Grade: 3rd-JH （中高年級到國中), most are 5th-6th
For other book reviews, please see my Books page.
It’s kind of strange to be writing a book “review” for a series when Thumper’s only read 2 of them. But I love what we have read so far and am singing the series’ praises left and right. Since I plan to collect the rest of the series that are out of print, I thought I will create a reference doc for myself for this book review.
The Cross Century Set, otherwise known as 跨世紀小說 from Eastern Publishing (東方出版社), is a set of 54 books. Eastern Publishing translated a bunch of award winning or nominated novels (Newberry medals, Carnegie Medals, etc) and also acquired the rights to several out of print books from another publisher, and published them under the Cross Century name. Their website describes the set as (and I very roughly translate into English):
From countries such as the U.S., England, France, Australia, New Zealand, Holland, Ireland, Germany, and Spain, these award winning children’s literature explore topics on friendships, family, adventure, life, and growing up…..
Two years ago in 2014, 28 books were in print. By December 2016, only 24 are available from the publisher’s website. The publisher is letting these books go out of print and issuing new editions of the popular ones with no zhuyin instead.
So, if this is a set you think your child will actually get to (they really need Chinese 4th grade level reading) then get it ASAP before it’s all out of print!
Here is a Chinese blog post on this set of books. The blog post makes the point that if you read mostly modern mass paperbacks, your equivalent of Junie B. Jones books, they are often more colloquial and this reflects in the children’s writing. You need to feed kids more literary books; it provides a way for them to learn more advanced vocabulary.
Why I Love This Set
Like the author of the blog, I bought this set based on the recommendation of Rain when I was looking ahead for mid and upper elementary (3rd-6th grade) literature. Note I say literature and not just books. Given the limited amount of time we have to study Chinese, I wanted to make sure that the books we read will help with higher level Chinese composition when we start on that in the future.
The biggest selling point for me was that these books have zhuyin. Now adays, most upper elementary books are not published with zhuyin, a dilemma since I’m teaching Thumper new characters mostly through reading.
I was originally non too happy when I compared the English and Chinese editions, Secret of Platform 13 with 十三號月台的秘密. It seemed to have dumbed down some very specific English words or just simplified whole phrases. But apparently the publisher made sure that the words were translated into more child appropriate ones so that it flows well when you read, especially reading aloud.
Below are the books I bought, including some out of print ones from used bookstore Yabook, with my suggested grade level. I looked up each book’s English titles, Lexile number, Guided Reading number, AR level, and recommended age in Taipei library (if it exists) or recommended reading list from Taiwanese schools, all to figure out what age these books may be appropriate for Thumper.
I plan to collect as many as I can when I find it in used bookstores. Some of the out of print titles sound very interesting. At the very least, they cover several topics and eras. One book is set in the Renaissance and another during the Great Irish Famine!
I made some educated guesses, basing the grade level on content as well as reading difficulty, often adding a grade level because the books are in Chinese. Some books may be a lower grade reading level, but I put it at a higher level because often they’re thought provoking and provides social commentary or observation and really warrants a discussion with the child, which for me is 5th and 6th right now in my homeschooling plan. (I just don’t have time for it too much where we are right now in our English and Chinese studies.)
We’re currently reading the 3rd and 4th grade level books in the series.
- red are out of print books that I have acquired
- * are books that were originally published by another publisher and Eastern Published acquired rights
- green are books currently published as of 2014 that I have acquired
- Each book has link to Amazon and Eastern Publishing’s website
- Each book also notes the order we read the book
- For books that have been republished, I will link either to the original or new version under each section.
Books I Own (34 total)
- 十三號月臺的祕密 Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson (READ #1)
- 挨鞭僮* The Whipping Boy (READ #3)
- 魔法師的接班人 The Haunting by Margaret Mahy
- 小移民的天空 The Circuit
- 想念五月* Missing May
- 親愛的漢修先生* Dear Mr. Henshaw
- 淘金英雄妙管家 By the Great Horn Spoon (READ #2)
- 那一年在奶奶家 A Year Down Yonder
- 我那特異的奶奶 A Long Way from Chicago
- 學徒 The Apprentice by Pilar Molina Llorente
- 雙鼠記 Tales of Despereaux
- 納梭河上的女孩 Our Only May Amelia
- 回家的路 The Pinballs by Betsy Byars
- 藍色海豚島* Island of Blue Dolphin
- 時報廣場的蟋蟀* The Cricket in Times Square
- 手提箱小孩 The Suitcase Kid
- 湯姆的午夜花園 Tom’s Midnight Garden
- 出事的那一天 On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
- 強盜與我 The Robber and Me by Josef Holub
- 碎瓷片 A Single Shard
- 十三歲新娘 Homeless Bird
- 天使雕像* Fom the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
- 吞鑰匙的男孩 Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos
- 喬伊失控了 Joey Pigza Loses Control by Jack Gantos
- 真相 The Other Side of Truth
- 山居歲月* My Side of the Mountain
- 記憶傳授人* The Giver by Lois Lowry
- 夏日天鵝* The Summer of Swans
- 繼承人遊戲 The Westing Game
- 珊瑚島 The Cay
- 0到10的情書 Secret Letters from 0 to 10
- 窈窕奶爸 Madame Doubtfire
- 地板下的舊懷錶 A Handful of Time
- 蠍子之家 The House of the Scorpian (2 books)
Out of print books that I haven’t cataloged
You can still find some of these at books.com.tw, just not on publisher’s website.
