Category Archives: Asia

Year of the Sheep*

Honestly, I’m not exactly sure how it began.  I chalk it up to being a slightly bored, housebound, stay-at-home mom who, when trapped by the freezing temperatures and mounds of snow outside, latched onto an idea to bring some festivity to the otherwise drab early February.  This is how my family adopted the celebration of Chinese New Year.

Chinese_New_YearWhat started as an attempt to pull us from our winter doldrums (and I admit an excuse to order in rather than cook) has become a cherished tradition in our household.  Along the way the Museum Educator in me came out and we have developed a deep appreciation for the history and tradition of the holiday.  We embrace many of the activities of the New Year as well – everyone gets a haircut (the only time of year they don’t fight me), we clean our house (again, much less of a fight when they know it is for the New Year), we make fortune cookies and Nian Gao, cut-paper lantern decorations hang about the house, and we listen to Chinese music.   Perhaps my favorite part is when we remember our ancestors – Chinese New Year reminds us to talk to the girls about the great-grandparents they never met, or can’t remember well.

Something about Chinese New Year is simply appealing to kids. First, why wouldn’t you want another opportunity to have a celebration?  Second, it is fascinating that Chinese zodiac names each year for an animal.  Finally, lion dancers and dragons are really cool.

In major part because of our celebration we always visit Chinatown when we are in NYC.  This hectic, busy, loud section of the city is endlessly fascinating to my girls.  They want to shop for red envelopes and lanterns, get an ice-cream cone at the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory (where the “exotic” flavors include vanilla, and the “regular” flavors range from green tea to banana durian), and try delicacies like dried cuttlefish.   These visits also lead to great discussions, and further reading, about immigration and settlement of cultural enclaves in major cities.

This year Chinese New Year falls on Thursday, February 19, and many cities have celebrations you can attend.  Check out how New York, San Francisco and Seattle are planning to welcome in the Year of the Sheep.  If you can’t make it, consider having  your own celebration.  ChineseNewYears.info has a nice overview of the holiday and a trip to your local Asian market will provide the rest.  Over the years we have established a large collection of Chinese New Year books to help us with our celebration.  Our favorites are below to help you get started.

myfirstchinesenewyearMy First Chinese New Year by Karen Katz.  A perfect beginning book for young readers to explore all the preparation and festivity of Chinese New Year.  (PB)

 

bringinginthenewyearBringing In the New Year by Grace Lin.  Follow a Chinese-American family as they prepare for the holiday. (PB)

PBP Note:  I simply ADORE Grace Lin and there isn’t a thing she has written that I don’t LOVE.  Other great PB titles include Dim Sum for Everyone! and Fortune Cookie Fortunes.   Also check out her Ling & Ting  ER Series and Pacy Lin Series for Advanced ER.  Look below for MR titles that are amazing!

 

disfordragondanceD Is For Dragon Dance by Ying Chang Compestine.  There is an aspect of Chinese New Year for every letter of the alphabet.  Celebrate from Acrobats to Zodiac. (PB)

 

runawayricecakeThe Runaway Rice Cake by Ying Chang Compestine.  The Chang family only has one rice cake for the New Year – and when it runs away the three brothers chase it across town.  What could end in disaster results in a special lesson – when you give to others it comes back to you ten-fold.  This is where our family found our Nian-Gao recipe, which we make every year.  Other folk-tales by Compestine in her “story of” series such as The Story of Noodles, The Story of Chopsticks, and The Story of Paper  are additional delightful reads for the holiday. (PB)

storiesofchinesezodiacsheepTales from the Chinese Zodiac by Oliver Chin.  There are 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac and author Oliver Chin has a story for each.  Discover which year your child is born in and read their story, or read them all!  (PB)

celebratechinesenewyearCelebrate Chinese New Year: With Fireworks, Dragons, and Lanterns by Carolyn Otto.  This non-fiction National Geographic book  takes a look at Chinese New Year celebrations around the globe, highlighting the tradition and pagentry of this world-wide cultural event.  Beautiful photography accompanies clear, informative text.  (PB)

