Sunday, December 13, 2015

Two new children's books from The China Institute in America: Bowls of Happiness & What Was It Like, Mr. Emperor? [Review & Giveaway]

The China Institute in America has created four books to aid children as an  introduction in today's diverse communities to the Chinese culture. The “We All Live in the Forbidden City” four-book series is part of the institute's children’s programming aiming to bridge the Asian culture gap through educational resources and regional workshops.

The first two titles, In the Forbidden City and This Is The Greatest Place! was reviewed on Chat With Vera (click titles for my reviews) launched last fall. School Library Journal praised In the Forbidden City for taking a “potentially complicated and confusing subject accessible and fascinating without oversimplifying it.” Kirkus Reviews called it “an impressive introduction to the Forbidden City.”

Two more installments continue the tradition of “We All Live in the Forbidden City” books: Bowls of Happiness (ages 4+) and What Was It Like, Mr. Emperor? (ages 8+) celebrate the Forbidden City, and the study of architecture, imperial life, and Chinese cultural history in an attempt to make it accessible, appealing, and relevant to children, parents, and teachers.

Bowls of Happiness (ages 4-8)

ISBN13: 9780989377645
Created by internationally renowned artists Brian Tse and Alice Mak, this China Institute book teaches children about Chinese artwork and culture and their universal spirit of generosity, love, and respect for nature. The loveable illustrations are coupled with photographs of porcelain art found in the Palace Museum’s collection. Kids learn about how bowls are made and be able to draw their own Bowl of Happiness after reading the story.

Piggy's mom loves her so much that she has decided to make a special porcelain bowl just for her. As mom makes the bowl, Piggy enters the world being painted on its outside. There she meets and learns about the animals used on these Chinese artworks and the messages of happiness and good-fortune that they convey.

My thoughts: This is not your typical children's book though it is slated for ages 4-8. It is a sweet story of a mom and her little one, Piggy. Mom is making a Bowl of Happiness for Piggy and it is replete with symbolism particular to China's culture. On the pages before the actual picture book section, there is information for the parents on the establishment of The China Institute and of cultural symbolism in China. This is followed by the beautifully illustrated of Mom and Piggy and happiness.

The next section shows various bowls and details the symbolism of the shape, color, and designs. This is interesting and educational. I venture to say we won't pick up a bowl in the future without contemplating what it represents.

I think that the cutoff age of 8 is a bit young as older students and adults will benefit from the educational aspects of this small book.

The story is sweet and cute and will make everyone look at the designs on bowls a bit differently in the future.

What Was It Like, Mr. Emperor? (ages 8+)

ISBN13: 9780989377669
Engaging stories take kids through the average life of an emperor and learn about the real people who lived in the palace, including the prince who fought off a rebel invasion, the palace maids who lived in the Inner Court, the emperor who ruled twice, and the emperor who loved crickets.

Author Chiu Kwong-chiu is an artist, designer, and professor who explores Chinese traditional visual arts and adopts groundbreaking methods to interpret and promote Chinese art and culture.

My thoughts: Illustrated with strong colors and bold black lines, the history of China's emperors is show in brief descriptions of each emperor from about 4,000 BC until the demise of the line of emperors. Some were liked and some were not. Some were successful and some were not. They were considered to be endowed with power bestowed by Heaven and revered. They were the highest. I feel that from this treatise of emperors leadership in China there is very little take away information from which the reader will profit. There is satirical humor. Bubble captions. Mentions of eunuchs and concubines. And then of concubines racing to see who could provide an heir first.

As with other royals, the emperors had food tasters because they feared being poisoned. They were well taken care of by the court physicians. Some lived and ruled long and some very short periods. I learned that the original five emperors ruled over five areas (like chiefs) and then there was a unifying to become China.

There was some interesting information about palace life and the love of beauty. The concubines or women must have specific types of beauty, wear certain attire and jewelry, etc. Life in the palace for the emperor and all those who serve him was certainly different from life today - even "royal" life.

GIVEAWAY: A copy of each of these books will be sent to one winner here at Chat With Vera. Begins 12/13 & ENDS 12/28 @ 12:01 A.M. ET

a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of each book to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own. I was not compensated for this review. Giveaway is provided by publicist, PRbytheBook.


  1. I think these books are interesting because our family does not have a huge amount of background knowledge concerning ancient Chinese history.

    allibrary (at) aol (dot) com

  2. I have not yet been to China.

    allibrary (at) aol (dot) com

  3. I love children's books. I used to read all the time to my kids and now I read to my grand kids.

  4. No, I have never visited China. Would be nice though. Someday......

  5. I haven't been to China yet, but I have little doubt I will get there someday. I'm so excited about this series of books and really hope to include them when we study China later this year in our homeschool! Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday this week! It's a pleasure having you!

    1. Thanks for your email about connecting with this publisher. I've been so busy, I haven't gotten a chance to do so yet, but I hope to soon!

      Thanks so much for being a part of’s Booknificent Thursdays weekly link-up party! Happy New Year!

  6. I have not visited China. I am a homebody, for the most part, and would like to explore more of America before I travel to other countries.

  7. I have never been to China but the person I am in a relationship with is Chinese, so I would not be surprised if we go someday with my daughter!

  8. I would love for my daughter and I to learn more about China. My mother also is an elementary school teacher and does a large lesson on China during CHinese New YEar. These books would be great to have for both of those reasons. Thanks so much for the chances to win.

  9. Never been to China. I want to go to Italy.

  10. i like that China is full of history & religious loyalty. I also enjoy that they embrace American culture & incorporate it into their country.

  11. I've never been there. I've wanted to visit Australia.


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