Category Archives: online

“Who Am I?” Chinese Zodiac Origami Book

I just discovered a wonderful book at, makers of the well-known and much-used-in-schools “My First Chinese Words” books and cd. It is a Chinese zodiac book entirely illustrated in origami by its 10 yr old author, Justin Tsin. Justin is already an accomplished book creator. His first book “What Would You Imagine?” won the 2009 Mom’s Choice Award Outstanding Young Author/Illustrator and Children’s Picture Book – Bilingual.

Origami Rooster by Justin Tsin

He hails from San José, California and is currently doing a book tour mostly in libraries in the San José, San Francisco, Bay area. Google him to see if he’s presenting near you. Here is a preview of what you might be in for: A video of Justin presenting his first book in a San José library when he was 8.

Justin Tsin, book writer/illustrator

This new book is a good topic for today, the day before Chinese New Year, on Feb 3, which brings in the Year of the Rabbit. It gives a personality description as well as easy hints about the animal (“I have a curly tail and a big snout” “I am a good friend to humans and wag my tale when happy”) and asks you to guess what the animal is. When you turn the page, it shows the origami animal made by Justin, against a paper collage background. I think this guessing game is more engaging and allows the child to better remember the zodiac characters than a simple straight forward exposé about the animals, which most Chinese zodiac nonfiction books are.

The book is exceptional not only in that it is written and illustrated by a 10 yr old, but also in that it is bilingual English and Chinese. The mandarin seems to be written in simplified characters, with no pinyin, so it would be a challenge for non-chinese-speaking parents however. The text is fairly basic, with simple sentences, so personally I find it just enough of a challenge: I do know most of the animal characters and can read simple sentences. But for those just starting out in Chinese, it wouldn’t be usable to help their child learn more Chinese words or characters (unless there is an appendix, which isn’t evident from the pdf preview:”Chinese Zodiac: Who Am I”. His previous book, “What Would You Imagine” does however (according to the listing above) have pinyin. It too is illustrate with origami animals.

What is valuable however, is the cultural information about the Chinese zodiac. So for those who speak only English it is still a recommended book. Justin speaks about learning origami and his inspirations for his background paper collages as well, in the back of the book. And there are teaching tips about using the book as an educational tool as well.

Truly a beautiful book from an artistic point of view, inspiring for young book creators or artists, and culturally educational.

Last 5 days 20% off Chinese and Spanish learning materials!!!

I blogged recently about the French preschooler popular animated character T’Choupi being available in book form at Best4Future bilingual bookstore.

20% off at Better4Future bookstore!

Well, they are now having a 20% off sale until Feb 5 for the Chinese New Year of the Rabbit, so you might want to pop on over there and take advantage of the savings!
I ordered several T’Choupi books, but there is a whole selection of children’s Chinese learning materials from books to dvds, books with cds to songs as well as Learn Spanish materials.

They are also featuring the E-Readbook Pen and books that I blogged about as well, so if you are in the States, this may be a good time to get them! They are already on sale and the Chinese New Years’ 20% off is on top of that.

Happy shopping! And if you get some materials there, please do write a short review in the comments! I’d love to know what you recommend!

Trunki Sale til 8am PST Monday 31 at Haute Look

Well, I’ve been oogling the Trunki for several years now. One should realize as a parent that if something has a limited number of years of use, which most things do for children, other than bowls and cups (I still have my bunnikins bowl from childhood, and still eat out of it at 47!), one should buy it sooner rather than later, for the longest life per purchase.
(click image to go to trunki uk website)

But no, I bookmarked Trunki when my son was like 3, and looked at it in a store in town when he was four, and never bought it. Now at 5 1/4 he is nearly beyond the recommended years of use, but I decided to go for it, as there is now a super deal at Haute Look on it. This is a discount site for “haute couture” but also has deals on home decor, toys etc.

I’ve been dying to get a Trunki since my son has pretty much outgrown his stroller (I can still force him into them if he is sick and grumpy and I have to get someplace or walk for a long time) and we travel to visit my parents all the way across the country. It just seems like a great way for HIM to be responsible for his carry on and not me. Strollers are THE best for airline travel as you can take them gate to gate, loaded with all your coats, carry-on, purchases etc, and just dump them as you board the plane. And the airline has them ready for you to pile everything into as you deplane. But last year when he was 4.5 yrs old, it was really pushing it… my son didn’t sit in it one wee bit, I just pushed all our stuff. I understand bag ladies and their shopping carts. So loathe to give it up and carry everything for myself and my son.

Trunki movie!

But the Trunki has sit-on ride-em allure, as well as being easy for the child to pull. AND gives a place to sit and rest when tired, and can even be pulled by the parent with the child on it. They suggest 2-6 yrs old but I looked up reviews online and discovered that parents of 7 and even 9 yr olds were happy to have them. Perhaps the child’s legs are too long for riding but they loved to have their own pull-along suitcase, and a place to rest their butts in lines. So I went for it.

