小胖小 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: 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

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).

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.

熊貓先生,我願意等 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: 熊貓先生,我願意等 (xiong2 mao xian sheng, wo3 yuan4 yi4 deng3)/Mr. Panda, I’m Willing to Wait

ISBN: 9789862741870

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: Several animals ask Mr. Panda what he is doing. He says to wait because it’s a surprise. Animal after animal is unwilling to wait, but the penguin is willing to wait.

Sample Pages:





Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

5 Minute Book Review: Gamera (5.5) is willing to read this book so it must be easy and have super cute illustrations. (It is and it does.) Cookie Monster (7.5) likes this book, too. And, of course, Glow Worm (3.75) always brings this book out for someone to read him (but no one does because I am a neglectful mother).

The pictures are super cute and the content incredibly easy. The plot is also very silly and easy. Super fun.

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

我要吃小孩: Book Review


Title: 我愛吃小孩 (wo3 yao4 chi xiao3 hai2)/I Want to Eat a Child

ISBN: 9789865876135

Authors/Illustrations: 文/希薇安丶東尼歐,圖/多蘿特丶蒙弗列特,譯/蘇㦤禎 (translated from French)

Publisher: 阿布拉教育文化

Level: Beginning Reader, Zhuyin, Picture Book, Fiction

Summary: Archie, the alligator, doesn’t want to eat any more bananas. He wants to eat a child. Archie’s parents are really worried and try to tempt him with yummy foods but he refuses them all. He finally notices a child but is unable to eat her. He goes home, determined to try again.

Sample Pages:



Rating: 5/5 stars

5 Minute Review: From when I first saw this book at Eslite, I had to buy it. It’s ridiculous and cute and has fun illustrations and a silly story. All my kids enjoyed the book from the get go and I was able to read it because it had zhuyin.

Gamera (5) recently chose to read this book out loud to me and did pretty good for the most part. Some characters she didn’t recognize so she used zhuyin. She can be lazy and forgets to use the zhuyin when she doesn’t know a character. Or she starts reading zhuyin and forgets to read the actual characters. I know this will stop once I start having her read more consistently (but I suffer from constant laziness).

Anyhow, Gamera had a relatively easy time reading the story save a few stumbles. The vocabulary is simple and easy to understand. The pictures are bright and fun. It took Gamera about 20 minutes to read all the way through.

Definitely recommend for adults to read to their children (as well as having children learn to read it themselves).

Here is a video of her reading an excerpt (with commentary from Cookie Monster).

Guest Post: A Road Map to Early Chinese Literacy During Early Childhood


Today, we have another guest post by Alex Pang! He is a valued contributor to the Raising Bilingual Kids in Chinese & English Facebook group and has made several helpful posts in the past on MandarinMama on Sagebooks and Greenfield.

This time, he wanted to address some questions he sees oft repeated on the Facebook group and thought it would be helpful to others for him to detail HIS road map and what worked for him.

Despite Alex’s modesty in stating that he doubts people will be interested, I completely disagree. As much as I feel as if I’m brilliant and a genius (I mean, come on, you know it’s true), I concede that I am not for everyone and that my way is not the only way.

And like all fields, we benefit as a community to read diverse methods and strategies and tactics. Plus, you never know what awesome ideas you will pick up from other people.

Keep in mind, both Alex and his wife are full time doctors so they definitely present a different POV than mine as a SAHM. Our philosophies might overlap a bit, but the application and the time carving is a totally different beast.

So, without further ado, I present to you Alex’s post. I hope you enjoy it and find it as helpful as I do.


Author’s Note: Much of what I say below echoes and summarizes what has already been stated by many others.

This little guide serves the busy working parent who is floundering with limited amounts of time and energy to teach Chinese, and therefore desires an efficient framework to lay a reading foundation. I have written down what I consider the minimum amount of work necessary for developing an adequate reading ability in Chinese at the early elementary (primary 1 and 2) level.

The prerequisites for this endeavor include:

1) at least one highly motivated parent who is also a fluent speaker and reader at 3rd grade level and above (if this already proves a roadblock, at least substitute with as much hired tutoring as possible); and

2) access to age-appropriate books.

I will presume your child has speaking and listening fluency at a near-native level (which basically means that your commitment to speaking Chinese started at birth).

Here is the fine print—first and foremost, prepare to persist and commit for the really long haul, as it is the parent who is the primary determinant of reading success in these early childhood years.

Second, the child must reside within as much of a Chinese language environment as possible. For example, we employ a Chinese-speaking nanny, play Chinese-subbed cartoons, and listen to Chinese pop in the car…all in the name of the cause (FYI my kids attend English-language preschool/preK/K). Expensive trips abroad to Taiwan and China will definitely help but are not critical at this juncture.