- 思黛拉街的鮮事 45+47 Stella Street and Everything That Happened
- 我不是兇手 Dovey Coe
- 許我一個家 Awake and Dreaming by Kit Pearson
- 車燈下起舞 Dancing in Cadillac Light
- 狒狒王 The Baboon King by Anton Quintana
- 天堂之星 Samir and Jonathan on the Planet Mars by Daniella Carmi
- 山楂樹下 Under the Hawthorn Tree by Marita Conlon-McKenna
- 橋下人家* The Family Under the Bridge by by Natalie Savage Carlson
- 孿生姊妹* Jacob Have I Loved
- 海狸的記號* The Sign of The Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
- 麵粉娃娃 Flour Babies
- 雙胞胎行動 Double act
- 亞當舅舅 A Corner of The Universe
- 瘋婆子 Crazy Lady by Jane Leslie Conly
- 菁菁的畫 Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly
- 吶喊紅寶石 Ruby Holler
- 創意學苑歷險 Surviving the Applewhite
- 高飛 The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo
- 傻狗溫迪客 Because of Winn-Dixie
New un-zhuyin Editions
- 虎躍 The Tiger Rising ( 高飛 republished with new title) Kate DiCamillo
- 傻狗溫迪客 Because of Winn-Dixie
- 雙鼠記 Tales of Despereaux
- 想念五月 Missing May（old version still in stock)
Detailed Book Review
Okay, not a real review because I can’t review books that I didn’t read personally. But some more info on how we’re using the books. Right now, I’m assigning these books as a read aloud during homeschool time. She has to read 10 minutes to me 2-3 times a week. Often after a few chapters, the books hook her enough and she goes off reading on her own, which is fine by me. It is how I’m ensuring she reads literary books her level that I know she would enjoy but would not pick herself because she still doesn’t pick up long novels by herself.
1. 十三號月臺的祕密 Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson
I chose this book first because Thumper is obsessed with Harry Potter and this is Harry Potter-eque. It’s about a magical kingdom under platform 13 of Kings Cross Station in London that opens up once every 9 years. She was obsessed with this book that after the first 2 chapters, she got really into it and basically finished it in 1-2 afternoon while I was taking a nap.
It’s always a good sign when she is at the point of 廢寢忘食 and reads for 4-5 hours straight. It’s a good first book to read because unlike the more thought provoking books in the series, this is still in the realms of lower elementary books, more on fun and fantasy.
2. 淘金英雄妙管家 By the Great Horn Spoon
For our second book, I picked another adventure story that takes place during the Gold Rush about a boy and his butler trying to strike it big. This book is starting to get into the more literary genre. I fell doubly in love with the book after reading the introductions, which analyzes the book a bit.
After reading that, I had a 5-10 minute discussion with Thumper about the book, how some books, especially the more wordy ones, are very very verbose in the background description so you can understand what motivates a character; how sometimes these descriptions are also clues to the characters development throughout the book; for example, the butler losing his butler clothes along the way signals him losing the servant-master relationship with the boy and how they became friends at the end.
For now, these random discussions are just enough for me to start Thumper thinking about how to analyze a book. I had a lot of difficulty in high school analyzing books, perhaps partly due to the fact that I hadn’t read enough English books, and only after college finally realized what the point of it all was. I didn’t have any adult explain this to me and I hope to spare the kids some of that pain in writing.
3. 小移民的天空 The Circuit
For our third book, we were assigned The Circuit for our Chinese tutoring class. It’s book 1 of a 4 book memoir. Book 1 spans from ages 4 to 15, during which time the author worked as a migrant worker. There are so many things I could talk about with Thumper when reading this book, especially because the main character is around the same age as her but he led such a hard life as a child.
I will continue to update this page as we go through our books! You can follow me on Facebook to be notified when the post is more massively updated!