Category Archives: Uncategorized

My Review of My First Chinese Writing Exercise, Simplified Chinese

Originally submitted at

My First Chinese Writing Exercise, Simplified Chinese Includes: Illustrations of character origin Stroke order Plenty of pages for character-writing practices

Good beginner hanzi writing book

By Taotao’s Mom from Saskatoon, SK on 1/30/2013


4out of 5

Pros: Evolution Of Characters, Large Grids, Holes Punched, Stroke Order

Cons: No pinyin, No English

Best Uses: Children, Learning To Write Hanzi, Education

Describe Yourself: Single mom, Elementary chineselearner, Adoptive mom

Was this a gift?: No

I actually photocopy pages out of this for my 7 yr old son to practice his chinese characters on, but the book is made so you can easily tear out the pages and put them in a 3-ring binder as they have pre-made holes.

Each page has a space for the child to write his name and date at the top, and then several drawings of the historical evolution of the character. Then the character writ large with numbers and arrows to show stroke direction, and below, the character written one stroke at a time. Following that are shadow examples the child can trace over, then grids divided into four, and finally squares with no grids, as the child gains confidence. The “squares divided into 4” then “empty squares” is repeated on the back of each page for further practice.

The squares to write in are quite large, compared to many practice books, with the learner drawing the character almost an inch tall.

This has all the most basic characters, and are good simple ones for young students and beginners to start with.

I would have prefered if it had the word in English and pinyin as well, as there is only an image, and the character. I personally know that the image shows “water” but someone who didn’t know may think it is the character for “river” based on the drawing. Perhaps it is only meant to be used in the classroom with a teacher and using the other First Chinese Words materials.

There is pinyin in the table of contents at the start, beside the page number and character, but again, no english equivalent.

I do find that this is a great stand-alone workbook for those learning at home from various materials, and would recommend it.


My Review of Children’s Illustrated Chinese Dictionary, Simplified, Hippocrene, Softcover, 94 pages

Originally submitted at

Children’s Illustrated Chinese Dictionary,¬† , Hippocrene, Colorful pictures Labelled with English and Simplified Chinese wordsSimplified Softcover, 94 pages

OK illustrated dictionary

By Taotao’s Mom from Saskatoon, SK on 1/30/2013


3out of 5

Pros: Simple Vocab, Color Images, Limited Vocab

Cons: Limited Vocab, Few Verbs, Uneven Illo Quality, Few Adj And Adverbs

Best Uses: Beginning Readers, Very Beginner Dictionary, Education

Describe Yourself: Elementary chineselearner, Single mom, Adoptive mom

Was this a gift?: No

This is a nice bright large format book with 5-7 words per page. The English words are in bold, and they have pinyin and simplified Chinese. Each word has a color image to explain it. There is no other text (ie part of speech, description, example of use etc). It is a good, clear, simple introduction to basic words for a new learner. It is not overwhelming, but would not be a good reference book to look up words in either Chinese or English, as the vocabulary is so very limited.

The quality of the drawings varies enormously. Some are very rudimentary, some are classic “Dick and Jane” type illustrations, some seem more realistic, some from chinese art?

There are mostly nouns, which can be pictured easily with no explanation: cactus, lamp, village. Some words are outdated like “Eskimo”. There are a very few verbs “to cook, to cry, to whisper, to weigh” and also a very few adjectives and adverbs: “empty, uphill”.

The images are arranged by alphabetical order of english word, and at the back of the book is a list of all the words in pinyin by alphabetical order, with english equivalent (but no simplified or page #)

It is best used for a child or learner to browse through to learn new vocabulary at an easy pace without being overwhelmed.


My Review of Dragon Dance by Joan Holub. A Chinese New Year Lift-the-Flap Book Softcover

Originally submitted at

What do you do on Chinese New Year? It's Chinese New Year and there are so many fun things to do–shop at the outdoor market for fresh flowers, eat New Year's dinner with the whole family, receive red envelopes from Grandma and Grandpa, and best of all…watch the spectacular New Year's…

Entertaining Interactive Book

By Taotao’s Mom from Saskatoon, SK on 1/30/2013


4out of 5

Pros: Engaging, Colorful Illustrations, Entertaining, Moving Parts

Best Uses: Education, Entertainment, Celebrating Chinese Newyr

Describe Yourself: Adoptive mom, Elementary chineselearner, Single mom

Was this a gift?: No

I bought this for my son, adopted from China, when he was about 3 years old. He is now seven and still loves this book. We take it out every year around Chinese New Years and go through it. It shows the different traditions of cleaning (sweeping) the house, new clothes, as well as red envelopes and the dragon dance. Each page has a moving part, which seem a bit fragile but have stood up to my boy’s handling over the years. There is a turning wheel at the back that shows what animal is your zodiac for your year of birth. Unfortunately the Chinese new year’s greeting in the book is Cantonese, and not Mandarin which we are learning.

Beautiful full-color illustrations are very lively, descriptive and engaging. Good for preschoolers and young school age children.


Chinese Gov’t Joins with Half the Sky!!

