Mystery is my #1 favorite genre. From Enid Blyton’s Five Find-Outers and Famous Five to Encyclopedia Brown and Agatha Christie… Even now as an adult I still love whodunnits!
I’d like to share my love for mysteries with my son but they are rare for this age group. He LOVED Nate the Great (in English) when he was 4.5:
So I bought him this lovely set of bilingual Nate the Great books:
Alas, these continue to be unread, untouched, and unloved to date. I learned the hard way that Little Man refuses anything in Chinese that he’s already read in English. 😕
The only other detective series I’ve found for preschoolers is… 屁屁侦探 (Butt Detective)! Thank you to the mom who recommended it to me as one of the books her 5 y.o. daughter loves. Little Man loves them too because who doesn’t love a butt-faced Detective??!
The Simplified Chinese version comes with four books (for some reason in Traditional Chinese there are FIVE books, there is a black one that is not available in Simplified. WHY?!). Each book has a kid-friendly mystery like missing ball, stolen treats, etc. and you help Butt Detective solve them by looking for clues.
Every page is fun and interactive as it has an “I Spy” or a maze. The illustrations are typical Japanese style – very cute!
Of course, the best part is when Butt Detective catches the bad guy, he makes a big stinky fart (噗 is pronounced pū. I learned this character from reading this book) and the bad guy faints from it.
I love this series because it introduced Little Man to a lot of detective vocabulary like 委托人 (client), 案件 (case), 可疑 (suspicious), 线索 (clues), 绑架 (kidnap) and many other words that he did not know before. These books look deceptively simple but actually have a lot of advanced vocabulary. Really good for building Chinese language skills. 🙂
This is Little Man’s favorite page… finding 10 butts in the picture. If you enlarge the picture, you’ll see that it says “把10个屁股的图案找出来吧!” 😂
I really want to find more mysteries appropriate for young children. Please share if you know any!
Buy from: Taobao (you know this is where I get everything) or Maha Yuyi in Singapore
This Japanese-translated bestseller was recommended to me by a friend and I bought it not expecting much. I looked at a few sample pages online and it didn’t seem that special…
But, she was right and I was wrong. I LOVE THIS SERIES. ❤️❤️❤️
The first thing I should tell you is that you should buy the entire series (22 books). Or at least buy the first set of 12 books. Each book is a stand-alone story but there are many running gags:
Book 1: 鼠小弟的小背心 Little Mouse’s Vest
Book 3: 鼠小弟的又一件小背心 Little Mouse’s Other Vest
Book 6: 又来了！鼠小弟的小背心 Little Mouse’s Vest Again!
The stories just keep getting funnier and funnier because you know the backstory of Little Mouse’s vest. It may not make as much sense if you don’t read the books in order.
The illustrations are soooooo cute and there’s a hilarious twist on the last page of each book. This series reminds me very much of Mo Willem’s Elephant & Piggie series in terms of style and content.
The other thing I really like about Little Mouse is the vocabulary/Chinese characters are easy and repetitive. Little Man knows about 400 Chinese characters and can read most of the sentences. I think that this will be a great set for him to practice reading to gain confidence and fluency.
As you can see in the sample pages above, the lines are repetitive for most of the book “小背心真漂亮，让我穿穿好吗?” and “有点紧，不过挺好看的吧?”. This makes it really easy to understand and read, ideal for beginning Chinese learners and readers!
This series is very popular and you may be able to find it at a local Chinese library if you have one. I found eleven of them at my immersion school library:
This morning Little Man completely out of the blue said “I really like my library mom, thanks for my library.” AWWW. 😊 Allow me to bask in this moment because just a few months ago he flat out refused to read any Chinese books!
Here’s how I organized the ~350 Chinese books and ~150 English books we currently have. We have far fewer English books since there are five awesome all-English libraries within 15 mins of our house.
We used to have just one 3-cube bookcase in his bedroom, mixed English and Chinese books, and completely overflowing. This was a really terrible set up because most of the Chinese books are paperbacks with very thin spines, meaning my son pulled everything off the shelf onto the floor to look for what he wanted. URGHHH!!! Also many books were overlooked because he just didn’t see them.
