Book Review! Brandon Goes to Hong Kong

In Eugenia Chu’s latest book, you don’t just get the delight of a journey to another land. There’s a mystery right away, in the form of a tantalizing flash of red in the air!

Book: Brandon Goes to Hong Kong Xiānggǎng (香港) (out now!) by Eugenia Chu.

Age range: 7-11 years, but adults will enjoy it, too!

Description: While on a trip to Hong Kong, Brandon thinks he sees a great red dragon – but is it real or imaginary? Join Brandon as he tours the city and learns about dragons in this multicultural, multigenerational chapter book which includes some Mandarin Chinese (Simplified) with Pinyin pronunciation throughout, adding educational elements of the Chinese language and culture. Is Brandon the only one who sees the dragon? Can legendary or mythical creatures ever be real? What do you believe?

I received a copy for review.

I love how real this book feels.

A child can get right into what Brandon is experiencing and is excited about. Speaking of which, I also love how Brandon gets so excited about learning Chinese words, there’s a part where he wants to say different greetings all at once!

And you don’t just get the delight of a journey to another land. There’s a mystery right away, in the form of a tantalizing flash of red in the air! This mystery, soon revealed to be the enticing “Could it be a dragon?” follows you throughout the book and appears in many delightful ways.

The author does a superb job of anchoring the reader in the environment Brandon is in while acknowledging that the reader may not know some things, such as time differences and the effect they have on us, and what dialect is. The explanations and asides are both very welcome and non-intrusive, and are easy for a child (or adult!) to retain as they go through the story.

I also appreciated other connections made with Brandon’s life back home, such as the smell of chlorine from the hotel pool reminding him of playing with his friends.

As well, Brandon shows maturity and depth that are good guides for the children reading this story: Empathy, curiosity, relief, respect for his parents and other elders, and compassion. This is balanced out by the dragon mystery that it seems only the children and animals in the book believe in!

The descriptions in this book are marvelous. The author shows a superb command of language to use concise descriptors that set the scenes and fill the imagination. Accompanying illustrations appear at just the right time with the perfect amount of detail that a child can spend time gazing at.

Also, this book made me hungry. I won’t soon forget the delectable descriptions of the food.

The questions at the end of each chapter are outstanding. Thought-provoking and provide a way for solitary readers to dig deeper, or for an older reader to interact with the child.

And perhaps best of all, the author chooses to leave the question of belief up to the reader.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Eugenia Chu is one to watch. Start collecting her books now!

Buy: Brandon Goes to Hong Kong Xiānggǎng (香港)!

You’re Never Too Old for Picture Books

A few from my collection–including my own!

Pamela Paul thinks that picture books are the real wizards of the literary world:

“With remarkable economy, they excel at the twin arts of visual and textual storytelling. Anyone who has ever read a picture book to a child has witnessed this magic firsthand. You’ll be reading along aloud and the child will laugh, not at anything you’ve read but at something she has read in the pictures. While you are reading one story, told in words, she is reading another, told through art. The illustrator doesn’t merely reflect the words on the page; she creates an entire narrative of her own, adding details, creating secondary story lines.”

-Pamela Paul, Your Kids Aren’t Too Old for Picture Books, and Neither Are You

Mind you, I think the literary world can hold many different types of wizards and wizardry. Yet along with other genres, I have deliberately kept picture books of my past, just as deliberately bought others as an adult (or had them gifted to me), and I write them, myself. The allure is real!

In my own personal history, I don’t recall learning how to read. I don’t remember any transition from the world of picture books to the ones with casual illustrations, or any subsequent transition to books with images just on the chapter headers or none at all. Books were just there to consume.

But since I retained some of my own childhood books, I’d like to think that while there was some adroit guidance of my reading, it was also allowed to unfold on its own. (About the only thing I do remember is my dad steering me away from the Large Print books in the children’s section of the library, telling me, “You don’t need those.” Nowadays, I do, ha.)

What are your favorite picture books? Do the ones you loved as a child still resonate with you today? What new ones spark your interest?

A list of reading around the world

There are books for each nation in author Ann Morgan’s amazing list! From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, expand your mind’s eye horizons with these recommendations: The List