糖果姐姐說故事: CD Review


Title:  糖果姐姐說故事 Set 1 (tang2 guo3 jie3 jie5 shuo gu4 shi4)/Candy Sister Telling Stories

Publisher: Christian Cosmic Light Holistic Care

Level: Children

Includes: 16 CDs, 48 stories, no book

Summary: This first (out of four) collection tells Old Testament stories from Adam and Eve through Samuel, covering 15 major Bible characters. (Eg: Cain and Abel, Noah, David, etc.)

Each segment is about 12-15 minutes long and has the following format: Candy Sister introduces a story, tells the story, and then ends with a 甜蜜的小叮嚀 (tian2 mi4 de5 xiao3 ding ning2) or Sweet Exhortation. 

The second set is from Saul to Jesus. The third and fourth volumes have translated fantasy and children’s stories. 

Sample Pages: 






Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

5 Minute Review: There can be no doubt of the high production values of this set. The narration, the voice actors, the classical music, everything about it is top notch. 

So, why the 3 star rating? (Which incidentally, isn’t a bad rating.)

Mostly because my kids were terrified and/or didn’t understand a lot of the stories. They were terrified (they were 3-5 at the time) because Old Testament stories are full of fighting and death. Even when “sanitized” for children. And these CDs do not sanitize. 

Also, I am somewhat dubious of what the producers deem to be the lesson learned from each story – as well as how they choose to tell the story (in terms of what gets included and what gets excised). But that is to be expected in any translation, biblical or otherwise. 
It is, however, a great summary of the main Bible stories. So if your kids can understand Chinese really well, and are familiar with the characters, and are familiar with the Bible, it is a good supplement. 

Let’s just say that my Chinese was not good enough and the only reason I knew what was going on is because I have a really good working knowledge of the Old Testament. 

Definitely for older kids (like 8+?) and for fluent or near fluent kids. This is not appropriate for introducing Chinese to beginners or non-speakers.

Hope that helps! I think the website might offer samples to download or listen to online. 

同行 Book Review


Title: 同行 (tong2 xing2)/Travel Together

ISBN: 9789861612164

Author: 林文玲

Publisher: 信誼

Level: Beginning Reader, Zhuyin, Picture Book, Fiction

Summary: A train and the sun are traveling together up and down a mountain. They are racing and seeing the sights together. They encounter a tunnel, fruit trees, and race the wind. At the end of the day, they say good night and then promise to travel together again the next day.

Sample Pages:


Rating: 5/5 stars

5 Minute Review: Cookie Monster (7) enjoyed this book a lot and even asked me if he could read it again in the future. He has never asked me that before!

The story is cute and fun. Cookie Monster didn’t quite get what was really happening, but he is a very literal child. Once I explained the conceit, he thought it was hilarious.

Below are two video excerpts of Cookie Monster reading.

Miao Mi TV


** Compensation for this post was provided on behalf of Miao Mi TV. A free code was also provided so I could review the app. Opinions expressed here are my own. 

People always say we should have our kids watch and listen to Chinese media in order to improve their Chinese, but you know, it can be really hard to know where to start.

It’s especially hard if you don’t speak or understand Chinese.

I mean, I suppose you could just do a search on YouTube for Chinese cartoons, but if you don’t understand Chinese, how do you do any sort of quality control or parenting? What if the cartoons are really bad dubs? Or really bad translations? Or worse – that pernicious sub-type of YouTube video where jerks dub cute cartoons with inappropriate dialog?

How do you know what your kids are watching?

On the other hand, even if you do understand and speak Chinese, there is also the matter of time and money invested in purchasing Chinese DVDs (some translations on Amazon are really expensive!) or getting a DVD player that can play the appropriate region code.

And then, there is no guarantee your children will actually LIKE what you bought! (For instance, I bought so many sets of Charlie and Lola, but my kids don’t like it at all. You’d think that one out of the three older children would, but NOPE.)

Recently, I was approached by our sponsors to review the Miao Mi TV Channel on Amazon Prime and I think I have found a reasonable and easy solution to the What Should My Kid Watch In Chinese Dilemma.

Here are the important things to know about Miao Mi TV:

1) It is available in the US as an Amazon Prime Channel for $5.99/month.

2) It is also available as a free download in the App Store today and on Google Play in May. You can subscribe for $5.99/month.

3) Both versions come with a 7 day free trial.

4) The programming is geared towards 3-6 year olds and the vocabulary level is supposed to match what K-2 students in US Mandarin Immersion programs are learning.

5) The app is a safe, secure, and ad-free environment that features a child-friendly user interface.

6) Both the app and the Amazon Prime Channel have English/Mandarin language support.

7) The shows and educational videos are in Simplified Chinese. (This obviously doesn’t affect the spoken language – just the titles and characters used in the videos.)

8) There are currently 8 animated shows available in both English and Mandarin as well as educational videos that focus on teaching children some basic Chinese. Each show has at least one season available with around 50+ episodes per season. Most episodes seem to clock in at about the 12-15 minute mark.

