August 2008 Archives

About the Hmong

In ancient times, a tribe of people called the Hmong lived in China. During the 19th century, oppressed by the Han Dynasty, many of the Hmong migrated to remote areas of Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand in an effort to maintain their cultural identity. Those migrating to Laos lived in the highlands where they farmed, planted rice fields, hunted, and raised chickens and pigs.

During the Vietnam War, the Laotian Hmong were widely recruited by both the Communist Pathet Lao and the United States (U.S.) Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Those serving the U.S. effort monitored transportation routes, gathered intelligence information for the CIA, and rescued U.S. pilots who had been shot down by the communists. When the communists took control of Laos in 1975, the Hmong who had served the U.S. were forced to flee Laos or suffer severe punishment or death. Many escaped by crossing the Mekong River so they could live in refugee camps in Thailand. It was in these camps where they remained until resettlement opportunities became available in other countries. Those choosing to settle in the U.S. began arriving as early as 1975.

School Library Journal

The following review of Jouanah: A Hmong Cinderella is from School Library Journal:

"This tender variant of the Cinderella story from the Hmong people of Southeast Asia takes place in a peasant village. After Jouanah's mother is willingly transformed into a cow to help the family prosper, her father takes another wife with a daughter who is as ugly and mean-spirited as Jouanah is kind and selfless. The stepmother lies and manipulates, the cow dies of grief, and the father soon follows his first wife to the grave. Treated cruelly, Jouanah is left at home to work during the New Year celebration. Dressed in finery bestowed by her mother's spirit, the young woman belatedly joins the festivities, catching the eye of the village elder's son. A lost slipper brings the lovers together, though the stepmother schemes to keep them apart. O'Brien's realistic, expressive paintings breathe with the atmosphere of "a sun-splashed clearing high in the mountains" while adding depth to the characters portrayed in the text. A publisher's note gives the source for the story. Libraries owning familiar European versions as well as A-Ling Louie's Yeh Shen (Putnam, 1988) and Oki S. Han and Stephanie Haboush Plunkett's Kongi and Potgi (Dial, 1994) will find this new title valuable for comparison. An authentic, satisfying story of good character rewarded."

MultiCultural Review

MultiCultural Review has a review of Jouanah: A Hmong Cinderella by Jewell Reinhart Coburn and illustrated by Anne Sibley O'Brien.

"This story will attract those interested in collecting or teaching the many versions of the Cinderella story as it has appeared in several dozen different cultures. The "extras" (not found in Grimm's commonly known Cinderella) include a loving mother who willingly sacrifices herself by turning herself into a cow whose spirit takes on the role of the "fair godmother." We find the ugly and jealous stepmother and lazy stepsister who make Jouanah work hard, and the handsome and eligible young man who recognizes the goodness of Jouanah as well as her loveliness... The characters are most expressive and colorful, and the border designs are taken from textile patterns.

Small Press Magazine

The Small Press Magazine has this to say about Jouanah: The Hmong Cinderella, by Jewell Reinhart Coburn and illustrated by Anne Sibley O'Brien:

"The story is well written. The beautiful illustrations depict the lush greens of the mountains and the browns of the Hmong huts. On the bottom of each page of text is a strip of a Hmong design and above the text a small illustration of a Hmong object such as Jouanah's embroidered slippers... This is an exquisite book, well worth the purchase price."

MultiCultural Review

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There is a nice review of D is for Doufu in MultiCultural Review:

"The stylized illustrations accompanying each term represent a variety of cultural attributes of the ages of Chiense history... Upper elementary students as well as older children will surely take an interest in this beautiful picture book in which resides a good deal of the elegance of Chinese history and culture. It will also make a fine gift."

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books has this to say about D is for Doufu, by Maywan Shen Krach and illustrated by Hongbin Zhang:

"While this elegantly illustrated volume will hardly launch readers on the road to fluency, it does cogently explain the "construction" of Chinese pictograms and interpret how their component symbols combine to make a word with a meaning larger than the sum of its parts. As Krach explains, the pictogram for en, or grace, is formed as follows: 'A person resting [symbol] upon a square mat [symbol] means to rely upon. It is combined with the heart [symbol] below. Whoever relies on his heart achieves grace.' Not all terms are so ethereal-- dou fu (tofu), guo (China), and ma jiang (mahjongg) are among the more worldly entries-- and a paragraph or two sets each term into its cultural context. A conluding page offers Mandarin pronunciation keys and a guide to tonal changes."

Skipping Stones Honor Awards

skippingstones.jpgCongratulations to D is for Doufu, the winner of the 1998 Skipping Stones Honor Award. Each year Skipping Stones recognizes books that "promote cooperation, nonviolence, respect for differing viewpoints, and close relationships in human societies." by presenting The Skipping Stones Honor Awards.  The awards "promote respect for ... cultural diversity in the world" and highlight an "exceptional contribution to multicultural ...children's literature."

Parent's Guide to Children's Media Honor

The Parent's Guide to Children's Media has honored D is for Doufu, written by Maywan Shen Krach and illustrated by Hongbin Zhang, with its outstanding achievement in reference books for 1998 award.

Their review of the book reads:

"The meanings of 23 words and phrases are included in this beautifully illustrated book that explores the richness of the Chinese culture. Each word and phrase is introduced by a written image and an explanation of the spoken Mandarin language. The phrase is also accompanied by a picture representing Chinese culture and history. Of special interest is the carefully explained details of the written characters. Includes explanations of tones and sounds of the Mandarin language."

ABA "Pick of the List" 1998

D is for Doufu by Maywan Shen Krach and illustrated by Hongbin Zhang has been selected for American Bookseller's Association's Fall 1998 Children's "Pick of the Lists."

According to the ABA, "In the fall and spring, we send each season's offererings in children's book publishing to a select number of booksellers. They are not reviewers, but they are expert booksellers and they have selected your book for 'Pick of the Lists.'

Congrats, D is for Doufu!

MultiCultural Review

Angkat: the Cambodian Cinderella, written by Jewell Reinhart Coburn and illustrated by Eddie Flotte, has been reviewed in MultiCultural Review.