azchinesenewyearThe New Year Dragon Dilemma: A to Z Mysteries Super Edition #5 by Ron Roy.  The kids are in San Francisco and their new friend Holden is going to take them to the Chinese New Year parade.  But when Miss Chinatown, and her priceless crown, go missing the kids need to solve the mystery quickly, before Holden gets blamed.  (ER-2/3)

nancydrewchinesenewyearmysteryThe Chinese New Year Mystery : Nancy Drew Notebooks #39 by Carolyn Keene. Nancy’s class is celebrating Chinese New Year and she and her friends get to make the dragon!  All their hard work is for nothing when the dragon goes missing.  The parade will be cancelled if Nancy can’t solve the mystery quickly.

 

happynewyearjulieHappy New Year, Julie: American Girl by Megan McDonald.  Julie’s first Christmas since her parents divorce is a difficult one, and she finds solace in helping Ivy prepare for her families’ Chinese New Year celebration.  When she discovers that Ivy’s family is inviting her mom and dad to the party Julie worries that they won’t be able to get along and will ruin everything.

wherethemountainmeetsthemoonWhere the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin.  Minli has grown up hearing her father’s tales of the Old Man on the Moon and as her families fortunes are bleak she sets off one day to find him, and have him change her fortune.  Throughout her journey Minli meets many characters who help her to learn the most important lesson of all – by appreciating what you already have you are the richest of all. (MR-4th & Up)  *PBP All-Time Top-Ten Favorite*

starryriveroftheskyStarry River of the Sky by Grace Lin.  When a mysterious woman arrives in the village where Rendi is working as an errand boy she brings with her stories to share.  Her wisdom opens Rendi to the possibilities of those around him,and helps him to see that to write the ending to his own story he needs to rethink his present. (MR – 4th & Up)

*2015 is the Year of the Sheep/Ram.  Because the Chinese New Year is based on the Lunar calendar it fluctuates each year – occurring sometime between mid-January and mid-February.  When determining what “year” you were born, check when the New Year fell during your birth year.  For dates all the way back to 1930 click  HERE.

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Filed under Asia, Chinese New Year, Early Reader, History, Holiday, Middle Reader, Picture Book

M is for…

Two ordinary kids, a tree-house in the woods, and books about every subject imaginable.  Add a little magic, mystery, and adventure and you’ve got the classic early-reader series that transports every kid to places they’ve only dreamed of!

Magic Treehouse Series by Mary Pope Osbourne

Jack and Annie, siblings from Frog Creek, Pennsylvania, are transported through time and space to help the mythical Morgan LeFay save the library at Camelot.  Along the way they meet dinosaurs, visit ancient Egypt, tackle ninjas, sail on the Titanic, immerse themselves in American History, and more!   Each book is its own stand-alone adventure, but the books connect in groups of 4 to solve larger mysteries. There is a Magic Treehouse story to complement just about any trip, holiday, or historical event.

These are great stories for those ready to tackle chapter books.  However, they are perfect for older Pre-K and Kindergarten readers who are ready for a complex read-aloud.   Suitable for a wide range of readers, Magic Treehouse books address a variety of experiences in an age appropriate way.  And for more inquisitive readers, the Magic Treehouse Fact-Trackers are fantastic non-fiction companions to the series.  For even more check out magictreehouse.com to play and learn with Jack & Annie.

