蓮花 Book Review

Title: 蓮花 (lian2 hua)/Lotus Flower 

ISBN: 9789861614700

Authors: 信誼基金出版社

Publisher: 信誼

Level: Beginning Reader, Zhuyin, Picture Book, Non-Fiction, Science

Summary: This book discusses the lotus flower’s life cycle and uses. 

Sample Pages: These were suggested by Cookie Monster (7yo) because they were his favorite pages of the book. He liked the seed pods (he thinks they’re cool) and the lotus roots (again, thinks the shapes are cool).

Rating: 3/5 stars

5 Minute Review: Other than an occasional difficult vocabulary word, this text was clear and easy to read and understand. 

The pictures are vibrant and the text informative. Cookie Monster found it reasonably interesting and read through the book very quickly. 

Despite me having to look up plant specific terms and a few phrases, the terms were easy to explain and understand. 

I didn’t realize Chinese folks ate so much of the lotus plant – that it was more than just pretty. In fact, there can be 2-3 harvests! (Flowers, seeds, and roots.)

Below is a video of Cookie Monster reading an excerpt from 蓮花 (lian2 hua)/Lotus Flower. 

海豚 Book Review

Title: 海豚 (hai3 tun2)/Dolphins

ISBN: 9779861615189

Author/Photographer: 作者/信誼基金出版社丶黑潮海洋文教基金會

Publisher: 信誼

Level: Non-Fiction, Science, Chinese Picture Book, Beginning Reader, Zhuyin

Summary: This book tells us all about dolphins. Where do they live? What kinds of dolphins are there? What do they eat? How do they communicate? Lots of pictures.

Sample Pages:

Rating: 5/5 stars

5 Minute Review: Cookie Monster (7) enjoyed this book a lot. He loved all the facts and the mostly simple language. I was very pleased with the simple language because sometimes the science vocabulary is over my head let alone Cookie Monster’s.

He loved all the pictures, the multitude of science facts, and all the new things he learned about dolphins. All of which he promptly regurgitated as he told Gamera (5) all about the book and what he learned.

He even exclaimed at the end that he really liked the book because it was easy to read as well as interesting. It helped that I supplemented with videos of a live dolphin birth as well as with videos of dolphins playing.

Highly recommend.

Below is a video of Cookie Monster reading an excerpt of the book. Also, a video I found of a live dolphin birth. Cookie Monster made me replay a few times. Then he made Gamera and Glow Worm watch. In the name of science.

早起的一天 Book Review

Title: 早起的一天 (zao3 qi3 de5 yi tian)/The Day We Woke Up Early

ISBN: 9789867942012

Author/Illustrator: 賴馬

Publisher: 和英文化

Level: Chinese Picture Book, Beginning Reader, Fiction, Zhuyin, comes with CD

Summary: A young pig gets up early in the morning to help his grandmother buy and prepare things for his grandfather’s birthday. They go to the market, ride a taxi, and visit various family members at their work.

Sample Pages:

Rating: 5/5 stars

5 Minute Review: As always, Lai Ma’s books are visually interesting and fun. All my children enjoy studying the illustrations which reward repeat study.

Because this book comes with a CD, I will fully admit that my children have listened to the CD in the car at least several hundred times since Summer 2014 before they ever “read” the book.

However, the language is simple, there isn’t a lot of text, and the story is fun enough. Gamera (5) and Cookie Monster (7) both can read it easily enough and the characters they don’t recognize, they can just try the zhuyin.

This is one of Ma’s easier to read picture books and even I can read with relatively little assistance from zhuyin.

Here is a video of Gamera reading an excerpt.

好吃的水果 Book Review

Title: 好吃的水果 (hao3 chi de5 shui3 guo3)/Tasty Fruit

ISBN: 9789861614502

Authors/Photographs: 信誼基金出版社

Publisher: 信誼

Level: Beginning Reader, Zhuyin, Picture Book, Non-Fiction, Science

Summary: Introduces some fruits and discusses what they look like on the outside, the type of seeds they have, as well as what they taste like. They also ask kids to identify a fruit based solely on a picture of a cross section.

Sample Pages: 

Rating: 4/5 stars

5 Minute Review: Surprisingly, Cookie Monster (7) really enjoyed this book. Again, the book is informative and has many helpful pictures.

Definitely, the most fun part was trying to identify each fruit from a picture of its cross section. Cookie Monster found that a lot of fun.

As with the vegetable book, the fruits are mostly Taiwanese and some of them were definitely unfamiliar to Cookie Monster. However, because he already knew many names of fruits, this was a very quick and easy read.

And because it was an easy and quick read with very little strange vocabulary (well, other than one word I had never heard of that you can see in the video), it was very favorably received.

Here is a video of Cookie Monster reading an excerpt from the book. (You can also see how easily I get annoyed. I am truly an impatient teacher. Poor kiddos.)


四季好蔬菜: Book Review

Title: 四季好蔬菜 (si4 ji4 hai3 su cai4)/Vegetables of the Four Seasons

ISBN: 9789861615233

Authors/Photographs: 文/信誼基金出版社,照片/永豐餘生技丶達志影像

Publisher: 信宜

Level: Beginning Reader, Zhuyin, Picture Book, Non-Fiction, Science

Summary: Introduces some vegetables that grow in every season. Has lots of pictures.

Sample Pages:

Rating: 3/5 stars

5 Minute Review: Well, it is about vegetables. So I wouldn’t say it was very interesting except in an, “Oh, hey. Vegetables,” kind of way.

It certainly is informative. And I suppose Cookie Monster (7) didn’t mind learning and seeing pictures of vegetables he has eaten (and many more he has not).