"...The story is worth telling because of its ethnic value. The illustrator has a fine hand, and his watercolors are detailed and delightful."

Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Awards 2001-02

Angkat: The Cambodian Cinderella by Jewell Reinhart Coburn and Illustrated by Eddie Flotte has been chosen for the Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Awards Program Master List for 2001-02, in the K-3 division.

According to the Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Awards Program, "the purpose of the award is to promote reading of quality books by young people in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, to promote teacher and librarian involvement in children's literature, and to honor an author whose work has been recognized by the children of Pennsylvania."

Congratulations, Angkat!

Enjoy Domitila's nopales using her own great recipe

In the timeless Mexican 'Cinderella' story Domitila the glass slippers are replaced by nopales, a traditional Mexican dish. Now you can show off your inner Cinderella (well ok, Domitila) by making her famous nopales.

Here's how:

Nopales (makes 4 servings)

5 nopales (de-spined and cleaned)
 Cut into 1 inch squares
 Cover with water
 Cook 30 minutes or until tender

Mix together the following:
 1 medium onion, chopped
 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
 Cilantro, salt, chilies, and flavorings of choice

Serving suggestions

Mix ingredients and serve cold as salad or saute together with meat of choice and serve hot
May be main or side dish

Remember, Mexican nopales become special by means of the talent, imagination and taste of the cook.


Excerpt from Booklist review of Domitila (by Jewell Reinhart Coburn, illustrated by Connie McLennan):

"Young readers will enjoy comparing this moralistic story with the familiar fairy tale, and will come away with an expanded sense of the region's landscape and culture."

School Library Journal

Here's what School Library Journal thought of Domitila by Jewell Reinhart Coburn and illustrated by Connie McLennan:

"... the full-page oil-on-canvas illustrations are bright, sumptuous, and visually enticing. The text is bordered by proverbs rendered in both Spanish and English. Well-written and strongly illustrated, this tale is a solid addition to the canon of New-World Cinderella stories..."

Call for Chinese Teaching Materials: Reward!

Chinese teachers out there: do you have an award-winning teaching idea? You may be able to win funding to implement it! I got this information from Cheng & Tsui:

The Office of Chinese Language Council International (Hanban) is proud to announce the creation of the International Chinese Language Teaching Award for Pedagogical Excellence. To enter, simply submit a video illustrating your teaching strategies and materials. If you win you will receive an award for your excellent teaching and Hanban will exhibit your work at both the Confucius Institute Conference and the Ninth International Forum on Chinese Teaching!

Submission Period:

July 16 - October 16, 2008

Materials to be Submitted:

A 20-minute-long video is requested plus an introduction in WORD, PPT, PDF, etc. format. The video should demonstrate the pedagogy, resources and auxiliary apparatus involved as well as the concept applied.


Chinese language teachers outside China at all levels including colleges, middle schools, primary schools and Confucius institutes.


Each of the awarded entries will be rewarded with a credential and some fund for development and publishing.

For more details, click here.

MultiCultural Review

Abadeha: The Philippine Cinderella by Myrna de la Paz, illus. by Youshan Tang was reviewed in MultiCultural Review

"This variation of Cinderella, adapted from Filipino folklore, bursts forth with illustrations that take on a rainbow-like effect. The story features Abadeha, whose widowed father has recently remarried a selfish woman with daughters of her own. When her stepmother taunts her with impossible tasks, like washing two handkerchiefs until the black one turns white and the white one turns black, Abadeha calls on her mother and other spirits. The Spirit of the Forest solves her problems and gives the girl a sarimanok, a chicken with beautiful feathers. Like the Chinese Yeh-Shen and her magical fish, Abadeha loses her chicken to her stepmother, who cooks it for dinner, and is told by the Spirit to bury the chicken's feet at her mother's grave. A tree full of jewels and treasures grows at the site and is discovered by the son of the island chieftain, who picks a ring from the tree. But when the young man cannot remove the ring and has a dream of a maiden who came, he searches every house for the girl who can remove the ring and vows to make her his wife."     

Children's Bookwatch

Abadeha: The Philippine Cinderella by Myrna de la Paz, illus. by Youshan Tang was reviewed in Children's Bookwatch.

"Abadeha is a full-color storybook with an exotic take on a classic fairy tale. Set in the sunny Philippines, it is written to delight young readers with a Filipino native legend based on the Cinderella theme. As the young heroine Abadeha seeks help from the magical Spirit of the Forest, the reader is immersed in a lush natural world. With regional beliefs and practices, native flora, fauna, and even some Filipino linguistic terms, Abadeha turns the familiar into the fantastic."

Rainbo Electronic Reviews

Abadeha: The Philippine Cinderella by Myrna de la Paz, illus. by Youshan Tang was reviewed by Rainbo Electronic Reviews:

"We all know this fairy tale plot, but it is delightful to find it is told in other cultures. For children from ages 8-12 they will enjoy this aged golden tale as it is told in the Philippines. The young girl who has lost her mother and now lives with a mean-spirited stepmother and selfish stepsisters. Her name is Abadeha and she finds solace from the magical Spirit of the Forest. There is a Prince in this story too, who finds himself bound by a magic ring that can only be removed by one girl. Throughout the book the author teaches us about local religious beliefs and practices, native flora, and linguistic terms. The delighted reader will begin to understand daily life in the Philippines as it would have been more than four hundred years ago. Artist Youshang Tang's lovely color illustration complement this tale. Shen's Books are always unique, even if they produce many other country's stories that rework Cinderella themes imbued with many cultures."

Rainbo Electronic Reviews

School Library Journal

To Swim In Our Own Pond by Ngoc-Dung Tran and illustrated by Xuan-Quang Dang received a nice review in School Library Journal:

"Tran has selected 22 familiar Vietnamese proverbs, drawn from both his childhood and an early 20th-century collection, and paired them with generally well-known Western equivalents. The Vietnamese "Good personality supersedes beauty," for example, is matched with "Beauty is only skin deep." The proverb in the original language is boxed in at the top of each page; beneath it is a soft, pastel watercolor illustration. A larger rectangle at the bottom presents the translation in boldface type and the Western equivalent. The deceptively simple, almost childlike paintings nicely convey the lifestyles and countryside of Vietnam. An author's note in both languages describes the collection and certain characteristics of Vietnamese proverbs; appended is a short introduction to the Vietnamese language."