*A Paperback Pigeon All-Time Top 10 Favorite*

mth1-4Magic Tree House Boxed Set, Books 1-4: Dinosaurs Before Dark, The Knight at Dawn, Mummies in the Morning, and Pirates Past Noon – Real dinosaurs?  Medieval Knights?  Ancient Egypt? Swashbuckling Pirates?   Adventure is just a turn of the page as Jack & Annie begin to discover the magic in their treehouse! (ER-K-3)

mth5-8Magic Tree House Boxed Set, Books 5-8: Night of the Ninjas, Afternoon on the Amazon, Sunset of the Sabertooth, and Midnight on the Moon –  Time and space are no match for the Magic Treehouse – or for Jack & Annie – when they travel to ancient Japan, voyage down the Amazon River, tackle the Ice Age and land on the Moon!!!

mth1-28Magic Tree House Boxed Set, Books 1-28 – Sets of 4 books just not enough to satisfy your curious reader?  Get all 28 of the original Magic Treehouse Books and join Jack & Annie for every single magical, mystical adventure from Shakespeare’s England to George Washington’s Revolutionary War encampment.

mthchristmasincamelotChristmas in Camelot (Magic Tree House, No. 29) – In the first book in the Magic Treehouse Merlin Missions, Jack & Annie take on more mythical challenges.  The series elevates in reading level, growing with its readers, as well as in content depth and story length. (ER-2/3)

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Filed under A to Z, Africa, animals, Asia, Early Readers, europe, History, Holiday, magic, mystery, North America, series, Time Travel, Uncategorized, United States

D is for….

Dodsworth by Tim Egan

Traveling the world is a lifelong dream for many.   Few, if any, of those many would care to do it in the company of a poorly behaved, trouble-making duck.  Dodsworth is no different.  As he travels the globe he just can’t seem to shake the duck, which results in hilarious travel tales that are fun & funny for both kids and adults.  Even Dodsworth has to admit the duck is a little endearing, after a while.  These short chapter books, with repetitive  word choices are perfect for beginning readers, and great to share as a read-aloud, too.  RA/ER -1/3

dodsworthinnyDodsworth in New York – Dodsworth wants to see the world.  Before leaving his hometown of New York he needs some breakfast.  Unfortunately for Dodsworth, and luckily for readers,  on his trip for pancakes at Hodges’ Cafe  he meets a crazy duck who leads Dodsworth across New York city, past famous sights right onto a boat that’s traveling across the ocean….

dodsworthparisDodsworth in Paris – The Eiffel Tower beckons as Dodsworth and the duck visit the City of Lights.   But try as he may the duck just can’t seem to stay out of trouble!   For  comedic mischief from Notre Dame to the Louvre follow Dodsworth and the duck as they don a beret and visit the sights of Paris.  This early reader contains some French words which help build diverse vocabulary, but may require a grown-up to assist with the initial reading.

dodsworthlondonDodsworth in London – They’ve crossed the channel via hot-air balloon and Dodsworth and the duck (still sporting his beret) are now in London.  This time a case of mistaken identity leaves Dodsworth with the wrong duck!  How will Dodsworth find his duck, and return this one to it’s home?  From double-decker buses to Buckingham Palace this hilarious duo don’t miss a thing while in London!

dodsworthromeDodsworth in Rome – When in Rome…trouble is bound to follow Dodsworth and the duck.  From entering a pizza throwing contest to a visit to the Sistine Chapel, with these two nothing ever goes as planned.  Follow Dodsworth and the duck on another adventure as the scooter around Rome as they see the Coliseum, the Trevi Fountain and eat lots of gelato!

dodsworthtokyoDodsworth in Tokyo – Dodsworth is excited to visit Tokyo, but nervous that the duck will have trouble minding his manners.  As usual, the duck doesn’t disappoint and has accidents everywhere he goes. This time however, he redeems himself by helping a young girl.  Even Dodsworth has to smile at that.  Many of the Japanese words may be too difficult for the earliest readers, but the pictures help with decoding and adults will enjoy these adventures too, so read along together!

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Filed under A to Z, animals, Asia, Early Readers, europe, series, travel

C is for….

Finding true friendship is sometimes all we need to discover who we really are.