Third, I do not claim that our method is necessarily the simplest, fastest, or the best, and there are clearly many other children who have achieved early Chinese literacy without going through the same process my child did. This road map merely reflects our ongoing experience.

The following presents some of the books and tips we found most helpful in establishing the reading base over the last two years, assisting our child in making the large jump from Sagebooks 500 and Greenfield readers to “real” books (more like crossing a chasm, actually!). The ages listed are approximate ranges for the respective book levels.

So what is the secret ingredient that encourages early childhood literacy? The answer is…there is no better ingredient than daily reading.

We read for at least 20-30 minutes, EVERY day without fail, even while on vacation.

Despite being relentless about my endeavor, it was incredibly difficult to fit time in to read every day for the past two years (I once read with my kid while she was on the can!) But I knew that each day that passes by without reading in Chinese is a day lost to English.

The reading exercise cannot simply comprise of reading characters or words for the sake of reading characters and words. Similar to learning any language, reading this early in Chinese relies on continuous interaction between parent and child, whereby the fluent parent will explain and expound on words/vocabulary, phrases, and context.

Ages 4-5: This is a pre-reading stage. At this age, establish a solid five hundred character base with the entire Sagebooks 500 (including the treasure box sets), learning at least one new character a day with quick review of previously learned characters. Making character flash cards yourself or buying them from Guavarama as these will help with review.

Establish reading fluency by repeating a sentence until reading speed is adequate for the child to actually understand what she is reading. If there are lengthy pauses between characters, then the child is just reading random words/characters aloud without the ability to interpret and process what she is reading.

I suggest additional supplementation with leveled readers like Greenfield’s I Can Read (我自己會讀) and Magic Box (魔術盒), or Sesame Publishing’s Ding Ding Dong Dong readers (丁丁當當) for practicing and building confidence at this stage.

Ages 5-6: Teach zhuyin, no matter how long it takes! Use short readers to assist with this.

Why learn zhuyin? My child could read most children’s literature after tearing through 500 characters from Sagebooks, right?

Sadly, anything worth reading requires knowledge of at least another 1000 or so characters. Zhuyin, then, allows for incremental development of reading skills and enables the child to read interesting books while still learning to recognize new characters. Some very good practice for zhuyin include those ubiquitous 3-minute bedtime storybooks (三分鐘故事).

After learning zhuyin, power up to Level 0 with easy zhuyin books in the following order:

1) Little Bear set (小熊看世界);

2) Frog and Toad set (青蛙與蟾蜍);

3) Little Fox set (小狐狸系列) from the Storybook Ferris Wheel collection (故事摩天輪);

4) any other Level 0 books on Guavarama’s list, and then move on to Level 1. See the photo of my bookshelf for suggestions.

At this point, additional supplementation with ANY book that interests the child is good. The goal is to develop reading speed/fluency.

It is paramount that the book is appropriate to comprehension level. Starting Magic Treehouse at this age may not help very much other than verify that the child knows zhuyin. For other good book sets at Level 0 and Level 1, please refer to Guavarama’s post on building a Chinese library.

Ages 6-9: Now you are well along on your journey together. You will perceive the improvements in vocabulary and idiom knowledge gained simply through extensive reading.

It probably happens like this—the child uses a word or idiom you know you never taught. Then you ask your spouse, or the tutor, or the grandparents, but each denies it. Then you ask your child if she learned the word from a book. And she will simply shrug her shoulders and look at you with a blank expression. But you know it had to be the books!

At this point allow yourself a pat on the back for a job well done, but do not rest on the laurels. Continue reading daily!

Other book sets appropriate for this age range include the remainder of the Storybook Ferris Wheel collection (故事摩天輪); the Reading 123 set (閱讀123); and the Magic Treehouse set (神奇樹屋).

The photo represents ~30% of my Chinese book collection and nearly all of the books I have used so far after the pre-reading stage. Top shelf: Sagebooks 500, Greenfield I Can Read, and Greenfield Magic Box. Middle shelf: Level 0 and some Level 1 books. Bottom shelf: picture books.

The photo represents ~30% of my Chinese book collection and nearly all of the books I have used so far after the pre-reading stage. Top shelf: Sagebooks 500, Greenfield I Can Read, and Greenfield Magic Box. Middle shelf: Level 0 and some Level 1 books. Bottom shelf: picture books.


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Alex Pang asked me to include the updated version of his bookshelf which added some books and rearranged books in reading level.

Chinese Reading Challenge

Chinese Reading ChallengeIt’s a universally accepted fact that the best way to increase literacy is to have your kids read, read often, and read widely. So, if you want your kids to learn Chinese and also have them literate, that holds equally true for Chinese literacy. It is especially true if the books are non-translated, “indigenous” books.