The Bloomsbury Review

Anklet for a Princess: A Cinderella Story from India by Lila Mehta, adapt. by Meredith Brucker, illus. by Youshan Tang was reviewed in The Bloomsbury Review.

"Anklet for a Princess is, just as the subtitle suggests, an Indian Cinderella story. However, my kids were so captivated by this book, with its colorful illustrations, that you would have thought they had never heard the Cinderella story before. The lengthy, in-depth plot took a few nights to get through, but my kids remained spellbound to the very end.

Cinduri is a young beauty with dark hair extending below her waist. She lives with her mean stepmother and stepsister who, of course, make her do all the chores.

One day Cinduri goes to fetch drinking water from the lake (which she carries by balancing a heavy pot on her head) and meets a great white snake with a big red jewel on his head. He is angered by her living conditions, adopts her as his goddaughter, and promises to do anything for her whenever she summons him with a magic song.

Cinduri longs to attend the Navaratri Festival to meet the Crown Prince, who is searching for a bride. So Godfather Snake magically makes beautiful clothes and jewelry appear. But instead of glass slippers, she wears anklets with bells and diamonds. After dazzling the Prince, Cinduri runs to leave by midnight, when all the magic will disappear, and she leaves behind an anklet. It is the anklet that brings the two together in the end.

From a cultural perspective, this book is very educational. It reveals Indian customs, shows the characters in traditional dress, and emphasizes the Indian way of life. My kids were fascinated by the jewelry and clothing of the characters, and the magic snake was "totally cool." This book is a great version of an old favorite story."


Children's Bookwatch

To Swim In Our Own Pond by Ngoc-Dung Tran and illustrated by Xuan-Quan Dang was reviewed by Children's Bookwatch:

"This book of Vietnamese proverbs gathers over twenty sayings from the Vietnam countryside, pairing the Vietnamese language with English translations and adding illustrations by Xuan-Quang Dang. The full-page watercolors are fine embellishments in this simple multicultural collection."

MultiCultural Review

MultiCultural Review has this to say about To Swim In Our Own Pond: A Book of Vietnamese Proverbs by Ngoc-Dung Tran and illustrated by Xuan-Quang Dang:

"The pictures offer a good portrait of Vietnamese lives, surroundings, and cultural idiosyncrasies. An excellent idea... worth looking at as a cultural tool."

Children's Bookwatch

Tigers, Frogs, and Rice Cakes is reviewed in Children's Bookwatch:

"Daniel Holt selects and translates Tigers, Frogs, and Rice Cakes, an intriguing collection of Korean proverbs which provides vivid color drawings by Soma Han Stickler and a fine bilingual Korean/English text... Unusual subjects for young picture-book readers but the multicultural texts will be welcomed by many and the vivid illustrations are superb."

The parenting website has this to say about Tigers, Frogs, and Rice Cakes, by Daniel D. Holt and illustrated by Soma Han Stickler:

"This is a most unique collection of 20 Korean proverbs, collected and translated by a former Peace Corps volunteer, Daniel Holt. Vivid illustrations by Soma Han Stickler will help capture the attention of children and adults of all ages. With basic truths told in few words, such as "Though it is small, the pepper is hot" and "An empty push cart makes more noise," this book can initiate fervent discussions throughout classrooms and over numerous dinner tables."

School Library Journal

Anklet for a Princess: A Cinderella Story from India by Lila Mehta, adapt. by Meredith Brucker, illus. byYoushan Tang was reviewed in School Library Journal:

"This addition to the publisher's collection of "Cinderella" stories from many cultures adheres closely to the European version, except for the Indian glosses: silver ankle bangles, a godfather snake, a dance at the Navaratri Festival, and the wedding-ceremony details. The tale is adapted from the Eastern Indian story "Nagami," which is believed to be " least 1,000 years old and has been preserved in oral traditions," but no other sources are given. The emotional text is full of descriptive adjectives and bathed in cultural details. Tang's watercolors depict the action in bright colorful swirls, heavy black accents, and backgrounds of flower splashes."

The U.S.-Korea Review

The U.S.-Korea Review includes a review of Tigers, Frogs and Rice Cakes, selected by Daniel D. Holt and illustrated by Soma Han.

"Here, twenty proverbs are presented in lucid yet articulate grammar which lead the reader into many of the alluring and unique facets of Korean culture. Knows as Sok-dam, or "folk-sayings," each proverb depicts a belief system or symbol representative of the Korean people, where character and cooperation are highly revered. Ornately designed watercolor paintings bring the book's text to life by conveying the truths of the Korean tradition with ethereal yet expressive illustrations. All the colors of Korean "folk" life are tenderly juxtaposed with each other to clearly express the simplicity - and sometimes complexity - of Korean proverbs."

Children's Bookwatch

Anklet For A Princess by Lila Mehta, illustrated by Youshan Tang was reviewed by Children's Bookwatch.

"Anklet For A Princess: A Cinderella Story From India is an fabulous adaptation of the East Indian story "Nagami" (Jewel of the Snake), a legend that in many ways resembles the classic fairy tale Cinderella. The young woman Cinduri is overburdened with work from her stepmother and stepsister, and receives barely enough to eat in return. But Godfather Snake learns of her troubles and helps her attend the village's annual Navaratri Festival dressed in the most beautiful golden-threaded sari and diamond anklets, and there she wins the heart of the Prince. A captivating picture book story commendably written by Lila Mehta, deftly adapted by Meredith Brucker, and wondrously illustrated in full color by Youshan Tang, Anklet For A Princess would make a welcome and popular addition to any school or community library picture book collection."

