Friday, December 11, 2015

Book review: Bowls of Happiness and What Was It Like, Mr. Emperor

*Disclosure: I received these books to review for myself. I was not compensated in any other way and all opinions posted here are mine and mine alone. 

As you may have noticed, if you look at the pictures of my kids that I sometimes include with my review posts, my kids are biracial. Their dad is a first generation immigrant from Hong Kong. We live in the United States in a primarily Caucasian area, so teaching them about my culture and my side of the family is pretty easy. My great-great grandparents lived just a few miles from where we live now! Lots of family history right at our fingertips.

Teaching the kids about Chinese culture requires a bit more effort on our part, but it's something that's important to both Daniel and myself. So I'm always happy when kid-friendly books come into our home that are designed to do just that, teach the kids about the rich and diverse culture of China.  We recently received two beautiful new books from the China Institute. We have several others in our home already and they are wonderful, so I suspected that I would be happy with these as well. And I was not wrong! The books are called Bowls of Happiness and What Was It Like, Mr. Emperor?. Here's a bit about them, from their publisher's website:

Piggy's mom loves her so much that she has decided to make a special porcelain bowl just for her. As mom makes the bowl, Piggy enters the world being painted on its outside. There she meets and learns about the animals used on these Chinese artworks and the messages of happiness and good-fortune that they convey.

Created by internationally renowned children's book artists Brian Tse and Alice Mak, this book teaches children about Chinese artwork and culture and their universal spirit of generosity, love, and respect for nature. The lovable illustrations are coupled with photographs of porcelain art found in the Palace Museum's collection. Children will learn about how bowls are made and be able to draw their own Bowl of Happiness after they have finished reading the story.
I'm a total sucker for beautiful pottery, so I really enjoyed this book. It's a fun way to learn about all the symbolism of the various drawings and colors used on Chinese porcelain. This book was at a great level for my 6 and 8-year-old kids to understand when I read it to them. The characters are fun, the illustrations are great and it's a sweet story as well.

Have you ever wondered what it was like to be the Emperor of China? In this book, readers will get the chance to ask the emperor all the questions they might have about life in the Forbidden City. How was the emperor chosen? What was school like? How did he celebrate his birthday? Who were his friends? What were his favorite foods? How hard did he have to work? Could he be punished?

Through fun and engaging stories reader will journey through the average life of an emperor and learn about the people who lived in the palace, including the prince who fought off a rebel invasion, the palace maids who lived in the Inner Court, the emperor who ruled twice, and the emperor who loved crickets. This book can be enjoyed by children and adults alike, with lively illustrations that encourage reader interaction.

This book has SOOOO much information in it. Everything that you've ever wanted to know (or didn't know you wanted to know!) about the complicated world of the royal courts is discussed in this book. There is a lot of information, but it's broken up into easy-to-understand bits and is accompanied by great drawings that help convey the information. The Chinese imperial court was definitely a different world, and a really fascinating one. This book is a great way to learn about that world.

Happy reading!