Friday, September 7, 2012

Book Review: Red is a Dragon, by Roseanne Thong and Grace Lin

Thong, Roseanne & Lin, Grace. Red is a Dragon. 40 p. 2001. Chronicle. Hardcover $15.95. ISBN 9780811831772.

Having been a fan of Grace Lin's work for years, I'm so pleased to introduce her work to my children. I'm hoping they will become equally devoted fans. We've started with Red is a Dragon, which was illustrated by Lin, and written by Roseanne Thong.

Thong's text and Lin's illustrations complement each other beautifully to celebrate the wide variety of colors found in the world around us. What I love most about this book is the way it presents a uniquely Asian American identity. Some pages introduce elements of Chinese culture, such as incense, a festival with firecrackers and a dragon, or dumplings. Other pages are more universal, with images such as a taxi cab, sand castles at the beach, or flowers in the garden. The text includes Auntie and Grandpa, subtly showing the importance of extended family in Asian cultures.

My children are half Vietnamese, and I really value the way this book speaks to my children's Asian-American experience just as naturally as we incorporate both sides of their cultures into their daily lives.

Books can be a mirror of our own experiences or a window to another world-- and this book is both. It doesn't appeal to my children just because they're Asian-American; children of all cultural backgrounds can enjoy it. The reader might learn something new, see something familiar, or just enjoy the vivid colors and bold, lively illustrations. Whichever way a young reader approaches it, they will surely regard this book as the treasure that it is.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

In Which I Finally Get Hooked on Eaudiobooks

I am basically addicted to audiobooks. With the right narrator, an audiobook can be such a fantastic way to experience a story. And what can beat the convenience of "reading" a book on your commute? Indeed, most of my audiobook listening is done in the car. But there's a little problem with that. My car is stuck in the last decade: it only has a CD player. No iPhone hookup. And audiobooks are increasingly becoming available as electronic downloads these days.

I love the concept of eaudiobooks-- so convenient, having the audiobook on your phone! You can listen at the gym! (I'm not a fan of the gym.) You can listen while you walk the dog! (I don't have a dog.) You can listen while you do housework! (My kids are usually right under foot.) Short of putting a pair of portable iPhone speakers in my car so I can listen on my commute (which I can never seem to remember to do), I haven't found a good solution for working eaudiobooks into my routine. Until now.

Last week, I had a little run-in with a heavy door. Literally. The door won, and I injured a toe pretty badly. Um, yes, I know that sounds pathetic. But even though a toe may not sound like a big deal... it kind of is. A lot of things are off-limits for me right now while I heal up, including my beloved ballet classes.

(Allow me a brief woe-is-me moment here: my poor ballet bag has been exiled to a closet for the next few weeks. SIGH.)

Anyway, so, what to do with an injured toe? I was told to rest and keep my weight off it for the first few days, and I thought the silver lining would be lots of time to sit back and read. But I was on a fairly intense dose of painkillers for the first few days after the injury, so I couldn't concentrate on a book for very long.

What then? I turned to my one and only gaming addiction: Tetris. It was like the early 90s all over again! And what to do while playing game after game of Tetris on my phone? Why, use my phone to listen to an eaudiobook, too! The combination of Tetris and an eaudiobook turned out to be the perfect thing to get me through the first few days of recovery. The Tetris would have gotten boring quickly on its own, and likewise, who wants to just sit and stare into space while listening to an audiobook?

So there you have it: my strategy for working eaudiobooks into your daily routine. Tetris. 

You don't need to wreck your toe to implement this solution, though.

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