Age: Almost 8
Grade Level: 3-4th grade
Pages: 180

Tonight, we went to the Oakland library and I happened upon what I thought was another book in the Ink Drinker series.  The Ink Drinkers is a translated book about a little boy who becomes a “vampire” and can only subsist by sucking up the ink in books.  About a year ago, I read the book to Thumper and she really loved it.

The series we bought has two books:  吸墨鬼來了 and 吸墨鬼來了2:錯字飲料店.  It’s published by 小天下 and has zhuyin.  The book we borrowed tonight was titled 小紅吸墨鬼 and it has no zhuyin, with the cover declaring it’s a medium-high grade (中高) level book.  A few pages in, we both realized that we’d already read it.  Apparently 遠流 Publishing had published a different version of these books 10+ years ago.  The newer version by 小天下 combined several of these books into one, whereas the old ones were standalone books.

Ink Drinker

I’ve been researching Greenfield books to buy the last two days.  With the thought that perhaps I need to buy books with no zhuyin to gauge where Thumper is and force her to learn new characters.  But my conflict is that I know that she’s learning new characters partly because she has zhuyin next to them.

Anyways, having that book on hand, I decided to ask Thumper to read just first page of a chapter, and then a random complete page after I’d complimented her profusely on her ability to read these pages without zhuyin.    Imagine my surprise that she only doesn’t recognize 2-3 characters per page.  I stopped her several times to ask because some characters I knew she hasn’t learned them.  It turns out some of them she’s just guessing from context, and others from reading it with zhuyin in other books.  (Dahl’s Matilda for example.)   I’m constantly surprised at how much easier it is when you have the spoken language background to be able to guess from context.

Ink Drinker inside

So horray!  This set of book is pretty good for someone at Thumper’s level?   Except I have no idea what Thumper’s level is.  Perhaps end of second grade? (800 characters) The language itself isn’t too bad.  At least even a year ago Thumper was able to understand it without a lot of problems.  Honestly, story-wise it looks way more interesting than the elementary chapter books I’m going to buy from Greenfield.  So I’m going to see if I can borrow the rest of the series from Oakland Library and have Thumper learn new characters from them.
Most importantly, it was really confirmed for me today that reading with zhuyin is great for learning Chinese characters.  At least if the child can already comprehend the contents of a book and is only missing knowledge of characters.  I see Astroboy reading and it’s much more painful when he doesn’t understand most of what he’s reading even though he can read the zhuyin.

That aside, the book itself is okay funny.   Even Astroboy likes listening to this book even if he can’t understand everything.  The subject is interesting to Thumper.  Vampires!  That sucks ink!   What’s not to like?  And of course, perfect for the teacher mama who is trying to subconsciously make her daughter think reading is a cool thing.  Another thing I like about the book is that it has a lot of really good and large illustrations.  So it is, in a way, a bridge book.  It’s unlike Dahl’s book where the text is starting to be the main focus.

If you can read Chinese, this is the blog post that prompted me to buy the books.

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