Thursday, August 15, 2013

Chinese Book Review - 十二生肖

I like to read up on the meaning / the folklores related to Chinese festivities with Dumpling prior to any occasions / celebrations. From mid autumn festival (中秋节)to Chinese New Year (春节), I have a set of relevant titles that I would dig out and read with her.

Now, when it comes to Chinese New Year, besides the famous story of Nian (年), which tells us of a tale of a terrifying monster which terrorizes Earth and harms its people and how it was frightened by the sound of firecrackers and red decorations, there's also the story of The 12 Chinese Zodiac Signs.

I recall that when I was young, some teachers of mine have read the story in class and I found it interesting how a tiny animal like the 'rat' was able to emerge as the second animal in the race. As Dumpling grew older, I thought that would be an interesting traditional folktale to share with her.

And that's where I ran into road blocks. Maybe I am totally bad in finding for Chinese titles from the library but I could find anything suitable. I even went to the second hand bookstores at Bras Basah to look around too. The only few titles which I recall finding were a short 3-4 pages in a compilation of Chinese stories and some which were a tad too simple for Dumpling.

I finally found this on Dangdang some months back and bought it.

This title comes as a hardcover and with an audio CD that narrates both the English and Chinese stories (I have not tried this our yet).

With the CD, a mini booklet of the English translated copy is enclosed. (The English text is not entirely perfect though :p)

What I like are:

:: Illustrations
This book (which comes in a good size - 25 x 26cm approx) has cute and colorful illustrations. I enjoyed the 'traditional' drawings of the people and some cute humor too.

After each page of reading, Dumpling would spend some time poring over the drawings, smiling, pointing out stuff to me before we continue on.

(Check out the Marilyn Monroe moment)

:: No Han Yu Pin Yin
I know that some mummies prefer titles with Han Yu Pin Yin but for me, as I am reading along with Dumpling where we take turns, I prefer titles without Pin Yin where we can also work on word recognition along the way.

:: Short sentences 
Having said that, each page is not over loaded with paragraphs of words. The text is quite simple to read and often, each page has only 1-2 short paragraphs made up of 1-2 sentences in each paragraph (sample as below).

In fact the below is possibly the page with the most text :)

:: The Storyline
The story holds pretty true to the version that I was told when I was young. It is also kept simple where if used as a read-aloud to a younger child, it should be easily understandable.

It also wove in how snakes ended up with no legs and how the rooster (which based on this story, used to have 4 legs) ended up with only 2. :)

This is a title which I will definitely be reading to Dumpling comes closer to Chinese New Year and which I will be making a Chinese printable pack on. :)

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