汉字有意思 Hanzi Alive!
This is an absolute gem for bilingual families, and I think this reference book has a place in every home, even for parents who may not be confident in the language!
Written by 刘墉, a renowned Chinese author, educator and artist, the full English translations are the works of his children 刘轩 and 刘倚帆.
Liu Yong shared that this book is a project that spanned 30 years! It documents his efforts to help the Chinese language come alive for his kids, when they grew up in the US. He was motivated to continue working on and finish writing the book when his grandchildren were starting to learn to read.
Be sure to read his preface, story and explanations of the various scripts. It is so eye-opening!
These were really eye-opening for us to learn through the explanations
- 手 + 目 = 看
- 女 + 子 = 好
- 宀 + 女 = 安
- 早 depicts the sun just rising from the grass
For each character introduced, they show
- character in simple and traditional form, with phonetic spelling in hanyu pinyin
- colored illustration showing the pictographic meaning of the character, and a simple explanation (do note that there may be varied interpretations of origins of characters, the author acknowledges this in his preface)
- silhouette of the illustration to help us connect pictures to words, the character's evolution through history, from oracle bone script to regular script
- real life photographs containing the character, from places around the world with environmental print!
How we use it across different ages, tried and tested!
- Toddlers can learn what things are called in Mandarin. We can point out the pictures and describe them
- Preschoolers and kindergarteners can learn to read simple words, and play seek-and-find to search for characters in the photos
- Primary schoolers can learn about the origin of words, evolution of characters over history and the various scripts. Understanding the etymology of various 独体字 primary characters gives depth to understanding of radicals 偏旁部首 and helps us learn more associated words!
- Adults can learn alongside our children, and marvel at the beauty and meaning in thousands of years of the written word. We can model a sense of curiosity and help our kids make connections between what they know, what they learn in school, what they read, and possibly extend the learning and tie in real-life experiences, museum visits and outings, to make learning come alive! We can also point out the values important in Chinese culture, embedded in the words too.
- Even if we are not confident in Mandarin, there is full English translation for everything, so we can definitely read and understand it! Understanding the Chinese language using our stronger language, English, is totally acceptable and in fact, highly recommended (:
Recommended for Ages: 2 and up
Language: Simplified Chinese
Translated by: 刘轩, 刘倚帆