Cornelia & the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters by Lesley Blume

Most consider it good fortune to be the daughter of someone famous.  For eleven-year old Cornelia the reality is absentee parents and a quirky personality.  Seeking solace in a dictionary, the isolation makes her reclusive.  This is the world of Cornelia, and eleven year old in New York City, until the mysterious, elderly Virginia Somerset moves in next door with her servant Patel and her french bulldog, Mr. Kinyatta.   As Virginia shares the stories of her worldly travels with Cornelia a mutual friendship develops.  Cornelia learns more about Virginia, and herself, with each story.  But as they spend more time together Cornelia realizes that Virginia’s stories are her legacy, and she is running out of time to gift them to Cornelia. MR/4-6
corneliaandsomersetsisters   Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters

*A Paperback Pigeon All-Time Top 10 Favorite*

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Filed under A to Z, Africa, Asia, europe, History, Middle Reader, North America, travel

Easy as A, B, C…..

This weekend marks the unofficial end of summer.  As my husband and I are both educators, this upcoming week means that all five people in our house head back to school within days of each other.  The lazy, hazy days of summer (which alternated with crazy, busy days) are behind us and we are returning to the welcome routine and rhythm of the fall.

This return to school also means a return to homework.  My girls in elementary school are asked to read 15 minutes per night, any material of their choosing, as part of their ELA homework.  That means making sure that reading material is readily available.   We start with trips to the library to get a variety of choices, or visit Barnes & Noble to get the latest “must-have” in a series, and check Amazon for ideas to help us prepare.

As we embark on another school year I thought it would be great for the Paperback Pigeon to get back to basics…so, for the foreseeable future, each week I will be posting a suggestion for a book or series to excite your reader about travel – and their independent reading requirements for school – from A to Z.

A is for Agatha: Girl of Mystery by Sir Steve Stevenson

Twelve year-old Agatha Mistery is called on by her cousin Dash to help him solve mysteries and complete assignments from his prestigious academy – the Eye International Spy School.  Jet-setting around the world, Agatha uses her remarkable photographic memory, Dash’s cool spy school gadgets, and the help of her intrepid former-boxer butler, Watson to gather clues and solve crimes.  Exploring locations across the globe – from Egypt to Scotland to Niagara Falls – Agatha tackles curses, heists, treasures and murder.  This exciting series keeps readers turning the pages while introducing diverse and exciting locales around the world. ER/3-RA

agathamystery1The Curse of the Pharaoh #1   In this debut story Agatha is off to Egypt to recover a missing artifact from an archaeological dig in the Valley of the Kings.

agathamystery2The Pearl of Bengal #2  Agatha heads to India to discover the truth behind the theft of the Pearl of Bengal.  With the help of Dash, Watson and her Uncle Raymond, a wildlife photographer, Agatha is sure to solve the crime.

agathamystery3The King of Scotland’s Sword #3  A missing sword leads Agatha to Scotland where she tackles mysterious curses and frightening ghosts to solve the mystery.

agathamystery4The Heist at Niagara Falls #4  A jewel heist takes Agatha to Niagara Falls where she and Dash encounter Canada’s most notorious thief.  Can they take on this mastermind criminal and return the jewels to their rightful owner?

agathamystery5The Eiffel Tower Incident #5 The stakes are higher in the city of lights….this time it’s murder.  Agatha and Dash rush to Paris to solve the mysterious murder of a Russian Diplomat.  As they travel the streets they only have the clue “Red Rose” to guide them in catching the culprit.

agathamystery6The Treasure of the Bermuda Triangle #6  A missing gold Mayan calendar leads Agatha on another adventure, but this time solving the mystery isn’t the only challenge- the Bermuda Triangle has it’s own mysteries and dangers that Agatha and Dash must contend with.

agathamystery7The Crown of Venice #7  Publication date Nov 13, 2014 – The Crown of Venice is missing!  This famous ancient artifact was stolen during carnival and everyone is a suspect!

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Filed under A to Z, Africa, Asia, Early Reader, Early Readers, europe, Multi-Cultural, mystery, North America, series, travel