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More easy-to-read books out in Chinese from Imagin8 Press & The Mandarin Companion

May 31, 2021

The lovely folks at Imagin8 Press have come out with a raft of new books in easy-to-read Chinese.

These include some very easy books like Twenty Three Cats (二十三只猫) which has only 100 characters in it.

There’s also the story of Mulan, Woman Warrior in simplified Chinese using only a 240 word vocabulary.

The books also come with free audio on YouTube, so kids can listen as they read, which is a nice touch.

A page from Mulan, Woman Warrior

They’ve also got a ton of short books based on stories from the Chinese 16th century classic Journey to the West, full of stirring tales. It’s a cornerstone of Chinese literature. Imagine The Canterbury Tales, Marvel and Paul Bunyan folk stories all rolled up into one cultural behemoth and you get the idea.

It’s also home to the Monkey King stories, which your kids have probably already seen in cartons, movies and comic books.

It’s not something a U.S. student would read in the original. The edition by the People’s Literature Publishing House published in 1955 is 866,000 Chinese characters long and you’d need to know at least 3,000 or more characters to read it, according to Jim McClanahan. He reviewed Imagin8’s versio for his blog.

If you’ve got an older high school student (this is not for kids) there’s The Love Triangle (三角恋) which has a somewhat risqué cover but uses only 600 characters and is based on a Chinese story called “Lotus Fragrance,” from Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio, by Pu Songling and published in 1740. It’s about fox spirts and ghosts.

My only beef with Imagin8 Press books is that they include English and pinyin on the page facing the characters. Perhaps I am the only one who cheats and peeks at the pinyin, but I always found it better to have the pinyin at least a page-turn away, so I wasn’t so easily tempted.

These folks at Mandarin Companion has also been busy.

They’ve got two new books, each which only uses 150 unique characters:

My Teacher is a Martian 我的老师是火星人

Two students are fascinated by outer space, but when their new teacher seems to know more about Mars than anyone could possibly know, they start to suspect that something is unusual. As they encounter inexplicable events, they become convinced their teacher is actually from Mars. How can they prove it and who will believe them? They may be the only ones who can discover the truth!

The Misadventures of Zhou Haisheng 周海生

Using only 150 distinct characters, this book tells the story of Zhou Haisheng, a fun-loving and determined young boy whose life revolves around school and his family’s Chinese restaurant. Always well-intentioned, he finds ways to help out his hard-working parents with the family business. Whether it’s inventing his own noodle recipe, delivering the wrong order to a customer, or resorting to extremes when a competing noodle shop opens across the street, Zhou Haisheng manages to combine his mischief and wit to save the day.

I’d love to hear your thoughts if your kids have read any of these.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 31, 2021 6:44 pm

    We love the Mandarin Companion series, and especially the two new books 🙂 We’re wondering if they’re prequels to some of the Level 1 equivalents like some of the other Breakthrough series 🙂 Imagin8 looks fun, and we’ll check it out. Thanks for sharing on it!

  2. Jennifer Klahn permalink
    June 1, 2021 4:11 am

    We have the Mulan book, which my son enjoys, and is excellent practice for him. Thanks for letting us know about these other titles.

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