In Singapore, bilingualism is a skill that is encouraged in schools, and it is compulsory for all children to choose a second language (English being considered a first language here) that is related to their roots. Both J and Little E have chinese roots, and are learning mandarin in school.
Unfortunately, my own knowledge of mandarin is highly limited, but I do try my best to expose my children to the language as much as possible by reading mandarin storybooks to them. When Linn Shekinah got in touch with me to ask if I would like to review one of her books, I felt that it would be a wonderful opportunity to not only support a local author, but also introduce a new book series to J and Little E to spark their interest in mandarin.
Star Anise, Superstar is the first book in the series, and it is also the first bilingual picture book that Ms Shekinah has published with the support of MOE’s Lee Kuan Yew Bilingualism Fund. This book is available in both English-Chinese and English-Malay versions, and we opted for the English-Chinese version.
The story itself is straightforward, and emphasises the importance of family loyalty and togetherness over self-aggrandisement. As an emerging reader, J was able to read the story to himself rather well. I do like the illustrations which have a very nice local flavour to them.
I love the idea of using asian spices (such as star anise, cloves, shallot, cinnamon, ginger and chilli) as a focal point in the book, with each spice representing a different aspect of creative expression. This opens up a whole world of discovery for kids and is a great way to encourage them to explore the culinary world! The book itself comes with a game and suggested activities in a pull-out sheet and there are some free printables that you can download from the related website, but if you really want to create a multi-sensory learning journey, here are some brilliant ideas from Mum in the Making.
Judging from the size of the chinese characters in the story, it is clear that this is more of a ‘read-to-your-preschooler’ book, and although the book came with a glossary of chinese vocabulary words and phrases at the back, I was utterly unable to read the story to my children in mandarin – basically because my mandarin skills are far, far beneath the level of the book.
I would have really appreciated some hanyu pinyin (the official phonetic transcription) to help me along, or even an audiobook version…but maybe I can convince L from Little Blue Bottle to read it to me!
If you would like a copy of Star Anise, Superstar – it’s available at all major bookstores as well as online at Flip For Joy.