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.
This is the first Chinese book Little Man accepted after rejecting many many of them. He is sooooooo picky. 🙄 For a long time this was the only book he would read.
The beauty of this book is the cute and humorous illustrations, and it’s very easy to understand even for the child who doesn’t know much Chinese. The meaning of each sentence is evident in the picture.
Aside from counting 1-10, it has a funny twist: 数不清 (uncountable) bees!
We’ve read this so many times that Little Man can recite entire sentences from this book. He normally speaks in 1-2 words in Chinese so it is amazing to hear full sentences coming out from his mouth!
After reading this book a hundred times, I got a little bored so I replaced them with my own words, e.g. “首先有一个… 草莓” (“First there was a… strawberry”). This makes Little Man giggle to no end and he loves making up his own silly sentences too.
This book is by a Japanese author/illustrator Hiroshi Ito who has written several other acclaimed children’s books shown below. I’m looking into buying some more. 🙂
At that point, our home consisted of maybe 3 Chinese books. Hence began a frenzy of Chinese book acquisition of 100+ books, most of which I regret buying.
In this post I will share what I’ve learned about buying books for my angmohkia (AKA. westernized child who is dominant in and prefers English). Save yourself hundreds of dollars 💵 from NOT buying these books. You’re welcome.
Mistake #1: “Good character” books
A large percentage of Chinese books are about how to be a good kid and have good manners. If your child is used to English books with funny and exciting adventures he will not like these. Because BORING.
Seriously why are there so many of these… 🙄
Mistake #2: Books that are written for children in China 🇨🇳
Can you say culture shock? My boy was horrified that animals and people get beaten and DIE in these books. Up until then I did not realize that all English books have happy endings and nobody ever dies. 😬
Seriously though, culture in China and USA are polar opposites. My son does not relate to Chinese books that are too… Chinese.
Mistake #3: Books that are too childish
My son is currently 5 years old with the Chinese comprehension of a 3 year old. I cleverly (or so I thought) sourced out books like Dr. Seuss and Elmer Elephant that are at his level of comprehension so he can understand them.
BIG MISTAKE. My son outgrew these toddler books years ago has zero interest in reading them.
Note: The books shown below are actually pretty good. They are just not developmentally appropriate or interesting to a 5 y.o.
Mistake #4: Books by non-professional authors
Most English books are by renowned authors and illustrators, and you can be assured that they are of a certain caliber otherwise they wouldn’t be published. Not so for Chinese. There are many Chinese publishers that will publish works by any random person. I don’t think you can even call them authors.
Mistake #5: Novelty books
Books these days come with a lot of bells and whistles. Toys, push buttons, projector, magic pen… you name it. While they do capture the child’s interest at the start, the novelty wears off really quick!
For the $20 I spent on this fancy schmancy book, I could’ve bought four quality hardcover picture books. Not worth it IMO. 😣
So there you have it. This is part I of a series of posts I will share about building our library at home. 敬请期待! To be continued…
I ❤️️ book and CD sets. This book and 《两只老虎》 are my best purchases from Popular bookstore from our last trip back to Singapore.
The book is nothing special but it’s really easy to understand, with only one sentence per page. Really good for younger kids (2+) and beginning Chinese learners.
The book contains four short stories. The 5 minute length of each story is just right for my active-boy-with-short-attention-span.
I was expecting the audiobook to be of poor quality, but much to my pleasant surprise, it is really good!! I enjoy listening to it as it helps me with 朗读 (reading aloud), which is really not one of my talents. Listening to the narrator makes me realize that I read much too fast and lack in expression and intonation.
We listen in the car, which is when Little Man has the best attention because he is nothing else to do. He loves to read along with the audiobook. This of course is the best part. Improving listening and reading at the same time!
What I don’t like about it is… it’s soooo naggy! Never thought that I would be nagged to death by an audiobook?!! At the end of each story, the narrator goes on and on about how to be careful, don’t take stuff from strangers, don’t stray away from your mom and dad.. blahblahblah. Tempted to skip those tracks but Little Man didn’t complain so we just listened to it.