My friend got me to sign up to Haute Look and I discovered Trunki on sale for $27.99 instead of the $49.99 in shops here in town. We each got one and sent them both to the same address so we could share the $10.95 flat-rate shipping to Canada. So even with shipping, taxes and import, we are paying $38.50 apiece instead of $56.95 tax included we’d pay in town. And delivered to our door instead of slogging through snow and paying nearly $3 bus each direction. yay! So, since I think this is a GREAT deal and a GREAT product, I’m passing it on.

I guess I’m not the only one who thinks it is great, as when I discovered it online several years ago, the company was independent and now it is “Trunki by Melissa & Doug”… funny how these big companies keep getting bigger by snapping up the independents. I guess the owners played monopoly a lot as children!

The sale at Haute Look ends Monday 31 at 8am PST (so 11am here in Montreal), so you have to act quickly to get the Trunki there, but there will be new sales daily coming up if you are interested in signing up. My friend who invites me buys clothes for both her kids, as well as herself, on sale there. Great deals (though I am more a practical than fashion gal). Full disclosure: I get $10 credit if you sign up clicking my link and you buy something eventually (anything, at a later date)… though don’t shop for my sake!et

Tchoupi in Chinese!

Today, through following a comment (yay comment subscriptions) for’s post on ereadbooks and touch reading pens, I discovered both a shopping site and a wonderful new blog I was unaware of by a mother named Lina Dickson who is raising her daughter in English and her native Chinese. Here’s her blog post on the Touch Reading Pen which I have blogged about.

Her blog Best4Future: Bringing up Baby Bilingual is a combo of mommy blog about her daughter, parenting tips, language tips, product reviews and even language lessons! She has little videos that will teach you how to say Snow Peas, spinach, sweet potatoes and strawberries and other fruits and vegetables in Chinese. It seems to be an ongoing thing. Much to explore. Her blog is added to my blogroll at the right.

In her shop, she offers the eReadbook pens and books, but also a multitude of other books, VCDs and DVDs. There I discovered Tchoupi and Doudou books in Chinese to my surprise. As we live in Quebec, a francophone majority province, Tchoupi (pronounced Chewpy, like Happy) and his little stuffed pal Doudou (Doodoo, like “do the dishes” do) are well-known television/animated dvd characters here. I like that their french is very simple and clear to understand, especially when my son was just starting to learn it, and the stories very simple, cute and child-friendly. I hadn’t heard of Tchoupi outside of French media, which was why I was so surprised to hear of them in Chinese.

But as Lina blogs, there are actually 48!! little Tchoupi books translated into Chinese characters. The stories seem to be as simple and charming in Chinese, and looking at the page details that are posted in the Best4Future shop, I can almost read them without a dictionary (almost!)… common high frequency characters. There is no pinyin that I can see, so they wouldn’t be so great for those f you who cannot read simple characters yet, or who cannot look up characters by radical and stroke order in a dictionary.

But for those who can, they would be lovely little stories about a preschool child’s life, preoccupations, adventures and tribulations. Not as formulaic as Dora, not too wild and crazy or action oriented, not so tied into merchandise as Disney and Strawberry Shortcake and other translated offerings. And not so moralistic (though with good values and life lessons) as many Chinese children’s tales. I haven’t read them all, but I’d definitely go on a limb and guess they are books I’d like in my home.

Very excited to find these, and also the Best4Future blog and learning materials.

The Tchoupi books are $4.99 each, and now is the time to get them!
There are two more days left to her Holiday Sale: Save an EXTRA 15% on EVERYTHING (all regular and on sale books & DVDs) between Jan 1 – Jan 15, 2011. Use the code: newyear15 when you check out.


Online Auction to help Chinese Orphans

Love Without Boundaries border

Hi! I support this organization, Love Without Boundaries, which does wonderful work in China. They were one of the groups who set up aid specifically for children when there was that earthquake that saw so many schools collapse when government buildings stayed standing. They do tons of medical care for children: heart operations, cleft lip operations (like Big Boy) etc that make a huge difference in the children’s lives, or even save them. Many children are adoptable because of their interventions.

The have an auction every year of donated items, many of them artwork and unique handmade items, often with a Chinese theme, to raise money for their works. Please check out their offerings this year, and bid on the items of your choice.

Thanks so much for supporting such a worthwhile charity.

Online Auction to Benefit Orphans with Medical Needs

LWB’s 7th annual online auction is now live and runs through April 27th! Click to see the over 300 great items available

All proceeds benefit orphaned children in China who have medical needs. Please help by bidding and spreading the news to your families and friends. Can you give just five minutes to tweet it, Facebook it, blog it….SHARE IT? We have a long list of children who are waiting to be healed.

The wonderful part is that if you win an item, every time you look at it, you can know you helped change the life of a child forever. When’s the last time that happened when you went shopping?

Thanks for helping us make a difference for the kids. We couldn’t do it without you!

Amy Eldridge
Love Without Boundaries Foundation

Free 4-wk Trial of ReadingEggs phonics

Reading Eggs headerHi,
we just got this offer (below) from You get a free 4 wk trial instead of their regular 2 wk one, and they donate $2 for children’s cancer research for every new “free trial” member! Big Boy absolutely loves ReadingEggs and will stop dawdling, forgo a bath for a shower etc in order to have time to do it in the evening. We’ve been at it 2-3 nights a week since mid January now, and he’s done the first 40 lessons and still enjoying it as much.