School Library Journal

The Dragon Lover: And Other Chinese Proverbs by Yong-Sheng Xuan reviewed by School Library Journal:

"Images constructed of cut paper and collage embellish the artist's bilingual versions of stories connected with five familiar Chinese sayings. The sayings teach various lessons. A lazy farmer starves while idly waiting for good luck to repeat itself. A musician learns to play what is appropriate to his audience. A crane and clam engage in a battle of wills that both lose. An old horse, using its long memory, leads a general's army home. A man's professed love of dragons reveals itself to be deep-rooted fear. The proverbs mentioned in the title are printed only in Chinese. The English text does not translate them as short, pithy sayings, but instead amplifies each well-known proverb with stories that read like fables. Bilingual source notes referring to specific works of Chinese literature are appended. Xuan provides modern adaptations of traditional Chinese paper cuts that are striking."

Multicultural Review

The Dragon Lover: And Other Chinese Proverbs by Yong-Sheng Xuan has been reviewed in Multicultural Review:

"Collections of proverbs that offer insight into the life force of another culture are not a new idea. Recently, quite a number of picture books have appeared featuring a small handful of proverbs with lavish illustrations as the main attraction.

Carefully documented from ancient sources. The Dragon Lover contains five little stories, each of which explains a common proverb or saying. A lazy farmer sees a rabbit happen to kill itself running into a stump, and he spends the rest of his time waiting for another unlucky rabbit. A musician realizes that he must adapt his music to his audience. A quarreling pair ends by both losing the game. An old horse proves useful in his wisdom. A man infatuated with dragons proves afraid of the actual item.

The attractive and unusual illustrations are actually paper cuts, enlivened with color and sometimes placed against a textured background. The delicate and intricate art of the paper cut is a highly admired and ancient art in China. Those in this book reflect both great technical skill and creativity. "


Land of Morning Calm by John Stickler and illustrated by Soma Han received a wonderful review in Booklist:

"After a brief introduction to Korea's geography and history, this handsome book spotlights one aspect of the country's culture after another. Presented on single pages and double-page spreads and illustrated with many colorful paintings and a few small photos, the 19 topics include the Korean alphabet, flag, religions, food, celebrations, martial arts, ceramics, and music. Each section of the book adds to an overview that seems almost haphazard at first but gradually becomes clearer and more satisfying to the reader. Longer volumes may offer more complete information on the country, but this book's approachable design, vivid illustrations, and interesting text make it an excellent introduction."

School Library Journal

Land of Morning Calm by John Stickler and illustrated by Soma Han received a nice review in School Library Journal:

"Grade 5-8-Traditional and modern culture is explored in this attractively illustrated picture book for older readers. Beginning with a brief introduction to the history and politics of the country, Stickler then devotes one or two pages to various traditions and beliefs. The subjects are wide ranging, from food and fashion to taekwondo. The layout is balanced and visually pleasing. Chapter headings are written in Hangul, the Korean alphabet, and in English, both in a large elegant script. Each topic is accompanied by colorful, finely rendered watercolor illustrations or a small photograph or two. The writing style is quite sophisticated, with many instances where vocabulary or nuances of meaning may be lost on all but the most proficient readers. Despite this drawback, the book makes an excellent supplement to more general works."

International Examiner

The Dragon Lover: And Other Chinese Proverbs by Yong-Sheng Xuan reviewed by
Fatima Lim-Wilson

"The paper-cut works in this book are not only unique but also breath-takingly beautiful. Xuan produces art masterpieces that are both bold and delicate. Be it a heavenly dragon in fight or a crane caught in the clutches of a clam, Xuan's works all pulsate with the tremulous joy of life. The Chinese proverbs themselves are likewise admirable in their forthright moral themes of honesty and humility. A welcome bonus is the Chinese version of the tale unobtrusively featured alongside each page. Seeing the Chinese text next to the illustrations makes one realize how language itself, in its very written form, is a beautiful art. Xuan's book bestows upon the reader the precious gift of both a fine collection of proverbs and amazingly lovely art."

2005 Skipping Stones Honor Award

skippingstones.jpgCongratulations to Land of Morning Calm!

Land of Morning Calm,
written by John Stickler and illustrated by Soma Han, was honored by the renowned multicultural children's magazine Skipping Stones. Each year Skipping Stones recognizes books that "promote cooperation, nonviolence, respect for differing viewpoints, and close relationships in human societies." by presenting The Skipping Stones Honor Awards.  The awards "promote respect for ... cultural diversity in the world" and highlight an "exceptional contribution to multicultural ...children's literature."

Elizabeth Dulemba, illustrator for The Prince's Diary, will be appearing at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, Tennessee October 10-12.

The Southern Festival of Books: A Celebration of the Written Word is a three-day literary Festival celebrated each year during the second full weekend of October. It is free and open to the public. No advance registration or tickets are required. All seating is on a first-come basis.

Southern Festival of Books
October 10-12, 2008
Friday, October 10 from Noon-6 pm
Saturday, October 11 from 9 am-6 pm
Sunday, October 12 from Noon-5 pm
Nashville's War Memorial Plaza
Nashville, TN
Elizabeth Dulemba, illustrator of The Prince's Diary, will be at the Decatur Book Festival at the end of August. She'll be presenting and signing her newest title, Paco and the Giant Chile Plant.

The Third Annual AJC Decatur Book Festival
August 29-31, 2008

Cross-Cultural Connections through Wakame

Holly Thompson, author of The Wakame Gatherers, reports on a wonderful event she hosted in Japan last month. I'll let her explain:

Recently in Koshigoe, Kamakura, elementary school teachers from the U.S. state of Colorado joined community volunteers for a day to learn about wakame and to visit sites illustrated by Kazumi Wilds in my picture book The Wakame Gatherers. Late last year I was contacted by the Program for Teaching East Asia (TEA and learned that The Wakame Gatherers would be featured in the three-week 2008 TEA study tour--Japan through Children's Literature. A day was scheduled for the selected teachers to join me in Kamakura, and I was to show them around locations featured in the book where wakame is cultivated and dried. Plans for the day formed and reformed and soon came to involve many members of the Koshigoe community. Finally, after months of planning and anticipation, on a Saturday last month I met the fourteen teachers and their three leaders at the tiny Koshigoe Station on the Enoden Line.