These are definitely Taiwanese and Chinese vegetables so I guess it is also cultural learning. But again: vegetables. In all four seasons.

To be fair, the book does offer random facts and Cookie Monster enjoyed those. But for the most part, he struggled over the vegetable names because he wasn’t familiar with them and he was very wiggly and antsy.

I am pretty sure this one book took over a week to read because we kept getting distracted and we were both sooooo bored.

No video because I think we both would rather suck on a fork than read this again. But, um, it was useful to learn and go through.

品德教育閱讀每日10分鍾: Book Review

Title: 品德教育閱讀每日10分鍾 國小一年級 (ping3 de2 jiao4 yu4 yue4 due2 mei3 ri4 shi2 fen zhong guo2 xiao3 yi nian2 ji2)/Moral Character Education 10 Minute Daily Readings for 1st Grade

ISBN: Not applicable

Authors/Illustrations: 資優國語文教研會

Publisher: 光田出版社

Level: Beginning Reader, Zhuyin, Picture Book, Non-Fiction, Textbook, Taiwanese 1st Grade

Pages: 160

Summary: 74 short moral essays/stories that include 5 reading comprehension multiple guess questions (with answer key) as well as an additional idiom section that goes along with each story.

Sample Pages: 

Table of Contents (1)

Table of Contents (2)

Chapter with easier vocabulary (story)

Chapter with easier vocabulary (follow up questions)

Chapter with harder vocabulary (story)

Chapter with easier vocabulary (follow up questions)

Rating: 3/5 stars

5 Minute Review: I really like this workbook. I use it as a textbook to increase Cookie Monster’s (7) reading ability and comprehension. However, keep in mind that I like this workbook like a person likes to take vitamins.

I know it’s good for me, but no one is begging to read this.

The reading material is usually one page and the facing page has comprehension questions as well as additional info on idioms that relate to the story.

Depending on the topic, the stories are sometimes interesting and fun, or informative but perhaps not terribly interesting. Sometimes, Cookie Monster finds the stories fun and the illustrations amusing. Other times, you can tell he is just reading without any understanding.

Either way, the stories are useful for improving zhuyin reading and increasing comprehension. They take Cookie Monster anywhere from 10-30 minutes to go through both pages. If the text is more story related, his reading is much faster and fluid. If there is a lot of formal vocabulary or harder terms (that I have to constantly look up in Pleco), it takes a LOT longer and is somewhat frustrating.

At first, it was hard for him to even understand the concept of multiple choice questions. But after a few days, he got more used to it.

We skip the part on idioms because he only has so much attention span and quite frankly, some of the chapters have me going to Pleco and stretch my comprehension so much (so demoralizing that a first grade text can stymie me) that the thought of also discussing idioms makes me want to bash my head in.

Incidentally, he must be learning something because the other day, I was eating a zhong zi and he said, “Oh! This was in my book!” And flipped the book to the chapter on 端午節 (duan wu3 jie2)/Dragon Boat Festival. Sure enough, there were sketches of zhong zi.

I found this and a bunch of workbooks in a random Chinese stationery store and according to the clerk, this was the brand that was more popular and recommended.

I believe the Kang Xuan books are comparable in content and difficulty level. (Except that they have a CD with mp3s so you cannot just read straight through- hence my buyer’s remorse with KX workbooks.)

At any rate, though we would ideally do a story a day, we are more likely at 1-3 stories a week.

Overall, I am pleased and recommend this if you want to approach zhuyin and Chinese literacy in a more regimented way than reading picture books.

This is not the type of book you buy and go through for fun. I mean, the title is Moral Character Education for crying out loud.

Anyhow, now you know. 🙂

Here is a video of Cookie Monster reading an excerpt from the book. (This is the kind of wiggling I have to deal with. Drives me insane!) Also, I would have included a video of him reading and answering the questions, but I already had to bribe him with Cheetos to let me video this much.

小雞逛遊樂園: Book Review

Title: 小雞逛遊樂園 (xiao3 ji guang4 you2 le4 yuan2)/Baby Chicks at the Forest Park

ISBN: 9789862112793

Authors/Illustrations: Noriko Kudo (translated from Japanese) 文、圖/工藤紀子,翻譯/劉握瑜

Publisher:  小魯文化事業股份有限公司 (Xiao Lu Wen Hua/Tsai Fong Books)

Published: 2012

Level: Beginning Reader, Zhuyin, Picture Book, Fiction

Pages: 36

Summary: The five little chicks go to the amusement park and have a lot of fun going to all the attractions. Then they have a picnic. (Seriously, that’s it.)

Sample Pages:

Rating: 5/5 stars

5 Minute Review: Gamera (5) LOVES the 小雞 (xiao3 ji)/Baby Chick series. Kudo’s adorable illustrations and cute conversations are a big reason.

Gamera will choose one of the five books in the Baby Chick series to read over and over again. She practically has them memorized.

She first heard these stories at her Chinese preschool and despite having heard and read these stories countless times, Gamera just can’t get enough.

Although there is occasionally some harder vocabulary, it is nothing zhuyin doesn’t solve quickly and easily. The storyline is simple and easy to follow.

Mostly, Gamera just loves to look at the illustrations and thinks the baby chicks are the cutest. She also likes to read the occasional Chinese characters within the actual illustrations (these do not have zhuyin).

Incidentally, though Cookie Monster (7) has never chosen these books to read (mostly because we are going through our books very systematically with him), he finds the stories fun and adorable, too. He mostly just hovers nearby when Gamera reads them and he will flip through to see the illustrations. He also heard them at preschool when he was younger.

Highly recommend.

Here’s a video of Gamera reading an excerpt. You can tell she really likes to look at the pictures! (You can also tell I am totally missing the point of picture books.)