Tag: book review

Book Review: 跨世紀小說 Cross Century Set

Age:  9
Grade: 3rd-JH (中高年級到國中), most are 5th-6th
Pages: 200+.

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…..

來自美國、英國、法國、澳洲、紐西蘭、荷蘭、愛爾蘭、德國、西班牙等國的現代兒童文學獎傑作,為孩子述說生命真諦、親情友情、成長探索、想像冒險等主題,除了可滿足閱讀樂趣,更可啟發孩子的想像力,幫助建立正確、積極的人生觀。

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Book Reviews: 火車快跑 Freight Trains

Age:5.5
Grade Level: 0-6 yrs old (read to)
Pages: 31
Sage Level: Level 3 (orange series) completed
Author: Donald Crews

freight train

About a month ago, I had a chat with Designer Mom, who mentioned how her daughter is now ready to move onto Chinese chapter books, after spending quite a long time reading picture books.  I immediately realized my mistake with Astroboy’s book reading.  Namely, I’ve been suggesting books that are too difficult, such as Little Bear, for him to read.  Instead, I should have been focused on getting him reading very comfortably and smoothly in picture books.

How do I know it’s hard?  It takes him way too long to finish a page, so long that he doesn’t want to read after 1-2 pages.  You would think I would have learned by now, having gone through it once with Thumper.

Astroboy has been resisting even reading picture books.  He’ll read if I ask him to, reluctantly.  I tell him it’s one of his daily work, to read something or be read to.  We negotiate pages.  But it’s not the way I want the kids to enjoy books, reading because Mama asked.

I reminded myself that Montessori is about providing the proper environment and other things will fall into place; that I really need to follow my own advice to others and not be in a hurry for him to read.  At his age, he needs to be given a freedom of choice in all his activities, and improve his comprehension by having lots of books read to him. (more…)

Chinese Bridging Books 橋樑書

Bridging Books
This is Part 6 of my Building a Chinese Library for the Kids series.  In Parts 1-5, I gave some background on children’s books and how we pick them, and did a survey of local libraries and publishers and Taiwanese authors and started describing my Board Book and Picture Book Collection.  

This post is split into two, the next part on Bridging books is actually Books for Lower Elementary, Part 1.

Some Background

In this research paper on Reading 123 閱讀123 (p. 23), they say that an Eslite magazine started the term 橋樑書 by borrowing the English term Bridging Books, which is used to describe Early Readers (also known as Easy Readers, Leveled Readers) and Chapter books.  Even more interesting to me, chapter books, which is the bridge between early readers and children’s fiction (3rd+ grade level) was introduced in the 1980’s!

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Chinese Books for Lower Elementary Kids 中低級橋樑書, Part 1

This is Part 7 of my Building a Chinese Library for the Kids series.  

As I mentioned in my last post, which might not have been published yet as I’m jumping around, Taiwanese publishers seem to call all non-picture books that have illustrations as Bridging Books.  Since this means these books cover a wide range of reading level, I decided to put Early Readers (Level 1) in the last post, and Chapter Books (Level 2-4) in this post.  This will put you up to 4th grade.  Even though Chapter Books are considered Bridging books too, to me, you kind of need a certain level of reading skill to start reading these longer books.

To recap, the levels, taken from the 閱讀123 (Reading 123) series are:

  • Level 1: <5K characters.  Around 64 pages.  Picture to text ratio 1:1
  • Level 2: 5k-10k characters.  Around 128 pages.  Picture to text ratio 1:2 (1st-2nd grade)
  • Level 3: 10k-20k characters.  Only some illustrations.   (1st-2nd grade)
  • Level 4: 20k-40k.  Few illustrations  (3rd-4th)
  • Level 5: 40k+?

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Book Review: Reading 123 閱讀123

Age:8 (Thumper) & 6.75 (Astroboy)
Grade Level: 5-6 yrs old (read to), mostly 1st-2nd, some 3rd-4th
Publisher: 天下雜誌/親子天下

Reading 123Last September, when Thumper started reading, I told her that if she read 100 books, I’d buy her a telescope.  I made up a reading log for her.

She was busy updating this log tonight and telling me about how many 閱讀123 Reading 123 books she’s read in the last few weeks.   So I decided to actually take a look at what she’s read so far.  She binge reads and it’s taking her about 30 minutes to go through one of the Reading 123 books.  At this rate, I really need to find more 3rd-4th grade books ASAP.

Reading 123 is a series put out by CWBooks.  It was designed specifically as bridge books (e.g. chapter books).  There are currently 60 books in the series, though I only have 48.  Most of the books are considered 中低 (1st-3rd), with a few, especially the later ones, in the 中高 (3rd-6th).  I think it’s more 1st-2nd and 3rd-4th.