In our new organization system (that I just put in place yesterday!), the 3-cube bookcase is now entirely for English books in one corner of his room. He also got a nice comfy beanbag chair for Christmas which he loves.
On the other side of his room, I bought an Ikea Billy bookcase and 12 Samla bins for Chinese books. I have it set up like a typical USA classroom library, which is books organized by genre and level, and forward facing as much as possible so that it grabs the child’s attention. Now he can browse books by bin without pulling them all into a giant pile on the floor. WIN.
The bottom two shelves are 绘本 picture books (designed for adults to read to kids) and the top shelf are 桥梁书 readers (designed for kids to read to themselves). I got a 3-shelf bookcase because it’s the perfect height for him at 5 years old. Ideally I would love the picture books in bins facing out too, but… space constraints.
The picture books are generally arranged by height from tallest to shortest. My OCD self really wishes all books were the same size so they can look perfect, but alas. For the readers on the top shelf, they are sort of arranged by reading level from left to right, with Bin 8 being the easiest and Bin 11 the hardest. I think Bin 6 looks a little pathetic being half empty so I am looking to buy some more books to fill it up. 😛
A few people asked me for book recommendations so I’ve listed the books with the following rating scale.
R = Recommended
Ok = Books that are not the greatest but my kid has somewhat enjoyed and learned something from them
TBD = To be determined because we haven’t read them yet. HAHA.
Note: 95% of my books were purchased online from Taobao but I am not able to give you direct links to them as TB sellers sell out of items fast. Also the prices fluctuate quite a bit so search around for the best price. If you are interested in the books, please copy and paste the title in Chinese and enter it into TB search. Alternatively, you can also copy the image and do an image search.
我爱阅读 蓝色系列 I Love Reading Blue series (Ok) – Some people like this but I don’t. I ended up selling them.
我爱阅读 黄色系列 I Love Reading Yellow series (Ok) – Some people like this but I don’t. I ended up selling them.
阅读123系列 Reading 123 series (R)
成语故事系列 Idiom stories series (NR)
十万个为什么系列 10,000 Why series (NR)
And finally… here is a bookcase in the basement that I refer to as my “dumping ground”. This is an old bookcase that I use to store books that are either too advanced or outgrown or books that are crap. We have a lot of books like Dr. Seuss and Elephant and Piggie that my son used to love but rarely touches anymore. So they get sent to this dumping ground for a year or so before they are purged. HAHA.
Read the rest of my Chinese Home Library blog posts:
Of the books I bought recently, Little Man loves this series the most. Which is pretty ironic because I expected him to like this the least!
This series is by Japanese author Tatsuya Miyanishi and I purchased them in a set of seven. Lately I realized that I REALLY like Japanese books because they translate better to Chinese due to similar-ish culture. I don’t like English-translated books as much since I can read English and it makes more sense to read it in the original language.
The books in this series stand alone and you can read them in any order. They are very touching tales of family, adoption, and friendship, many of them leaving me a little misty eyed. 😢 BE FOREWARNED that cute dinosaurs DIE in several of the books. At 5 y.o., Little Man does not seem particularly affected and commented that “losing your family is part of life”. I can’t decide if he’s just that pragmatic or he does not fully comprehend the deeper meaning and emotions.
The stories are really moving in a way that most children’s stories are not. It reminds me of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree because my son considers it just a nice story, but I find it completely, utterly heart wrenching. 💔
The illustrations are also surprisingly cute! I was worried Little Man would be scared by the dark illustrations since he spooks easily but he was not.
Given the longer, complex and dark plots, I’ll say that this series is appropriate for older preschoolers to early elementary. If you want to “sample” it before buying, check out the audiobook available for free on XimalayaFM. So far I’ve only found a recording of the book《你看起来好像很好吃》but I sure hope they record the others too!
Where to buy: Hardcovers can be purchased individually on China Sprout. I got mine from Taobao as a set of 7 paperbacks for about $12 USD (shipping to USA cost about $20 USD). Search for “你看起来很好吃” 系列.