We walked down the main Enoden street past the fish shop featured prominently in one illustration and past the old house that illustrator Kazumi Wilds selected as a model house for main character Nanami. We made our way to the port area just east of the Koyurugi headland where in winter and early spring wakame is hung to dry. There we watched the local fishing families preparing shirasu (tiny sardines) for drying and heard a brief talk by a fisherman; teachers had the opportunity to ask him questions about both naturally growing and cultivated wakame and the seasonal work of harvesting. Farther down the beach we gathered around the woman who served as the model for the character Baachan in the book. She was busy raking shirasu over drying screens, but took time out to talk with teachers and generously gave the group heaping platefuls of just-harvested and boiled shirasu. Teachers took photos of the shirasu work, the beach setting featured in the book, and especially the warm and smiling Baachan model. Teachers even took pictures of other teachers holding up The Wakame Gatherers, pointing to illustrated pages that featured the landscape just behind them.

From the beach we walked through back lanes to the Koshigoe Middle School where, following months of planning, over a dozen community volunteers had meticulously prepared for the teachers to join them in cooking various wakame dishes. Teachers donned aprons, the menu was explained and they eagerly gathered around cooking tables to work with the volunteers to prepare miso wakame soup, wakame and seafood sunomono, wakame and tsukune nimono, wakame salad and wakame rice. During the cooking there was ample time for questions, talk and exchange of ideas between the teachers and community members.

The meal was served in an adjacent room where photos of the wakame harvesting process were hung. While eating, we heard talks by a representative of a local fishing family about the history and physical work of wakame cultivation in Koshigoe; by an elementary school teacher about the school's wakame program in which students fix wakame sporelings onto the ropes, set the ropes in the bay and later harvest the wakame; and by a community elder and lifelong Koshigoe resident who spoke of early days in Kamakura and the difficult years during the war--how unthinkable it would have been then, she said, yet how wonderful now for her to be sharing a meal cooked together with a group of American teachers in peace.

On the way back to Koshigoe Station at the end of the day, comments from the teachers included, "That was the best day we've had on the tour!" "Amazing!" "So great to be able to cook together," and "This, today, was the true meaning of exchange."

What more could an author ask for?!

Children's Bookwatch Reviews

The Prince's Diary by Renee Ting and illustrated by Elizabeth Dulemba

Ages 4-8 will relish this new take on the Cinderella story, which comes from the Prince's viewpoint. Elizabeth Dulemba provides lovely drawings and kids will find plenty of embellishment on the story of a frustrated prince who finds all kinds of things wrong with women - until he meets a particularly elusive woman. Better cover art would have attracted initial attention, but the story itself is excellent and appealing

CCBC Choices

The Wakame Gatherers is honored to be chosen by the Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) of the University of Wisconsin-Madison as one of its 2008 Choices.

The 2008 edition of CCBC Choices features annotated entries for 279 books for children and young adults published in 2007 and recommended by the CCBC staff. CCBC Choices 2008 includes author/title and subject indexes and a commentary on the 2007 publishing year. (PDF of titles in CCBC Choices 2008).

Thanks, CCBC!

Book Talk with Shirley LaBusier

The Prince's Diary is the charming story, written in diary form, from the Prince's point of view, his thoughts are as he sees and falls in love with Cinderella. It has a little different twist from the original story. Prince Stephen is out for a ride on his horse Silver when he sees the most beautiful girl he has ever seen. True to the story, she is wearing old, torn clothes as she fetches water. He falls in love at first sight.

The Queen invites young women to the castle to meet the Prince, but his thoughts are always with Cinderella. He asks his father about the family who lives at the edge of the woods. The King relates much the same story we are familiar with, about Cinderella and her two stepsisters.

A gala ball is planned and all eligible women are invited. This is where the plot changes. Prince Stephen takes a walk to escape the unwelcome advances of the stepsisters, and he finds Cinderella hiding in the bushes. She was unable to attend because she did not have the proper clothing. The Prince and Cinderella talk and enjoy each others company until the partygoers are leaving. Cinderella rushes home and the Prince finds a glass slipper, but it is not Cinderella's. It was left behind by one of the sisters. When the Prince returns the slipper to the stepsister he invites Cinderella to accompany him for a ride along the creek. To the sisters' chagrin the two of them ride off into the sunset.

Beautifully illustrated by Elizabeth O. Dulemba, your child will enjoy the cute, mischievous mice playing on each page. The tale of Cinderella through the eyes of the Prince in diary form is a new spin on this old classic fairy tale.

Midwest Book Review

What was Cinderella's handsome prince doing while his future lady was toiling away at her work and wishing for a way to the ball? The Prince's Diary, a sweet new picture book from Renee Ting and Elizabeth O. Dulemba, answers that question. The book gives a charming and humorous flip side to the famous fairy tale, showing the prince bored stiff by his mother's marriage schemes and by all the young lovelies who would like to be his bride. What would he like to do instead? He wants to visit the whistling, rag-bedecked girl he keeps spotting. He doesn't know her name, but he writes in his diary, "I think I'll call her Cinderella."

Does the book take some liberties with the fairy tale? Definitely. There is a ball, a glass slipper, a prince, and a toiling girl named Cinderella (I mean Cynthia), but that's about it. Which is absolutely fine: folk tales are intrinsically changeable. The famous Disney film took incredible liberties with the story: the Grimm's collected tale "Ashenputtel" contained no fairy godmother at all, but a magic tree (which hinted at the ghostly existence of Cinderella's dead mother) that shook down magical dresses from its enchanted leaves.

Although the step-mother's evil intentions towards Cinderella are creepily palpable in the Disney version of the story, the film actually sapped the original tale of some of its darker elements (in the original tale, the step-sisters don't just get their hopes dashed, they get their feet bloodied and their eyes pecked out). The Prince's Diary goes a step further in lightening the story and gives us a cheery, unflappable Miss, who although apparently barred from the ball by her step-mother (and who doesn't make a gown-decked appearance at all), never lets her spirits droop and who never stops smiling.

Smile or no smile, the big question we must ask any version of the famous tale is this: does Cindy get her man? If a horse ride, shared blackberry scones, and furious step-relations are any indication, then this "Cinderella" hints at a happy ending worthy of all its predecessors. Elizabeth Dulemba's comical, perky drawings and Renee Ting's sweet text make this picture book a wonderful addition to the Cinderella tradition.