9) Here are some of the shows available:

– Pleasant Goat & Big Bad Wolf/喜羊羊與灰太狼 (xi3 yang2 yang2 yu3 hui tai4 lang2): This is the only show I had heard of and Cookie Monster (7) and Gamera (5.5) were familiar with them.

 Star Babies/星與星願 (xing yu3 xing yuan4): A highly acclaimed animated series inspired by Chinese icons such as Bruce Lee and Monkey King. Gamera really liked this series.

– Our Friend Remy Bear/我們的朋友熊小米 (wo3 men2 de5 peng2 you3 xiong2 xiao3 mi3): An award winning animated series that teaches children important life lessons about kindness and camaraderie. Glow Worm (3.75) really enjoyed this cartoon.

Eori/優瑞歷險記 (you rui4 li4 xian3 ji4): A high-quality Korean animated series that features stories based on Asian folktales.

– Secret Y/因為所以 (yin wei4 suo3 yi3): An animated series that introduces scientific knowledge to young children through the lovable characters from the hit animated movie Axel: The Biggest Little Hero. This was Gamera’s favorite and she constantly requested this show throughout the week.

Pleasant Goat Fun Class/智趣羊學堂 (zhi qu4 yang2 xue2 tang2): An educational series featuring world-famous characters from the “Pleasant Goat” franchise that promotes cognitive skills and life skills.

Although I was only going to have my kids watch 2-3 episodes, they clamored for more and insisted on watching as many as I would let them.

Cookie Monster wasn’t that interested in some of the cartoons, but he is a little older than the recommended age range. Despite his initial complaint, he had no problem watching several episodes in a row.

Gamera liked the most shows and kept requesting to watch the Secret Y series. Who am I to complain? They’re educational and answer common questions like, why does the moon change shape? Is it being eaten? My kids got tricked into learning science.

Glow Worm liked most of the shows, too. He preferred the action cartoons because that’s about the level of his understanding.

We did not check out the educational videos because I was worried my kids would be bored and then I wouldn’t get buy in from them to watch the rest of the videos.

Here are the things I loved about the shows on Miao Mi TV:

  • Though there isn’t breadth, there is DEPTH.
  • Good for beginners and non-speakers – especially the lessons on body parts, common phrases, and family members.
  • Cartoons are in both Chinese AND English – which is helpful to non-speakers or speakers who aren’t as fluent as they’d like.
  • Shows are pre-vetted so we don’t have to
  • Many shows are indigenous to China and not translations so the language is more likely to be what Chinese people actually say.
  • Very Chinese/Asian content.
  • Titles and descriptions are in English – which is SO HANDY for illiterate people such as myself. I have a ton of ripped Chinese videos and DVDs but it’s virtually impossible to keep track of which episodes my kids have seen because the file names are MMCH_06_05 and has no info.
  • $5.99 /mo is less than 1 DVD.

Here are some of the things I wished could be improved:

  • I wish there were Chinese subtitles at the bottom of the cartoons. I know the purpose is not to teach written Chinese to children, but it would be an added bonus. Especially for the times where I’m not sure what the characters are saying – and the kids don’t know what a term means. If there are subtitles, I can at least look it up. Without subtitles, I have to randomly guess based on tones, etc. and then blindly Pleco and hope for the best.
  • The Amazon Prime interface is a little clunky – but workable. The app is much easier to navigate – especially for children.

Overall, I am pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed this channel.

I fully admit to being a snob and thinking that I wasn’t going to like it and thinking it might be helpful for non-speaker families but certainly not for my kids. But guess what?

I really liked Miao Mi TV.

I liked it so much that I told a bunch of my really good friends about it while the kids were watching the videos.

I liked it so much that I paid for another month and did not cancel after the first 7 free days. (Although our sponsors offered to reimburse me for it, I did not accept.)

Miao Mi TV is perfect for people who want their preschool kids to be exposed to Chinese in a way that is fun, easy, and entertaining. It is great for speakers and non-speakers alike and I am so glad I got the chance to check it out.

I highly recommend you check out Miao Mi TV, too.

小黃點 Book Review


Title: 小黃點 (xiao3 huang2 dian3)/Mix It Up!

ISBN: 9789577625038

Author/Illustrator: Hervé Tullet

Publisher: 上誼

Level: Chinese Picture Book, Fiction

Summary: Follow the instructions and see what happens to the Little Yellow Dot! Press the dot, shake the book, and blow on the pages.

Sample Pages:





Rating: 5/5 stars

5 Minute Review: This book is hands down, my children’s favorite of the bunch. It definitely is Glow Worm’s (3.5) favorite. He never gets tired of this book and doesn’t exactly follow the directions, but he loves to hit every single dot and count all the dots of each color. It can be mindnumbingly dull when he does this. But hey. He’s 3.5.

He also enjoys pointing out all the characters he recognizes so that’s fun, too. Like the other books in the series, there is no zhuyin and some of the characters are unfamiliar to me and despite me looking them up a bjillion times, I forget them just as quickly.

Such is the consequence of having an older brain.