Follow me on Facebook to stay updated! I’ll slowly review the 250+ books I’ve acquired in these last few months. Will only review awesome books since I don’t want to waste my time writing about crappy books. 😛
I’ve started compiling a list of audiobooks that I plan to listen with my son (5 years old). These are appropriate for preschoolers with Chinese background, or lower elementary immersion students. They are all available for free on Ximalaya! When you click on the links, you can choose to listen on the website or app:
I won’t bother describing these because you’re probably familiar with them from your own childhood. 🙂
The audiobooks above are all short stories and be listened to in any order. The two below are chapter books and are best listened in order (even though each chapter sort of stands alone). They are geared towards early elementary children and are written by Chinese authors. I’m always happy to find non-translated Chinese books because they are such a rare breed!
笨狼的故事 Stupid Wolf (34 tracks) – This is a popular series from China and is about the antics of Stupid Wolf and his friend Clever Rabbit. It reminds of Amelia Bedelia because the main character doesn’t know he’s doing something silly but the child listening can usually figure it out. 屁屁超人 Fart Boy (8 tracks) – These books are part of acclaimed Reading 123 series from Taiwan. I know my son (big fan of Captain Underpants) will love the potty humor. 💩 Ha ha.
If you’ve been following my Chinese Home Library posts, you’ll realize I bought 8 of the 11 series listed above. I like having both the book and audiobook because they really compliment each other. Last summer Little Man listened and read Nate the Great about 20x on repeat. He even read harder books like Wayside School after listening to them multiple times.
As the title states, this blog post is about sourcing Chinese books at the lowest cost possible. While I do love bookstores, buying 250 books off the shelf would cost at least $1500 USD. Not to mention they likely wouldn’t have all the books I want, which means a heck lot of time and inconvenience running to multiple stores. Not feasible.
Instead I chose to order online from China, which is both convenient (done long distance from the USA) and affordable ($340 USD for 259 books). However, it is not that easy and took me forever to figure out how to do it. A big thank you to my friend LY 😘 for helping me navigate the complicated world of Chinese e-commerce.
(By the way, this entire post is only applicable for buying books in Singapore 🇸🇬 or Malaysia 🇲🇾. If you don’t live in or plan to visit these countries, then this post will not help you. I have ordered books from China shipped to the USA, but that’s a whole different story.)
What you need to know about buying books from China, summarized in 6 words:
#1: BUY IN BULK
#2: PLAN IN ADVANCE
#1: Bulk Buying
The thing about EZBuy Prime (details below) is that shipping will cost $2.99+$8 per order, whether you buy 1 book or 100 books or 1000 books. Obviously then you should buy as many books as possible to get more bang for your buck.
Keep in mind that shipping charges apply per order. If you check out five times, you will pay the fees five times. Be smart and make one giant order.
#2: Plan in Advance
If you are like me, living overseas and wanting to pick up books during a trip back to Singapore, then plan to order two months in advance of your trip. This allows for sufficient shipping time (could take a month sea shipping), and so you can take advantage of promo codes (available once or twice a month) to save even more.
Before you start…
Make a list of all the books you want to buy. I had 20 sets of books I wanted to order, covering a good selection of picture books (for me to read to my son) and readers (for him to practice reading to himself). Refer to my post here if you’re not sure how to make a book list.
Once you are armed with your book list, continue below.
Step 1. Understand EZBuy
You are probably wondering what EZBuy is if you’ve never used it before. EZBuy is an agent that will help you buy from Taobao (e-commerce giant) in China, and it is in English which makes things that much easier. They will take care of handling issues, which are bound to happen (see Step 11 below). All prices shown on EZBuy are in Singapore dollars (SGD).
I used EZBuy once before and was very satisfied with their service. Their shipping cost is also reasonable and even cheaper than buying from TB directly. EZBuy was recommended to me by several friends and seriously, it’s awesome.
What is complicated about it is that there are two types of EZBuy service: Prime and Buy-For-Me, and chances are you will need both. Read on.
Step 2. Download both EZBuy and Taobao apps
I prefer to browse using my phone but you can also do it on your computer. Step 3. Register for EZBuy and Taobao (optional) accounts
This step is easier to do on a computer rather than phone. You will need a Singapore phone number to register for EZBuy as they will send you verification codes and other stuff. (I registered using my brother’s Singapore phone number and had him text me the codes.)
