is just something beautiful to me about books with kids of color in it written by a person of color.

Representation matters – in all aspects – and in our current clime, more important than ever.

Here’s my main concern about this book. It is very obvious that the Chinese version does not flow the way a story authored by a native speaker would. Though the Chinese version is literally accurate and grammatically correct, it lacks spirit – that spark in the language the English version has.

The Chinese stumbles most while describing events or explaining a situation. Sometimes, it is because of a regional preference like using 襯衫 (chen4 shan) vs 上衣 (shang4 yi) for the term, “shirt.” Other times, it is because though the sentence is technically correct, it is not the words you would use when telling a story to children.

Don’t worry too much, though. Your children (and myself included) will learn different ways to express an idea and have a richer, more adult vocabulary as a benefit.

The Chinese is much more natural sounding when it is a conversation between the two boys and between the parents and children.

Keep in mind, Dr. Ma grew up speaking Cantonese and English so she wrote the story in English and hired several Chinese translators to do the Chinese version. You can see the care and attentiveness to accuracy reflected in the text. I only wish that the translators were a bit more creative in their expressions!

That said, this book is good for people who have found it difficult to find quality Chinese and English bilingual storybooks for their children. The pain of reading a book to your kid in Chinese has now been removed. (Again, there will even be a YouTube video narrated by Linda Yi of Panda Cub Stories.)

Plus, you can find it on Amazon instead of hoping you didn’t just buy a llama on a yacht and promise your firstborn to pay for shipping on an all-Chinese online website.

Also, this Travel, Learn and See Your Friends makes a good gift for kids in or considering Mandarin Immersion programs, kids who want to learn about other languages, and quite frankly, kids in general.

Cookie Monster (8) and Gamera (6) read most of the passages with ease (Cookie Monster knows ~1300 characters and Gamera knows ~1100). They cannot read English or pinyin so they really were reading! (I was frankly, quite surprised.)

I left the book out on the kitchen table to see what would happen and over the course of two weeks, I saw Cookie Monster pick up the book several times (without me ever asking), flip through and peruse the story. He said he liked the illustrations and clearly understood the story and the characters (remember – he can’t read English or pinyin).

Gamera saw the book and asked about it, but she did not want to read it. She has been anti-reading lately so it was most likely that.

Even Glow Worm (4) would pick up Travel, Learn and See Your Friends and look through the pictures for a few minutes. He DEFINITELY cannot read any of the languages!

I’ve included some pertinent details, pictures, and video below.

Title: Travel, Learn and See Your Friends: Adventures in Mandarin Immersion

Where to Buy: Amazon

How to Enter the Book Giveaway: Leave a comment about your favorite Chinese story by Monday, 1/15/18 at 11:59pm PST in the comment section of THIS POST. (Do NOT comment on Facebook, IG, Tw, postcard, or snail mail.)

Sample Pages: 

Here’s a snippet of Gamera (6) reading two pages from Travel, Learn and See Your Friends. Keep in mind, Gamera also does not know how to read English or pinyin so she is only reading the Chinese characters.

Here’s a snippet of Cookie Monster (8) reading an excerpt. Keep in mind, Cookie Monster also does not know how to read English or pinyin so he isn’t “cheating,” either.

Thanks again for reading! Please be sure to check out Travel, Learn and See Your Friends on Amazon (I believe there is also an audio clip you can hear.)

Don’t forget to leave a comment about your favorite Chinese story on this blog post by Monday, 1/15/18 at 11:59pm PST for a chance to win this book!