At least it’s pretty easy to figure out what they are saying from context and it’s ok with me to just guesstimate. Perhaps not the best for increasing literacy, but laziness wins.

 

Highly recommend.

Below is a video of me reading the book to Glow Worm.

兩隻老虎歡樂歌謠 Book/CD Review

Title: 兩隻老虎歡樂歌謠 (liang3 zhi lao2 hu3 huan le4 ge yao2)/Two Little Tigers Songs

ISBN: 9867598903

Producer: 風車圖書出版 (Windmill)

Level: Children’s songs, zhuyin

Summary: A collection of 40+ children’s songs. Some are translations of English children’s songs. Some are Chinese/Taiwanese children’s songs.

Sample Pictures:

Rating: 5/5 stars

5 Minute Review: My kids love this CD set. In fact, most people I know own this set because it was featured on AsianParent.com and is easily accessible.

The best part is that they include lyrics with zhuyin for every featured song. I find this super helpful because just because you hear the song doesn’t mean you actually have the right lyrics. I have trouble identifying lyrics correctly in English – let alone Chinese.

Anyhow, this is all just to say that it’s useful to have the lyrics in Chinese with zhuyin because I am semi-illiterate and this helps. They also have fun illustrations.

Highly recommend.

Here are three videos of Gamera singing some songs from the book.

 

火車快跑 Book Review


Title: 火車快跑 (huo3 che kuai4 pao3)/Freight Train

ISBN: 9573212404

Authors: Donald Crews (著/唐諾 克魯斯,譯:劉思源)

Publisher: 遠流出版事業股份有限公司

Level: Beginning Reader, Zhuyin, Picture Book, Fiction

Summary: This book is a Chinese translation of Freight Train by Donald Crews. First, we read about all the different types of railroad cars on the train. They are also listed by color. Then we follow the train as it makes its journey across the rails and goes faster and faster. 

Sample Pages: 





Rating: 5/5 stars

5 Minute Review: This book is super easy and fun to read. Gamera (5yo) read it very quickly and loved the pictures and story. It helped that both Gamera and Cookie Monster (7yo) heard this story often when they were attending Chinese preschool. 

Gamera recognized most of the words and the ones she didn’t (or forgot), she sounded out easily with zhuyin. In fact, I am pleased with how well she did – even though I know it is a simple and easy to read book. 

Plus, the illustrations are beautiful and dreamy and I find them to be my favorite part. 

Highly recommend. 

Below is a video of Gamera reading an excerpt from 火車快跑 (huo3 che kuai4 pao3)/Freight Train.

好聽啟蒙故事 CD Review


Title: 好聽啟蒙故事 (hao3 ting qi3 meng2 gu4 shi4)/The Best of Enlightenment Stories

Producer: 台欣 (Tai Shin)

Level: Non-Fiction, Fiction, Fairy Tales,

Summary: 10 CD collection of bedtime stories; CDs 1-5 are fairytales, fables, and stories; CD 6 is biographies of famous composers; CD 7 is samples of the famous composers; CD 8 is stories of famous and great people (eg: Archimedes, Michaelangelo, DaVinci, Washington); CDs 9-10 are about constellations and random music (so I guess Greek/Roman myths).

Sample Pictures:


Rating: 4/5 stars

5 Minute Review: All my children love this CD set. The production value is great and fun to listen to. My only complaint is that for the first 5 CDs, the sound is off because they play songs within the stories but the songs are much louder than the narration so it’s really hard to hear in the car. However, this is a small problem.

The CDs on composers is nice because the background music is from the composer and it’s fun for me to try and figure out the composer based on the music alone and their translation of their name.

CD 7 just has a few words explaining the piece background and then plays classical music for each composer in CD 6.

CDs 9-10 could have been condensed into one CD. There is no reason why there needs to be bad instrumental music between each constellation story. 

Incidentally, the CDs on composers, famous people, and constellations were a bit over my head. I got the gist, but the vocabulary and topics were definitely not on the same level as the story books. (My kids also didn’t find them very interesting.)

My main beef with this series is not with the CDs/productions themselves – but rather the actual fairy tales themselves. So I often have to stop the CD and tell the kids that it’s stupid for a princess to give her kingdom to a random dude who kisses her and frees her from some stupid spell.

Or that it’s dumb to plant a tree that grows silver leaves and golden apples but to leave all that to marry the first knight to show up instead of selling the silver leaves and golden apples to live by herself.

My children’s favorite story, though, is 胡扯國的故事 (hu2 che3 guo2 de5 gu4 shi4)/The Ridiculous Country’s Stories. It’s two minutes long and all it is are examples of ridiculous statements (eg: three mice chased down a cat and scared it). For some reason, Gamera (5) and Glow Worm (3) find it hilarious and demand to hear it on repeat.

I don’t understand.

Either way, I am very satisfied with the CD set. We listen to them in the car and I will have us listen to each CD a few times so they get used to the story and recognize them and hear the vocabulary before I swap them out for other CDs.

Even my Chinese has improved!

Highly recommend.