Great news from Half the Sky, an international charity that goes into orphanages in China and puts in child care and educational programs, finds sponsors for childen, and does other great things, like providing shelter and help for children who were affected by the earthquakes in China a couple years ago.

Children helped by Half the Sky

They have been working together with the Chinese Government which now wants to implement Half-The-Sky inspired programs in all the orphanages (SWI) in China. AND will be paying for the training and programs! Wow! Fantastic news for all the children in SWI in China!

If you want to help out, you can sponsor a child partially or in whole… they have links to donate from many countries.

Sponsor a child with Half the Sky

My son and I pay about $29 Cdn per month to help sponsor a little boy who was born in Feb 2007, and we get regular updates on his education and development. It is very rewarding. Here is an example of the sponsorship pdf report we receive regularly.

Child in Half the Sky classes

But even if you can’t help out, I hope you’ll join me in rejoicing at the new initiatives together with the Chinese government and the China Center for Child Welfare and Adoption (formerly CCAA). With new programs in 60 SWI per year, they hope to have all the orphanages in China covered within 5 yrs, with the children getting proper care, nutrition, stimulation, education etc. Fantastic!!!

Price List for Touch Reading Pen

Well, the good people at have said it is fine I share with you the price for their Touch Reading Pen Starter Kit and their Special Offers (Starter Kit bought together with various book sets). It isn’t on their website in English yet. So, here it is: Touch Reading Pen Cdn price list (52kb Word Doc) To order, email order @

You might want to hold off ordering until I post that I have bought a set myself (waiting on funds!). I will post my registration # here and everyone quoting it will get a $10 credit towards your purchase. BTW All prices in Cdn. For more information, look at my previous post on eReadbook and the Touch Reading Pens, the “Canadian Update”, and also the website.

Bilingual doggy!

Xiao Chien loves litter!

I don’t often think about it, but today I noticed how bilingual my dog is. Xiao Chien doesn’t speak any mandarin yet, but she certainly obeys French. One doesn’t normally think about dogs and other animals being monolingual or bilingual, except here in Quebec where we are confronted with that issue.

First we have to decide on an anglophone or a francophone dog trainer or puppy class… I decided on English, since it just comes naturally to me to say “Heel! Sit! Stay! Give!”. This meant I had to travel all the way across town to a more anglophone area for the classes.

With my last Saint, this resulted in some drama: they have a rule that you can take your dog into the subway and busses if the dog is held in your arms (I assume this is 1. So the dog cannot run away and 2. So the dog cannot do its business on the floor, walls or someone’s leg). Well, my dog was 4 months old when classes started, but 6 months old and a good 50 lbs when the classes ended. We took the bus each class to the other end of town. But the last class, when we followed another passenger on the bus, me holding her (awkwardly) in my arms to climb the stairs, the bus driver ordered us off. “Your dog is too big!” Well, I had informed myself of the transit corporation rules before even signing up for classes so I was pretty sure that I was following them.

What do you mean "Donnez!!" ???

The bus driver then proceeded to tell us he wasn’t going to drive until we got off… frankly I didn’t have the $ for a taxi even if one would take us, and it was about 2 hours walk home. AND I knew I was within my rights. So he informed all the passengers it was my fault the bus wasn’t moving, and then he called his central command, and put it on speakerphone. How red-faced he was, and how vindicated I felt when his commander read the rule of the dog must be in the rider’s arms and not let free on the ground… it didn’t say “Saint Bernards excluded”. ROFL! So we did get home, with a busload of supportive passengers petting my puppy as she sat on my lap, and one very very angry bus driver.

Anyways, both my dogs were educated in English only. But we do a lot of dog-sitting or exchanging walking services with other neighbors. And most of them are francophone. So yesterday I was taking out a neighbor’s “French” dog and said “Assis!” to her, and my dog also sat instantly. Turns out she also understands “couch√©, biscuit, viens”…

But she will still only give over toys and branches with the order “GIVE!” which is why you will often see frustrated dog owners chasing my dog shouting “donnes! donnes!” to no avail. I utter “GIVE!” once and she drops it immediately! I’ll have to work on her French!

McDuff goes to School picturebook

The idea for this post came while reading Rosemary Well’s story “McDuff Goes to School” illustrated by Susan Jeffers. McDuff is a little white westie whose owners sign him up for obedience class but don’t have time to practice with him. He fails the final exam to their great chagrin, but then the new neighbor on the block steps in. She is from France, and has been training her dog, Marie, daily on the other side of McDuff’s fence… and McDuff has picked it all up… he ends up completing his obedience exam with flying colors in a language completely foreign to his owners! A fun book for children learning French, who speak French, or just to think about language differences. The French neighbor speaks the commands in French throughout the book (without translation, but the meanings are as obvious to the child reader as to the dog), and there is a French glossary of words used in the back of the book.

Another thing I like about this book is that it highlights how language vocabulary and fluency are context-specific. If you are anglophone but learn all the names for your computer from a Spanish guy, you won’t know the English terms, and will be hispanic only in a computer setting! More on that another post.