小蛇散步 Book Review

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Title: 小蛇散步 (xiao3 she2 san4 bu4)/The Little Snake Takes a Walk

ISBN: 9789867188243, 9789862116043

Author: 伊東寬

Publisher: 小魯寶寶書

Level: Beginning Reader, Zhuyin, Fiction

Summary: A little snake goes out for a walk and encounters a puddle. As he is about to leave, he ends up helping a bunch of new friends cross the puddle as well.

Sample Pages:

Ratings: 5 out of 5 stars

5 Minute Review: My kids LOVE this book. They first saw it in their Chinese preschool teacher’s house and when we went back for Taiwan Trip 2014, they saw it at Eslite and begged me to buy it. So, I did.

Be forewarned. ONLY THE NARRATIVE HAS ZHUYIN.

Imagine my surprise when I finally brought it home to read it to my kids only to see that the comic portion with the handwritten font DOES NOT have zhuyin.

Let’s just say that at the time, my Chinese was not good enough to read those parts without frantically looking up characters in Pleco. However, having read this book so many times, I now don’t need to anymore. (Or as much.)

I can’t remember if my kids have tried to read this book on their own, but they do enjoy this picture book a lot because it’s funny, silly, and has lots of fun sounds and illustrations.

Super cute. Highly recommend.

Hunger: Book Review

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links. 

Title: Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body

Author: Roxane Gay

Publisher: Harper

Genre/Category: Memoir, POC Author, WOC Author

Summary: Gay writes a brutally honest memoir of her body, of her eating, of her weight, of her inability to lose her weight, of why she gained the weight, and of so many other things that are not related to weight or food but are equally and perhaps moreso about hunger.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

5 Minute Review: So achingly sad. Hunger is aptly named.

You feel Gay’s ferocious hunger – both literal and metaphorical.

My heart breaks for her. I sympathize in my limited capacity. I am grateful for her opening wide so we can glimpse her hunger and brokenness.

Gay’s writing is haunting, melancholic, and deep. Her writing is the kind that cracks me wide open and all sorts of feelings leak out. Feelings that I have been shoving down, trying to bury, trying to forget, trying to unthink or unfeel.

Her book reminds me of all the things that I hunger for, the things that I want and desperately desire, and then try to fill with completely inappropriate or inadequate things.

I had to space out the reading of this book because it is too raw. Too painful. Too brilliant.

She writes in a way that I want to write. Gay reminds me of the best of Radiohead or Tori Amos.

She is luminous.

Utterly fantastic.

青蛙撲通跳 Book Review

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Title: 青蛙撲通跳 (qing wa pu tong tiao4)/The Frog Jumps

ISBN: 9789861612430

Author: 李紫蓉

Publisher: 信誼

Level: Beginning Reader, Zhuyin, Fiction

Summary: Another bunch of short poems/rhymes about nature.

Sample Pages:

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

5 Minute Review: Though the illustrations are quite beautiful, neither Cookie Monster (6.5 at time of reading) nor Gamera (5.75) liked this book much, either.

Again, it’s because it is a bunch of short poems about nature and my kids are somewhat MEH about poems that are not longer, involved stories. In fact, Gamera was so bored that it took her over 4-5 days to read this book even though clearly, it’s not long and doesn’t require that many days to get through.

Come to think of it, the hardest part actually is that the characters are in a handwritten font so it’s not as easy for children to decipher what the character is. On top of that, the zhuyin is also handwritten. That is what both my kids objected to the most.

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

青蛙和蟾蜍快樂年年 (Frog and Toad All Year) Book Review

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Title: 青蛙和蟾蜍快樂年年 (qing wa han4 chan2 chu2 kuai4 le4 nian2 nian2)/Frog and Toad All Year

In fact, here’s the 4 book box set:

青蛙和蟾蜍好朋友 (qing wa han4 chan2 chu2 hao3 peng2 you3)/Frog and Toad are Friends

青蛙和蟾蜍好伙伴 ((qing wa han4 chan2 chu2 hao4 huo3 ban4)/Frog and Toad Together

青蛙和蟾蜍快樂時光 (qing wa han4 chan2 chu2 kuai4 le4 shi2 guang)/Days with Frog and Toad

ISBN: 9780060239510, 9577622461, 95767622453, 9577622437

Author: 艾諾 洛貝爾 (Arnold Lobel)

Publisher: 信誼

Level: Early Reader, Zhuyin, Fiction

Summary: Translation of the classic, Frog and Toad All Year. Includes five short stories of Frog and Toad throughout the year such as sledding, buying ice cream, raking leaves, and Christmas Eve.

Sample Pages: 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

5 Minute Review: I recall reading these books when I was a kid, but I wasn’t really excited for Cookie Monster (7.5) to read them because I kept confusing Frog and Toad with The Wind and the Willows. But then I remembered (after Cookie Monster read a few) that I had read them in an anthology my parents had bought and I didn’t dislike or love them.

Anyhow, I was reluctant to start Cookie Monster on these also because they’re like chapter books and longer and frankly, I didn’t want to sit there and listen to him read for that long. (I know. I am SO MEDIOCRE.)

However, I finally bit the bullet because just how long can Cookie Monster read short picture books?

I am SO GLAD I did.

I guess he grew up all of a sudden. He says he likes the longer books now because they are more interesting. And then, he has started reading silently by himself. (I have mixed feelings about this because while that does make it easier on me, I cannot verify that he is pronouncing everything right and lately, he has been super messing up his tones.)

Plus, he’s been eager to read the book and finishing it on his own because he said the stories were funny. He even picked it up when he was bored and read on his own.

I don’t know what’s going on. Maybe it was the eclipse. But I am VERY PLEASED.

I was also pleasantly surprised that he actually understood what was going on in the stories and he was good about asking me for help on words he couldn’t quite get the right pronunciation on or didn’t understand their meaning.

All in all, I was very happy that we finally took the plunge.

These books are a nice bridge to actual chapter books and are helping him build confidence that he can actually tackle books with more words and length.

Highly recommend.

In fact, you really should just buy the whole set of four books. I have never seen Cookie Monster voluntarily read books – especially longer books. He finds the stories so silly and funny and he usually reads two chapters at a time.

He actually asked me if there were more Frog and Toad books and unfortunately, we do not. Thankfully, I have a set of 8-9 more Arnold Lobel books! YAY!

十兄弟 Book Review

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Title: 十兄弟 (shi2 xiong di4)/The Ten Brothers

ISBN: 9789861614717

Author: 小翔

Publisher: 信誼

Level: Beginning Reader, Zhuyin, Fiction

Summary: Ten brothers with special talents (eg: far sightedness, extra sharp hearing, steel skin, super long legs, etc.) rescue their father from being wrongfully imprisoned in the Emperor’s prison. The Emperor thinks they are bad guys so he keeps sending guards to stop the brothers. The brothers’ unique abilities get them out of these dangerous situations and eventually rescue their father.

Sample Pages:

  

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

5 Minute Review: This book is Cookie Monster’s (7.5) new favorite. He learned a lot of new terms (especially famous Chinese super powers – the Chinese equivalent of American super hero tropes such as x-ray vision, flying, or quick healing) but most importantly, loved the illustrations and story.

He enjoyed trying to guess which brother was which based on their illustration alone and often paused between pages so he could fully enjoy and examine the drawings.

The story itself is a different version of the story I read as a child, but the gist is the same. It was a little bit hard for Cookie Monster to understand some of the terms and plot points, but he still had no problem telling Gamera (5.5) about some of the story and claiming that this book was his new favorite.

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.

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

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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).