We have 2 out of 4 books in the series. I’d like to find other book/CD sets of similar lower listening levels, but not much luck so far. Little Man is not ready to listen to audiobooks without any pictures. Let me know if you have any suggestions!
Where to buy: Popular bookstore in Singapore or Malaysia. Popular Online, only ships within Malaysia.
Cost: $8.90 SGD
Publisher: Popular Book Corporation
Connect with me via Facebook or Instagram! I would love to hear your feedback and suggestions.
I bought this book because it was featured on a few blogs. It really is that good!
This is a translated book by English author Mike Smith about a bus driver who got bored with his normal route and decided to go off the beaten path. He picks up more and more passengers and they keep building more levels until… yup, they reach 100!
The illustrations are soooo cute and detailed. We’ve read this book at least 10 times and we’re still discovering new things.
The bus has really interesting things on it like a swimming pool, hotel, ice cream shop, apple orchard, petting zoo, bouncy castle.. basically all the things preschoolers love! I enjoy discussing the pictures with Little Man, and of course learning these vocabulary in Chinese.
The funnest (my made up word) thing is the fold up page of the 100 decker bus! As tall as my 5 y.o. 😉
He counted them and there really are 100 levels. 😂
The only bad thing is… this author has written justthis one book?! What??? He is such a talented author/illustrator he really needs to write more. Ok maybe I will look up his email and tell him that.
When I first started buying Chinese books, I did not make very wise choices. As such I have 30-ish books that are rejected by my son and remain unread and untouched. 😣
I’ve learned from my mistakes and now devote a lot of time researching and finding Chinese literature that appeal to ang moh kia, i.e. westernized children whose preferred language is English.
I’ll share my son’s favorite reads on this blog so you don’t do the same thing I did – throw money 💵 down the drain!
《生气王子》is a really cute and funny book about a prince and king who have explosive tempers. By the end of the book they learn to control themselves by singing a “don’t get angry” song. 😆
Little Man adores the illustrations, especially the amusement park and superhero outfits (see pics). These things are very relatable to his life which I think is why he likes this book so much.
This is actually a pretty long book, probably the longest we’ve read to date. But it captures Little Man’s interest (despite his limited Chinese ability) and he requests this book frequently.
We have two other books by the same author:
Little Man likes these two only ok.
What I like best is they are written by a Chinese (Taiwanese) author 赖马 so it’s in its original language and not a translated book. I hope to find more Chinese authors with similar style. If you know of any please comment and let me know!
April 2018 Update:
I would also recommend 《十二生肖的故事》and《爱哭公主》 by the same author. My son loves both of these as well.
Price: ~$3-4 USD (not incl. shipping)
Buy from: Multiple sellers on Taobao
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中秋节 is coming up on October 4 this year! I wanted to get a book so that we can learn about it together, because… erm… I actually know nothing about it. 😝
I like to get 全套 (whole set) of books because it saves so much time, hassle, and $$ compared to buying each book individually:
And now I have books for all the Chinese holidays for the whole year. Sweet.
I was worried Little Man wouldn’t like these traditional Chinese stories but surprisingly enough he does! He has asked to read《中秋节》every day for over a week now.
He’s quite fascinated by the shooting suns with bows and arrows, thievery, sword brandishing… BOYS. 🙄
His Chinese is not strong so I had to translate almost everything at first. With each reading though, he understands more and more, and now I can read the whole book to him without translating.
The illustrations are so cute! This is Little Man’s first exposure to 古装 (ancient Chinese outfits) and he finds their hair and outfits very interesting indeed.
Overall, I’m very pleased with this《中秋节》book and think this set is super value-for-money. I can see us using it for several years to come.
Warning: ⚠️ I never realized that Chinese legends are so violent?! There is a fair bit of mature content like scary monsters, death, committing suicide (端午节 and 元宵节), and stealing women’s clothes while they are bathing in the lake (七夕). 😱😱😱 Definitely pre-read to see if your child is ready to handle these topics!!!