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Chinese Board Books 翻翻書 : Our Collection and Recommendations

Board Books
This is Part 4 of my Building a Chinese Library for the Kids series.  In Parts 1-3, I gave some background on children’s books and how we pick them, and did a survey of local libraries and publishers and Taiwanese authors.

If you look at the photo of our Chinese library (as of Aug 2015), you will see that board books takes up a very, very, very, small section of our library.  It basically takes up right 1/4 space on shelf #4.

In my faulty memory, I did not read to either kids too much, especially Astroboy, before they were 1 (or was it 2?).   By the end of the day, I just wanted to go to bed.  They only seem to have 5 minute attention spans when it comes to reading.  Plus it was so easy to rip the precious Chinese picture books that traveled 3000 miles to get here.

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Building A Chinese Library for the Kids

Now that both kids are reading, suddenly it seems that my Chinese Collection is no longer enough so meet their needs.   I’ve been crossing my eyes the last few nights trying to find more level-appropriate books for the children.  I think it’s time to document what we have in our library, what I really love and recommend, and what I’m looking to buy for my own reference.  As much as I love Evernote, it’s hard to wade through months of bookmarks at a time.

I was all set to start listing books I really like and recommend, but then remembered where I was when I started buying books for Thumper, 8 years ago.  I had no idea that children’s books are a field in itself.  There’s also the issue that building a Chinese library for kids in the US is a difficult task.  So this post is turning into a series of posts instead.

I will start with a background on the books (this post), then talk about local and not so local libraries, some popular authors and publishers if you had a limited time to find books, then basically go shelf by shelf, category by category, in my current collection,  Maybe end with where and how to buy books for the budget conscious.

Before I start, I want to advocate for building a Chinese Home Library for the kids.  Articles abound when you Google why it’s good to have a home library.  I’ve started using my local library as a resource when I realized that I obviously cannot buy everything under the sun, it’s too expensive.  But, nothing beats having books available when your child has a question about the world and you can go to your home library to look up the answer, in Chinese!  Or just a variety of books available to them when they’re bored at home with nothing to do.

[Updated 2/5/16] Here are the posts in this series so far:

  1. Background on types of Chinese books and How to Choose Them
  2. Survey of Local Libraries’ Chinese Collection
  3. Survey of Some Famous Taiwanese Publishers and Authors
  4. Chinese Board Books 翻翻書
  5. Chinese Picture Books (0-6)
  6. Chinese Books for Beginning Readers 橋樑書 (K-1st)
  7. Chinese Books for Lower Elementary Kids 中低級橋樑書, Part 1 (1st-3rd)
  8. Check out the Chinese Books menu link, where I keep a list of books and index of this series.

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Book Review: 我家就是國際學校 My Home is an International School

internationalschoolI finally got my hands on the book 我家就是國際學校 My Home is an International School this afternoon.  I devoured it in an hour.  It will require a reread probably.

This is a book written by a Polish homeschooling mom and her Taiwanese husband, about their trilingual (Mandarin, English, and Polish) homeschooling journey in Taiwan.  The mom, Dorota, has a Masters in Chinese. And obviously she learned English (starting from middle school?) in Poland. She has two kids, a girl and boy and is Montessori trained.  The old one is 18 this year.  That was one reason I  had been eyeing the book for 2+ years, since I’m trying to do bilingual Montessori homeschooling.   I had also heard in an interview how she had to figure out how to work with her son’s learning style, which was different from her daughter’s.

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Book Review: 小熊 Little Bear

Age:5
Grade Level: 0-6 yrs old (read to), 1st grade (read)
Pages: 59
Sage Level: Level 3 (orange series) book 3
Publisher: Grimmes Press

little bear

This year, I’m super happy that there are so many children I know who are using Sagebooks and learning zhuyin.  Though some of us don’t live close to each other, I can see their children’s progress via FB.  To me, it’s kind of like a virtual classroom.  Having a community of learners makes learning Chinese so much relevant to my children.

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Audio: 寫給兒童的世界歷史 The Children Can Read World History

Age: 8
Grade: 3rd and up

wsoftw1

A few weeks ago, I borrowed Story of the World for Thumper on audio tape.  I first heard about it through What Did We Do All Day.  She uses it with the Writing with Ease curriculum.  We’ve not gone that route yet, instead just listening in the car when we run out of things to listen to.

Thumper has been begging to listen to this series, along with Magic Treehouse.  I dole it out though because she’s been speaking way too much English and doesn’t seem to remember what she’s reading in Chinese.

Last week, I finally decided to look at my saved podcasts and re-discovered my Children Can Read World History podcasts from ximalaya.com that I’d saved months ago.  We listened to the first 6-7 stories in the car and I’m amazed at just how closely it hews to Story of the World, though the content is sometimes different.

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