Check out the blog post I did about ReadingEggs here. And then go to to sign up, and add the following access code: SED92VBV

We also have the first level of books (40 lessons) and workbooks and they are wonderful supplemental material.

If you are already using ReadingEggs or another phonics program for your 3-8 yr old, let us know about it!


Thursday 15 April 2010

Dear Wenjonggal,
If you are enjoying ABC Reading Eggs we would love it if you told your friends, with kids in the 3-8 age group, about the program.
For each new unique user who registers on the site by the 30th of April 2010 for a free trial, using the access code below, we will donate $2 to the Children’s Cancer Institute.
The Institute has a fantastic record in doing research that is focussed on improving the chances of children surviving their fight with cancer. The vision of the Institute is to cure 100% of children with cancer through world-class research.
So not only will your friends thank you for helping their kids improve their reading, at no cost for 4 weeks (normal free trial period is only 2 weeks), but you will also be helping a great cause.
Just forward this email on to your friends and family or use the “Tell a Friend” button located on the top left hand side of the parent’s dashboard page.
To access the 4 weeks free trial, simply register at and add the following access code: SED92VBV

Let’s see if we can get the total donation up to $10,000 by the end of the month!

Yours sincerely
Matthew Sandblom
Chief Eggsploring Officer
The website where children learn to read!

Exclusively distributed by Pascal Press

For Small Hands

Small Hands shovelI just lucked across a fun and funky site of child sized tools and toys for use in the kitchen, garden, camping, music arts and crafts called For Small Hands. They have all sorts of wonderful books about the outdoors, animals, bugs, cleaning up as well as their small sized tools from wheelbarrows to slide whistles and bug jars. It is “Presented by Montessori Services” and has some books about Montessori as well for parents. Free shipping in the US through March 31 on orders over $50! Have fun!Small Hands Worm bookSmall Hands Kitchen

Free online flashcard maker

Well, today over at Brillkids forum, I was pointed in the direction of, free online flashcard maker. You input the text you would like on the front and back of each card, and kitzkikz outputs a pdf for you to download.

It supports many different fonts if you have them loaded in your computer/acrobat reader. I typed in simplified chinese characters on a test sheet and they came out just fine. Wasn’t sure how to put in pinyin tones though, so I typed it without tones and put them in by hand with a felt marker once I’d printed them out.

You can see a sample of the flashcards I made here: chinese sample flashcard pdf. I cut them out on the straight horizontal lines, put gluestick on one half, folded over on dotted line, and trimmed the outside edge off.

There are no photos, only two sides of text, but you could put whatever you want, or leave one side blank for gluing on a photo… or I suppose if you are handy you could import images onto the pdf once you’d downloaded it to your computer? Sorry, I don’t make pdfs so not sure.

Have lots of fun with it!

A fun chinese online test game!

OK, if you are at any level of chinese beyond newbie, check out this online game that tests your knowledge of Chinese!:
WatchtoLearn Chinese Game
. And don’t blame me if you get stuck for a couple hours!

It offers many different formats with multiple choice answers, from audio that you must then pick the correct characters or english translation, to characters that you must pick the right pinyin, to pinyin that you must chose the right English etc. You get 10 points for every right answer, and lose 10 for an incorrect answer. If you get four correct in a row, they give you 20 points! The points add up quickly. See if you can beat yourself from one time to the next.

I admit that the multiple choices are often not so challenging, in that they vary a lot. If they varied by only one or three words, or differentiating between past and present tense for instance, it would be harder. But as it is, it is at a great level for me. I am rewarded for taking educated guesses, and learn a lot of new words and phrases as a result (when you answer, they give the correct answer and translation, instead of just saying right or wrong).

My nemesis is when they give the characters and then four identical pinyin choices with different tones. I am just horrid when it comes to remembering tones, though strangely I am not bad at picking them out when I hear spoken words (can fairly accurately jot down pinyin with the right tone when someone says a new word).

Go ahead and try it out! Let me know how you do. What are you best and worst at?

New “astore”

Well, we are in bed with the devil! I have made an “astore” of books, dvds and cds that we like and use, which is over there in the right hand menu under “All Our Fave Books”. Of course it is not ALL our fave books, but rather the ones available at But I had to find some way for the “link category” to start with something alphabetical proceeding “Blogroll”, as this thingie doesn’t allow for manual ordering of “categories” over there.

And I DID try to imbed the astore into a page, like the “About” page, up there on the top menu, but for whatever unknown reason, anytime I pasted the iframe html into the “html” new page editing window, and saved it, WordPress just “disappeared” it all, and said “0 words”. So incredibly frustrating.

Anyways, do go and check out what we recommend in the way of adult and children’s chinese learning materials. It will be like coming home with us and browsing through our bookshelves!

I’ll try to get around to updating it soon.

And if you dislike Amazon, you can check out They are good people, and my fave chinese learning materials store.