cultural

Book Review: The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker

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hearing heartbeatsThe Art of Hearing Heartbeats 

Written by Jan-Philipp Sendker
Translated from German by Kevin Wiliarty 
Published January 31, 2012 by Other Press
Genre/Topics: Adult Fiction, Cultural, Romance 
325 pages 

Three Word Review: Dry, Anticlimactic, Slow

If you cannot notice by my word review, I didn’t really enjoy The Art of Hearing Heartbeats. Julia Win’s father disappears and a possible clue is the discovery of a unmailed love letter written decades earlier by her father, Tin Win. The address is in Burma, so Julia leaves New York in search of her father. She meets an elderly man, U Ba, who claims he knows Tin Win’s past and his deep love for Mi Mi. The story is mainly told through his eyes as Julia learns about a passionate side of her father that she wasn’t aware of. Tin Win and Mi Mi depend upon each other and have a special intimate bond. I won’t spoil the beating heartbeats message.

I didn’t enjoy The Art of Hearing Heartbeats for several reasons. I thought the story had great potential with a passionate love in another country. In my opinion, it lacked character depth and never really reached a climax. U Ba’s narrative was dry and at times I was glad I wasn’t Julia trying to stay awake listening. I felt the book left me hanging and ended suddenly. There were ‘ah’ moments between Tin Win and Mi Mi and I’m sure many would enjoy this book, but it lacked too many elements for me.

Book Review: Yoon and the Jade Bracelet

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Yoon and the Jade Bracelet 

Written by Helen Recorvits
Illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska
Published August 5th 2008 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Genre/Topics: Realistic Fiction, Cultural, Korean, Bullying, Friendship
Ages: 6-9, 32 pages 

More than anything Yoon wants to fit in at school and make friends, so what she desires for her birthday is a jump rope. Yoon believes that the children will let her play jump rope with them and she’ll finally have some friends. When it is her birthday, Yoon’s mother gives her a Korean story book about a little girl who tricked a tiger. The special present Yoon receives is a jade bracelet that was her grandmother’s. Symbols inside the jade bracelet mean Shining Wisdom. Neither present is a jump rope, but Yoon pretends to be happy. At school a girl notices her jade bracelet and tells Yoon how beautiful it is. If she lets Yoon wear it the girl promises to be her friend and she can jump rope. Yoon knows deep down that she shouldn’t give such a special item, but she finally lets the girl borrow it for one day. However, the girl doesn’t give it back and Yoon’s mother believes she lost it. Yoon begs to have her jade bracelet back and tells the teacher it is hers. The teacher asks Yoon how she can prove it is hers. Yoon whispers that inside it is written Shinning Wisdom, but the other girl can’t tell what it says. Yoon gets her jade bracelet back and is the tiger who tricked the girl.

I really enjoyed Yoon and the Jade Bracelet, since you may not see this type of bullying often in books. It shows the cultural importance between her mother. Yoon is the same character from My Name is Yoon.

Book Review: Dumpling Days

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Dumpling Days 

Written by Grace Lin 
Published January 2, 2012 
Genre/Topics: Realistic Fiction, Cultural, Taiwan, Family 
Ages: 8+, 272 pages 
 


Pacy Lin travels to Taiwan, for the first time with her two sisters and parents for her grandmother’s sixtieth birthday. Only the parents are excited to return to their homeland. Pacy may look like everyone else, but she feels out of place and has difficulty understanding people. Soon Pacy gains an identity and explores Taiwan. There are delicious foods everywhere, but Pacy falls in love with any type of dumpling. She even states the following: ‘There was no day that dumplings couldn’t make better’. She attends a Taiwan painting class and struggles with the techniques. Eventually, the time in Taiwan quickly ends and the sisters take fond memories of their adventure.

I thought Dumpling Days was a delightful book. It was humorous, but you also gained cultural awareness. There are simple black and white pictures throughout the book. The story is actually based on the author’s first experience travelling to Taiwan as a child.