Booklist has reviewed Piecing Earth and Sky Together by Nancy Raines Day and illustrated by Genna Panzarella:

"In this creation story from the Mien tribe of Laos, the heavenly brother and sister, Faam Koh and Faam Toh, come to make the sky and the earth. Koh makes the sky of shimmering dark; Toh makes the earth of patterns and colors. They hide their work from one other, so when they are done, Koh's sky is too small for Toh's earth. He tries to stretch the sky but that only lets puffy clouds escape. Toh then takes her needle and makes mountains and hills, valleys and gorges, so her brother's sky fits perfectly. This story is told to Mei Yoon by her grandmother, who is teaching her the embroidery for which the women of her tribe are known. Traditional Mien stitches are illustrated, and both the source of the tale and the models for Koh and Toh are cited. The beautiful illustrations are done in colored pencils, which make a rich and textured page with depths like a dark jewel; deep indigos, violets, and greens predominate. An intriguing presentation that should reach a wide audience."

School Library Journal

School Library Journal has a review of Piecing Earth and Sky Together by Nancy Raines Day and illustrated by Genna Panzarella:

"In this myth, two siblings create earth and sky with needle and thread. At first, they compete with one another, embroidering in secret. However, when the brother's shimmering sky turns out to be too small for the sister's abundant earth, they must work together to find a solution. The results are depicted in a lavish double spread, enlarged by flaps, showing an Edenic Cambodian rain forest, rich in animal life. Cast within the frame of a story told by a grandmother while she and her small granddaughter stitch together, the tale is attributed by the author to older members of the Mien community from the Laotian Handcraft Project of Berkeley, CA. Using vivid colors, the illustrator places grandmother, granddaughter, and the newly created world on a white background while setting the mythic portion of the story on cosmic black. Though the realistic drawings are not particularly innovative, the effect is certainly dramatic. Grandmother and the brother and sister gods are shown in traditional clothing. An author's note explains the importance of embroidery to this culture, and pictures of traditional stitches are included. The book should be useful where creation myths are compared, where stitchery is valued, and where Southeast Asian stories are needed."

Multicultural Review

Piecing Earth and Sky Together by Nancy Raines Day and illustrated by Genna Panzarella was reviewed in Multicultural Review:

"The Mien minority group of Laos is noted for its distinctive embroidery, usually bright colors on a background of black or dark blue. True to this color scheme, the illustrations int he picture book contain more black and dark colors than are usually found in this genre. The effect is striking, making the colors leap out, as when the sun appears along with a dark thundercloud.

This unusual creation story tells of a friendly argument between brother and sister, Koh and Toh, helpers from heaven 'who came down to make the earth and the sky.' Vying to outdo each other, yet at the same time to make their creations fit together, they work in secret, and then each admires the results of the other. But they don't fit. Toh, in her cleverness and patience and with her adroit fingers, adjusts her earth to fit Koh's sky. "

Notes From the Catalog

Engaging--stories and assignments provide variety and action that children find appealing

Targeted--practice with skills and techniques are provided through the use of authentic literature

Adaptable--plans and lessons can be easily changed for use with a variety of titles, grades, and reading levels

Inspirational--introduces values, such as honesty, trust, perseverance, duty, recognition of inner beauty, compassion, kindness, and bravery

Standards-based--lessons build on the skills and comprehension strategies required to meet many school, district, and state standards

Integrated--an interdisciplinary approach for teaching lessons related to other areas of the curriculum

Reproducible--copyrighted for classroom use (For other uses, please call.)

Flexible--purchase and use all ten titles or invest in several copies of three or four books, the lessons may be used in a variety of ways

The Link Homeschool Newspaper

There is a nice article in The Link Homeschool Newspaper about Shen's Books. In addition to introducing the company as a whole, it also features a few reviews of specific books. They have this to say about In Search of Cinderella:

"Shen's Books offers numerous versions of the Cinderella tale from many different countries and even a single volume 'In Search of Cinderella' (2003, $15.95) which is a curriculum study aid for ages 11 to 13, developed using 12 different ethnic version of this (obviously) universal love story offered in Shen's Books' catalog. It provides 64 pages of review and discussion of the story, vocabulary exercises with some of the other languages to English, and a connection to a single subject area. Using this volume can teach the concepts of critical reading and thinking with the central theme of Cinderella's rise from poverty of spirit to fulfilling love and blessings for the people of the land."

Small Press Book Review

The Small Press Book Review published the following review of Jingu: The Hidden Princess by Ralph Pray in its September 2002 issue:

"When she turns ten, Jingu receives a mirror as a gift from the Emperor with writing on it that calls her the "Imperial Princess Jingu." This is a message that she has been singled out by the Emperor to on day be the Empress. In the meantime, however, Jingu travels and continues her education and training as a woman in first-century A.D. Japan. Middle-grade readers learn about the customs and society of ancient Japan in this tale based on historical fact."

Learn More About Empress Jingu

jingu.jpgYou can find more information about the history behind Empress Jingu at Wikipedia and Britannica Online.

Children's Bookwatch

Children's Bookwatch has a nice review of Jingu: The Hidden Princess by Ralph Pray:

"Set in 4th century Japan, Jingu: The Hidden Princess by Ralph Pray is the story of Jingu, a young princess who feels isolated and alone within the Imperial Japanese Palace. On her tenth birthday, Jingu receives a gift from the Emperor with a mysterious hidden message, and so her journey and transformation from girl to leader begins. Firmly grounded in history, written with majesty, grace, warmth, and understanding, and enhanced with illustrations by Xiaojun Li, Jingu: The Hidden Princess is an emotional and highly enjoyable coming of age book especially recommended for preteen young adult readers."

They Are More Amazing Than I'd Imagined

By sheer luck, the cherry trees were just beginning to blossom when we visited Japan for a week in April last year. Just seeing the trees around the cities and at the castles and temples was the highlight of the entire trip. I'll let the images speak for themselves.