Reading (in any language, but we are focusing on Chinese here) helps your children internalize Chinese grammar without resorting to dull worksheets or drills, gives them cultural references, and helps them see how idioms apply in every day conversation. If the books are non-translated books (ie: not originally English books translated into Chinese), it has the added benefit of being written specifically for the Chinese/Taiwanese child. Definitely a bonus in terms of language fluidity, rhyming, and playful words being used.

This is even more helpful when your child reads aloud since it also captures the rhythm and musicality of Chinese. Reading aloud helps your kids get used to the flow of speaking Chinese and increase the likelihood of them speaking Chinese with fluidity in every day conversation. Reading the same texts repeatedly will also build confidence and decrease stumbling.

All of these aspects will help your child as they learn Chinese – even if it’s just the speaking part you want to emphasize. (The literacy would just be a bonus.)

Anyhow, even knowing all this stuff about reading and literacy, I still find it hard to read to my children. Mostly because I find it so boring. (I know, I know. I’m a terrible parent. Especially since poor, neglected Glow Worm clearly never gets read to because when someone finally does pay attention to him long enough to read to him, he goes apeshit about books. Like, beyond excited.)

But now that Cookie Monster knows 800-1000 characters and Gamera is probably around 500-600 characters and they are getting better at zhuyin, it’s now easier for me to make them read to me. (I’m totally ballparking their character knowledge here because I am so lazy that the thought of actually quizzing them and having them go through that many character flashcards makes me stabby and want to die.)

However, since I tend to be a little lax lately about their Chinese reading recently, I was so pleased to hear that Cookie Monster finally wants something BIG. He wants to get Minecraft on the PC (thus far, he’s been playing on the xbox) and I guess the PC version has more mods that he sees and covets on YouTube. So, he’s been begging us to get him a computer and the game.

Cookie Monster is six. I know this is just a preview of what is to come. sigh

When I told Cookie Monster I heard he wanted to get a computer to play Minecraft, he was so excited. SO EXCITED. I could tell because he was jumping up and down (and for some reason, shirtless), barely containing his glee, saying, “YEAH YEAH YEAH!”

“Wait a minute, Cookie Monster.” I said. “I haven’t said I would get it for you yet. I need you to do something first before I get it for you.”

“Ok! Ok! I’ll do it! Tell me what it is!”

“Before I buy Minecraft for you, and before you can play it, you will need to earn it,” I explained, totally proud of myself in this awesome, teachable parenting moment.

“What does that mean? What does ‘earn it’ mean? I want to earn it! I don’t understand what you’re saying! Help me!”

There went my proud feelings.

Clearly, we are doing a bang up job as parents.

Also, it was so sad and hilarious I really wish I had the foresight to video the whole thing.

Since I’m never one to waste a chance to weaponize my children’s loves and desires, I am taking advantage of Cookie Monster finally expressing a real BIG desire for something and using it to ramp up him reading Chinese books. He has to read a certain number of Chinese books before I will buy the game for him and then, he will have to read a certain number of chapters/books in order to actually play the game.

And, because I’m loathe to do anything in life without turning it into a blog post for my own benefit, I’m making it a communal thing.

Today’s post officially kicks off the Read 100 Chinese Books Challenge (閱讀100本書).

For the tl;dr crowd, the Read 100 Chinese Books Challenge is a non-competitive way for us parents to support each other and our children on their way to Chinese literacy. Basically, we “pledge” to have our kids read 100 Chinese books of any length or level. We can post updates, check in and encourage each other, recommend books, have bribes prizes, etc.

Oh, and I’m serious about the non-competitive part.

There are no forms, no worksheets, no book reports you have to fill out. (I provide them for you because some folks really like them, but I personally think nothing ruins the joy of reading like pointless busywork.)

There is no verification service.

No grand prize for reading more than 100 books.

In fact, the prize for reading 100 books is, to quote my snarky friend, Not Another DB MBA, “Another 100 books!”

If this is of interest to you, join us on our 閱讀100本書/Read 100 Chinese Books Facebook Group. We’d love to have you. You MUST PM the admin your reason for joining the group. No PM? No admission.

In case a hundred books seems like a lot (and I won’t lie, it is) and you’re not sure you can find one hundred English books, let alone one hundred Chinese books, GuavaRama has a fantastic series of posts all on Chinese books including what kinds of books to buy (categorized at different levels), where to buy them, how to choose books, and where to find them in libraries. Seriously, it’s some quality information. Use it.

Alright, friends and fellow Chinese enthusiasts! For more info, I recommend you head over to our Facebook Group. (FYI: again, please PM the admin your reasons for joining.)

Hope to see you there.