Step 4. Search for your desired items on EZBuy and add it into the Prime cart if Prime is available
Prime is the cheapest way of shipping books from China and you should most definitely choose Prime if it is available. Click “add to cart” and toggle the button to Prime. Out of the 20 sets of books I wanted, 13 were available on Prime.
If everything you want is available on Prime, then lucky you, you can skip Step 5 and go directly to Step 6.
Step 5. Cut and copy links from Taobao to EZBuy
If you’re not too picky then you could just stick to Prime books and skip this part. But I had my heart set on a few series like 奇先生妙小姐 Mr. Men and Little Miss, 鼠小弟 Little Mouse, and 我爱阅读 readers and had to have them.
For items that are not available on Prime, you can have EZBuy buy them for you, hence the name “Buy-for-Me”. Open the TB app to search for the item you want. There will likely be many sellers selling the same product so read the reviews carefully to see which sellers are reliable and sell authentic 正版 books! (In case you didn’t know, there are TB sellers that sell “fake” books. Beware of prices that are too low compared to competitors. )
After you have located the item you want, copy and paste the link from TB to EZBuy.
After copying the link, hop back to the EZBuy app. A message will automatically appear asking if you want to buy the item. Click OK to add it to your shopping cart.
Step 6. Wait for a promotional period
Confirm that you have all the items you want in your Prime cart and Buy-for-Me Shopping Cart. Be ready for check out, but do not check out yet! This is because EZBuy has fairly frequent promotions. For example, they ran a Halloween special for free agent fee + 15% off shipping from October 29-31. By waiting to place my order during this period, I saved $36 SGD ($26 USD). 👍
Sign up for their mailing list or check their website frequently for the next promo.
Step 7. Sign up for EZBuy Prime membership
Once you hit the promo period, sign up for Prime membership by clicking “Join Prime”. Since I am making a one-time purchase, I got the trial membership which is $9.90 for 5 days. If you live in Singapore, the annual membership for $99 might be worth it for you.
Step 8. Checking out
It’s finally time to check out! Confirm that all the items in your cart are correct. Items may be sold out or the price may have increased drastically. This happened to me for 2 items. 😬 Don’t worry, just search for a replacement. There are hundreds of TB sellers all selling the same product.
You will have to do two separate check outs:
The total cost =Cost of books + $2.99 + $8 (Delivery fee to your address. Waived if you pick up the package yourself from a collection center) + 7% sales tax + 4% agent fee (Waived during promo) + 3% credit card fee (Waived if you do a Singapore bank transfer).
Basically, expect to pay an extra 15% in miscellaneous fees.
Buy-For-Me Shopping Cart:
The total cost =Cost of books + 4% agent fee (Waived during promo) + shipping cost based on weight of books (15% off during promo) + 3% credit card fee. Notice the shipping cost is zero at check out and not computed until later.
Step 9. Credit card payment
This step sounds so easy, right? Wrong. If you are a USA buyer like me, very likely your credit card transactions will NOT go through due to fraud prevention. I suppose I should be glad that U.S. banks are so vigilant but I actually got pretty annoyed when card after card got declined. Fret not. Call the phone number listed on the back of your credit card, verify that it’s you making the purchases and ask them to FFS please authorize it. Once Chase authorized EZBuy (listed as 65daigou), all transactions went through after that.
I also found that I was not able to pay via the app, but could do so via the EZBuy website. Do not ask me why.
Step 10. Pay for shipping for Buy-For-Me items
You do not pay for shipping for the books in the Buy-for-Me shopping cart at check out. It is calculated ~3-5 business days later when the items arrive at EZBuy’s warehouse in China and they weigh the package. Check your EZBuy app over the next few days and they will let you know when your items arrive. Once all the items have arrived, consolidate it into one package and pay for shipping.
FYI my shipping cost was $60 SGD (or $45 USD). This sounds like a lot, but it averages to only $0.25 per book since it was for 179 books.Which goes back to what I was saying about BUYING IN BULK.
Step 11: Problem solve
Problems such as lost/damaged/wrong items are pretty common when buying from TB. Thankfully EZBuy will take care of them for you, which is why I ❤️ them. They will notify you via the app and you can easily text back in English.
This time, out of 20 items ordered, two of them had issues. Issue #1 was that TB seller increased the price before EZBuy could purchase it for me. In this case I decided to proceed with the order and “top up” the extra few dollars.