School Library Journal

The Falling Flowers by Jennifer Reed and illustrated by Dick Cole has been reviewed in School Library Journal:

"The pale blue boxes of text, set along the outer edge of an otherwise blank white page, resemble lovely scrolls. The soft watercolors that complete the spreads have a dreamlike quality."

Children's Bookwatch

Children's Bookwatch has a nice review of The Falling Flowers by Jennifer Reed and illustrated by Dick Cole:

"Ideal for children 4 to 8, The Falling Flowers is the story of a young Japanese girl and her grandmother. Mayumie and her Grandmother take a train ride into the heart of Tokyo, then walk together down a quiet street in the middle of the city and find a grove of Japanese cherry trees all in blossom. The simple, elegant text by Jennifer Reed is perfectly showcased with Dick Cole's watercolors giving this original story a timeless and universal appeal. The Falling Flowers would make a truly fine and appreciated addition to any picturebook collection."


Booklist reviews The Wishing Tree by Roseanne Thong and illustrated by Connie McLennan:

"Although the simple, moving story is an excellent choice for Lunar New Year read-alouds and will work well to open class discussions about cultural traditions, it will also appeal throughout the year. Sentimental without being saccharine, it illustrates how traditions can help us voice our deepest wishes and emotions, and its vibrant acrylic paintings of the glorious tree abloom with wishes and fruit, which will show well to a crowd of young listeners, extend the tale's reassuring sense of hope. An author's note describes the true events that inspired the story. "

School Library Journal

Check out this great review of The Wishing Tree (by Roseanne Thong and illustrated by Connie McLennan) from School Library Journal:

"Thong's narrative voice has a gentle and musical quality that will lure readers into the book's pages, as well as into the landscape of this lovely little corner of China. Children will see in fastidious detail the beautiful wishing paper with its Chinese symbols and English translations. The rendering of the people is also superb. The exquisite art is done on watercolor paper with acrylics, which results in an unusual and vivid effect. A template for wishing paper is included in the back of the book. The lessons and observations in The Wishing Tree are ageless, and the book offers many opportunities for discussion."

2006 Skipping Stones Honor Award

Yes! Another Shen's book wins an award.

The Wishing Tree
, by Roseanne Thong and illustrated by Connie McLennen was honored by the renowned multicultural children's magazine Skipping Stones. Each year Skipping Stones recognizes books that "promote cooperation, nonviolence, respect for differing viewpoints, and close relationships in human societies." by presenting The Skipping Stones Honor Awards.  The awards "promote respect for ... cultural diversity in the world" and highlight an "exceptional contribution to multicultural ...children's literature."
Thanks Skipping Stones!

Also by Ruthanne Lum McCunn...

Ruthanne Lum McCunn is also the author of Thousand Pieces of Gold, which was made into a feature film in 1991. Her other books include:

Wooden Fish Songs
Sole Survivor
Chinese Proverbs

...and most recently, God of Luck, a story of a Chinese man in the nineteenth century who is kidnapped and shipped to Peru as a slave.

Publisher's Weekly

Publisher's Weekly says this about Pie-Biter by Ruthanne Lum McCunn, illustrated by Youshan Tang:

"McCunn tells eloquently the story of a real person... Legends about Pie-Biter's exploits and his business acumen keep the reader engrossed in his life, particularly in his career after the work on the railroad ended. Paintings by the gifted artist Tang illustrate the book handsomely."

School Library Journal

The School Library Journal has this to say about Pie-Biter by Ruthanne Lum McCunn and Youshan Tang:

"The illustrations are striking, in pleasantly bold colors and with interesting documentary backgrounds introduced from time to time... A valuable tribute to the pioneering work of the Chiense-American community."

1984 American Book Award

The American Book Award was established in 1978 by the Before Columbus Foundation. It seeks to recognize outstanding literary achievement by contemporary American authors, without restriction to race, sex, ethnic background, or genre.

The Pie-Biter has been chosen for the the 1984 American Book Award by the Before Columbus Foundation.

School Libary Journal

School Library Journal also reviewed The Magical Monkey King by Ji-Li Jiang when the first edition came out in 2002:

"In this engaging version of his story, Jiang begins with Monkey's birth on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits. After proving himself to the monkey tribe, who choose him as their king, Monkey tries to learn the secret of immortality, travels under the sea to steal a powerful weapon from the Dragon King, and wreaks havoc at the heavenly court of the Jade Emperor. Only Buddha can stop his mischief, and does so in a scene that works as exciting action and profound metaphor."


Booklist reviewed the first edition of The Magical Monkey King back when it first came out in 2002:

"Monkey, born of both heaven and earth, is a lively trickster. Like all tricksters, he is quick-witted and full of himself, seeking knowledge and helping his people but also wreaking more than his share of havoc. In this cycle of related stories, readers learn of Monkey's miraculous birth, his bold success in finding a new home for his people, and his clever manipulations of his enemies and his betters--including Jade Emperor and other celestial bodies whom Monkey has tried to trick. It takes Buddha himself to rein Monkey in and lock him up until he learns from his mistakes. Jiang, the author of Red Scarf Girl (1997),provides a lively telling, and the stories move briskly."

Nov 20-22: Ji-Li Jiang at the 2008 TASL Conference

tasl.gifJi-Li Jiang will be a the Tennessee Association of School Librarians 2008 Conference this November. She will be signing books at the vendor fair on Thursday, November 20. If you're going, stop by and get a your copy of The Magical Monkey King signed!

TASL 2008 Conference
November 20-22, 2008
Franklin Marriot at Cool Springs

Nov 2-3: Ji-Li Jiang at the 2008 MSLA Conference

Thumbnail image for 2008conferencelogoa.jpgOur very own Ji-Li Jiang will be a featured author at the 2008 Massachusetts School Library Association Conference this fall. She will be signing at the Author Fest on Sunday, November 2.

MSLA 2008 Conference
November 2-3, 2008
Sturbridge Host Hotel and Conference Center

Day the Dragon Danced featured in ForeWord Magazine


ForeWord Magazine has an article in their March/April Issue called "Worlds of Words: Picture Books Tempt New Readers." Among the many wonderful books introduced is our very own The Day the Dragon Danced. Author Elizabeth Breau writes, "Carolyn Reed Barritt's exuberant painting highlights the joy of experiencing another culture for the first time."

