When my virtual friend, Stacey Zolt Hara, asked me to review her new children’s book, I was honored. Stacey is one of my favorite tweeters, as she’s always tweeting about travel, something she clearly lives for and loves as much as I do. She is constantly retweeting my articles as we clearly have a lot in common, particularly the fact that we are moms with a zest for life who want to show our kids the world and, in turn, we see it through their own eyes.
Her book is called, Bella’s Chinese New Year, and I suspect it is based on the real life Bella, Stacey’s daughter who she thanks in her book’s forward: “To the real Bella, who has enchanted me across four continents.” I think that Bella must have a very travel-enriched life through her travel loving mama, and now they live in Singapore where they are exploring the culture.
I read the book with my daughter, who at age 8, has been more places than I ever had before I was age 24. She shares my love of travel and I was anxious to read this book with her.
The book takes place in Singapore, where Bella lives with her mother and father. She hails from Chicago and has incredibly curly red hair, so she stands out amongst her peers. Yet she embraces their differences with an open heart and clearly connects with everyone she comes across. For her, living abroad is unique. She values Singapore’s customs, the different language, their traditions, the food that they eat and the people she meets on the bus and at school. To celebrate the New Year, she is having a party with her class at school. First she exchanges oranges with her friends, symbolizing a wish of good luck and wealth. As red paper lanterns sway in the wind above the picnic table, she and her friends nibble on pineapple tarts, much on lo hei salad, toss a salad in the sky seven times for health and good luck and open shiny red envelopes with messages and money inside. I love the appreciative way Bella says, “I’m so lucky to get hong bao while I celebrate Chinese New Year in Singapore.”
“Hong bao”, by the way, is the small red envelope exchanged during the New Year. There are many Mandarin words in the text of the book, and my 8 YO daughter was intrigued by all of them. “Did you know that ‘quipao’ is dress? and ‘laoshi’ is teacher”, she stated. We learned these words and many others. I like that in this book you learn about another culture, but it’s not complicated. It’s completely digestible to my daughter, and she is already pining for the next book in this new series.
The book is beautifully illustrated and a lot of heart clearly went into every word. There is a Mandarin glossary and pronunciation guide in the back of the book, as well as a curriculum guide and Chinese Zodiac Sign and Yearly Calendar.
Bella’s Chinese New Year retails for $16.99 and is hard-cover.
When we were done reading it, my daughter turned to me and said, “Maybe we’ll live in another culture one day, Mommy.”
Music to my ears.
Disclosure: This book was sent to me free of charge to facilitate this review but all opinions expressed are my own.