Reviewed by Amanda Snowdon
I was really pleased when I was chosen to review “Five Colour Dog”, one of the 12 books from the “Animal Signs” series by Snowflake Books. I hadn’t looked up the book before receiving it, so was pleasantly surprised when the package arrived, and discovered that Snowflake Books specialise in dual-language books written in both English and Mandarin. Even more of a surprise was that they had also sent “Big Red Rooster” (another book from the Animal Signs Series), and “Wan-Nian’s Calendar” (a book explaining the story of the Chinese lunar calendar).
The books from the Animal Signs series are A4, and feature the story in both English and Mandarin – with a parallel Chinese translation in Pinyin, which is excellent as it tells you how to pronounce the Chinese characters! The stories are accompanied by beautiful full-page illustrations, which really pain the scene of these ancient Chinese legends!
My son is not able to read yet, but he enjoyed listening to the stories and asked lots of questions about the pictures, and with the help of Pinyin translation I was able to tell him key words such as animal names and other nouns in Mandarin! When we got to the end of the story, I realised that “Big Red Rooster” come with an audio CD, which we also enjoyed listening to.
“The Story of Wan-Nian’s Calendar” is slightly smaller than A4, but also includes English, Mandarin and Pinyin translations, along with beautiful pictures and the added bonus of the audio CD. I shared the books with my nieces (aged 7 and 12), and they also really enjoyed reading them – the translations are very high quality, and the girls commented that they were much more enjoyable than their European foreign languages books from school! One of the things that I like most about the books is that they are educational but you don’t realise it! The books are different to your typical rhyming British children’s story book, and so is set apart from the other books we own at home. They struggled with some of the literal name translations, for example the Five Colour Dog is called “Plate-Gourd”, whereas using the name “Panhu” as mentioned in the back of the book would have worked just as well. I found it took a bit more encouragement for my son and nieces to finish the stories compared to their usual books, but they all enjoyed them and have asked for them to be read again.
As if the books and CD’s weren’t enough, Snowflake books also have a website filled with colouring sheets, craft activities and quizzes to help children (or adults!) learn more about Eastern culture, which really compliment the books and anyone learning Mandarin.
The books RRP at £6.99 for paperback and £12.99 which I feel is very reasonable. They are delightful books and I look forward to exploring them more with my son and family!
For more information or to buy any of these books visit snowflakebooks.co.uk.