ForeWord Magazine 2006 Book of the Year Finalist

Congratulations to The Day the Dragon Danced, a ForeWord Magazine 2006 Book of the Year Finalist!

Bank Street Best Children's Books

The Day the Dragon Danced by Kay Haugaard and Carolyn Reed Barritt has been chosen as a Best Children's Books of the Year by the Children's Book Committe of the Bank Street College of Education. This is a great honor!

Children's Bookwatch Reviews

Pie-Biter by Ruthanne Lum McCunn reviewed by Children's Bookwatch:

"In 1865, young Hoi came from China to help build the American cross-continental railroad. Only a skinny boy at first, his love for American pies quickly helps him gain in size and strength, and earns him the nickname 'Pie-Biter'. With the help of his friend, Spanish Louis, Hoi uses a clever ruse that sets him on the path to becoming a successful packer. Ruthanne Lum McCunn's lively and inventive story is perfectly showcased through the colorful artwork of You-shan Tang. Pie-Biter is a true classic-in-the-making which will become a perennial favorite for generations of young readers to come".  

Children's Bookwatch

The Magical Monkey King by Ji-Li Jiang was reviewed by Children's Bookwatch:

"The Magical Monkey King: Mischief In Heaven is an anthology of classic Chinese folk tales, adroitly retold by Ji-Li Jiang and humorously illustrated with a handful of black-and-white Chinese-style brush pictures by Youshan Tang. Surprises always follow the mischievous Monkey in his adventures, from his determination to win the title of 'King of the Monkeys' to his quest to learn the secrets of immortality, to his contest against the Buddha himself. A rollicking, enjoyable ride, written in a delightfully upbeat tone, ideal for young readers ready to make the transition from picture books to slightly more elaborate text stories".

Skipping Stones Book Review

The Day the Dragon Danced by Kay Haugaard and Carolyn Reed Barritt was reviewed by Skipping Stones. An excerpt:

"An African-American girl brings her grandmother to a Chinese New Year's Parade, where people from diverse cultures work together to give life and rhythm to the main float - a dragon. Ages 5-8". 

2007 Paterson Prize for Books for Young People

logpoet.jpgThe Day the Dragon Danced by Kay Haugaard and illustrated by Carolyn Reed Barritt is an honor book for the 2007 Paterson Prize for Books for Young People

LA Times Book Review


The Day the Dragon Danced'

Reuben Munoz / Los Angeles Times

CRAAACK! Snap! Snap! Snap! Crackkkle! Pow!

I jumped about a foot. Firecrackers were popping all around.

"Oh, my heart!" Grandma said. Then she laughed.

A red firetruck with red and gold paper decorations snorted slowly down the road. A lot of pretty girls were on the truck. They wore shiny red satin dresses. Some had long black hair, and some had brown and one had yellow. They smiled and waved and threw money into the street. I ran out to pick up a new penny. "Here, Grandma," I said, handing it to her. "This means you'll have lots of money in the New Year."

"I surely can use some of that, child." Grandma smiled and put the lucky penny in her purse. Then she rubbed me on the head. But where was the dragon?

A clang of cymbals announced the dragon.

"Grandma, look!"

The dragon's huge red, green, white and orange head stuck around the corner. His big white teeth shone in his wide open mouth. His big red eyes looked from side to side. Below his chin hung his long white beard.

"Look! look!" I yelled. The dragon raised his head high, then brought it down low; then he moved it from side to side. His eyes rolled some more. "He's looking for bad things to eat up, Grandma." I giggled excitedly and grabbed Grandma's coat sleeve. The cymbals crashed and clanged for the dragon to keep time with his many, many feet.

"Better watch out, child, you can be pretty bad sometimes." Quickly she tickled me around the middle and I jumped.

Now we could see that the dragon was moving along on a long, long, long row of legs. They all wore red socks, but each pair of legs had on a different kind of athletic shoe.

Thursday: Why does the dragon have so many different kinds of shoes?


"The Day the Dragon Danced" is a Kids' Reading Room Classic that first appeared Feb. 11-15, 2002. It has since been published as a book in 2006 by Shen's Books, Fremont, Calif. The story will be on The Times' website at

Skipping Stones Book Review

Dragonsong by Russell Young and illustrated by Civi Cheng has been reviewed by Skipping Stones Magazine.

"The enchantingly-illustrated tale of a Chinese dragon who travels the world, meeting other dragons who share with him their knowledge, in the hopes of finding an enduring gift that will win him the role of Keeper of the Mountain. Ages 6 and up".

Rainbo Electronic Reviews

Dragonsong by Russell Young and illustrated by Civi Cheng has been reviewed by the Rainbo Electronic Reviews

"A big book with lovely color illustrations telling us all about dragons and their songs. No one has ever heard the song but the legend has it that it is awesome and spellbinding. Once every thousand years the four Imperial Dragons select one dragon be Keeper of the mountain. Chiang-An is the youngest dragon and he must now find a gift that will last a thousand years if he wants to win the honor of the title. Young Chiang-An travels around the world looking for this gift and meets other dragons who share their wisdom with him. When he finally returns home he has become very wise and knows how to provide prosperity for his village".
Dragonsong by Russell Young and illustrated by Civi Cheng has been honored by the NAME with their Multicultural Education 2000 Book Award.

The Chair of awards committee says: "The culturally diverse story and the beautiful illustrations make your book an exciting learning experience for children of all ages".

Shen's Blog Request a Catalog Events

Blog Contributors

Renee Ting is the President and Publisher of Shen's Books. She is the author of The Prince's Diary and the blog, Renee's Book of the Day.

Emily Jiang is a writer of children's and YA literature. She also blogs at TLeaf Readings.

Shen’s Books is a publisher of multicultural children’s literature that emphasizes cultural diversity and tolerance, with a focus on introducing children to the cultures of Asia.

Through books, we can share a world a stories, building greater understanding and tolerance within our increasingly diverse communities as well as throughout our continuously shrinking globe.


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