Issue #2 as shown below. I decided to cancel this order and EZBuy refunded my money very quickly. I then ordered from a different seller.
And now all my books are on their way to Singapore, where they will await my pickup in December. Yay!
Total number of books = 259
Cost of books = $370 SGD ($285 USD)
Cost of shipping and misc. charges = $76 SGD ($55 USD)
Total cost = $446 SGD ($340 USD)
Cost per book = $1.72 SGD ($1.30 USD)
Obviously, $1.30 per book is FAR less than buying from any bookstore or e-bookstore. Which makes this entire ordeal well worth it. 🙂
With this hefty purchase, I’m confident our home library will be well stocked. But I’m sure I will still pick up some more books from brick-and-mortar stores such as Grassroots Book Room, Maha Yu Yi, and of course Popular Bookstore, because books are awesome.
Stay tuned for more episodes of my Chinese Home Library series. Like and follow my Facebook page to stay updated.
Have a sufficiently large home library to build Little Man’s language and reading skills for the next two years. He is chronologically 5 years 1 month old but his comprehension level is lower than his age. Thus, my goal is to build a Chinese library appropriate for 4-7 years old.
Since I work at an immersion school and know many Taiwanese/Chinese native speakers, I shamelessly peppered them with questions about what they read as kids, what they read to their kids, what kinds of books are popular, etc. A Taiwanese friend told me she loved a set of Chinese history books called 《吴姐姐讲历史故事》, and she recalls her mother telling her many 成语典故 (idiom stories). Holy cow! 😱 It completely blew my mind that kids in Taiwan read 5000-year-Chinese-history and chengyu for fun. I did not actually buy this set because it’s a gazillion pages of Chinese text and way too hard (for me). 😛 I did however get a set of 《上下五千年》history for young kids that has more illustrations and pinyin!
Step 2: Narrow it down
After all my research, I had a more comprehensive understanding of Chinese books available out there. The next step involved finding the best fit for my son. Obviously, every child’s interests, preferences, and Chinese proficiency is different so I can’t just blanket buy all books that other parents recommend.
What I know about my son:
Likes funny and action stories
Likes book/CD sets
Likes cute, cartoony illustrations (Seriously this is one of the most important factors for him. He does not touch books that have realistic illustrations)
Does not like non-fiction
Does not like stories about nature and animals
Does not like books he has already read in English
His favorite English books are Captain Underpants, Wayside School, and Where the Sidewalk Ends, which all involve naughty children and wild storylines
Since I have just one child, the entire library can be tailored to his preferences and to an extent my own. My primary goal at this point is to hook him in and get him interested in Chinese, even if all he reads is junk. At some point we may venture into actually good literature. 😉
Step 3: Make a preliminarily list
I envision my home library as similar to a 1st grade classroom library in a typical US school, consisting of picture books and readers, organized by reading level and subject. Type A dream:
Little Man is making steady progress in reading, and I expect that in the next couple years he will be able to read easy readers (1 sentence per page), and mid-level readers (a few sentences per page). I also wanted some short chapter books that I can read to him.
I thought I should include some non-fiction books even though neither of us like them. A library wouldn’t be complete without some non-fiction books right?
My preliminary list looked like this:
Step 4: Solicit feedback
I posted the above list on FB and Instagram and received lots of helpful comments, such as Tintin is too hard for a 5 y.o., as well as other recommendations like 《屁屁侦探》(Butt Detective 😂) which I knew would be right up my son’s alley.
Based on the feedback I received, I crossed half the items off my original list! Back to the drawing board.
Step 5: And… buy them.
This is what my final list looked like:
But yet more changes occurred. I really wanted to get 40 yellow 我爱阅读 readers but it was out of stock and only the first 20 were available. 😣 I also changed my mind and decided to get Usborne non-fiction books instead of National Geographic. I figured the lift-the-flaps would at least get him flipping through the pages rather than ignore non-fiction altogether.
I finally bit the bullet and placed this order:
The total cost came under budget at $340 USD for 259 books, or $1.31 per book. I can’t wait to get them and really hope they will meet our reading needs for the next two years. I will slowly review these books as we read them.