 
 

Book Review: My Name is Yoon

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My Name is Yoon 

Written by Helen Recorvits
Illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska
Published April 3, 2003 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux 
Genre/Topics: Cultural, Realistic Fiction, Korean 
Ages: 6+, 32 pages
Awards: Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award (2004), Bank Street – Best Children’s Book of the Year (2008)
 

Yoon has moved to the United States from Korea and now must adjust to her new life. Her father tells her that now she must learn how to write her name in English. However, Yoon doesn’t want to write her name in English and feels her name looks happy in Korean. It means Shining Wisdom, but her father reminds her that even when written in English her name still means Shining Wisdom. When she attends school she learns about cat and must write her name on the paper, but she doesn’t want to write Yoon. Instead, she wrote cat on each line. Yoon doesn’t fit in and has no friends. She wants to go back to Korea where she is happy and the teacher likes her. A girl at recess gives Yoon a cupcake and Yoon decides that her schoolmates will like her if she is a cupcake. Finally, she writes her name as Yoon. She writes her name in English and it means Shining Wisdom.

I enjoyed this cultural book about fitting into a new place. Yoon wanted to still be in Korea and didn’t want to fit in at first. Slowly, she learned that different is good and she can still be herself too.

Yoon’s name written in Korean.

 

Book Review: Uncle Peter’s Amazing Chinese Wedding

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Uncle Peter’s Amazing Chinese Wedding 

Written by Lenore Look 
Illustrated by Yumi Heo 
Published January 3, 2006 by Atheneum/Anne Schwartz Books
Genre/Topics: Realistic Fiction, Cultural, Chinese Wedding, Family 
Ages: 6+, 40 pages 

 

This is a cute story told from the perspective of a young girl named Jenny who is the only person not happy that her favorite uncle is getting married. Normally, she loves weddings but she is her Uncle Peter’s special girl and feels that he is leaving her. As Jenny puts it ‘I am the jelly on his toast, and the leaves in his tea’. Everyone else is joyous and celebrating, but Jenny is sad. The book describes the Chinese wedding process and what the day would be like hundreds of years ago. Uncle Peter drives his car to pick up the bride, but is told that he can’t see her yet and must pay up. So the groom bargains and finally pays two hundred dollars until the bride appears wearing a red dress. It’s time for the tea ceremony where the bride is officially part of the family and she serves tea. Jenny has a sneaky idea and empties the tea-pot and puts just water to get the bride in trouble. Jenny’s mother  talks with her and finally Jenny understands to be happy for uncle. The wedding fun continues with exchanging red money packets, speeches, outfit changes, and dancing. The bride gives Jenny a special box filled with butterflies and tells her thanks for sharing your amazing uncle.

Today, my sister is getting married so hopefully everything is amazing. I’m even a bridesmaid, so I should have lovely photos to share.

 

A Piñata in a Pine Tree

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A Piñata in a Pine Tree: A Latino Twelve Days of Christmas

By Pat Mora, illustrated by Magaly Morales

Ages 5 & up, 32 pages

A Piñata in a Pine Tree is a delightful Spanish version of Twelve Days of Christmas. The only English is the first line on each page then the other items are listed in Spanish. Instead of a true love the girl receives gifts from her amiga. The pictures are colorful and capture a festive Christmas mood. The end of the book provides a glossary and pronunciation guide. The author also highlights Latino traditions, such as luminarias (paper lanterns) with a brown bag that has a candle inside. Luminarias symbolize lighting the way for the Christ Child. Another tradition mentioned are various foods eaten, such as pastelitos (small pies or turnovers) and tamales. The illustrator explained that the Twelve days of Christmas begin on December 26 and end on January 6 when Los Reyes Magos (Three Wise Men) visit young children with gifts. I enjoyed this cultural and informative book.

Gifts received:

Uno piñata in a pine tree
Dos pastelitos (two turnovers)
Tres tamalitos (meat wrapped in corn husks)
Cuatro luminarias (four paper lanterns)
Cinco guitarritas (five guitars)
Seis trompos girando (six spinning tops)
Siete burritos bailando (seven dancing donkeys)
Ocho pajaritos serenando (eight serenading birds)
Nueve campanitas sonando (nine bells ringing)
Diez estrellitas saltando (ten stars skipping)
Once lunitas cantando (eleven singing moons)
Doce angelitos celebrando (twelve angels rejoicing)