When I was a child, one of my favorite things was traveling abroad and finding out that things I took for granted in my country did not exist in another. It really opened my eyes to realize that basic and ordinary things could be done in a totally different way somewhere else. Today, among the thousands of new books that are published every year, I like to look out for some that introduce my children to the differences that exist amongst cultures in a fun and original way. I See The Sun In China, a new book written by Dedie King and illustrated by Judith Inglese, falls into this category.
This bilingual book written in both English and Mandarin introduces American children to the life of a little girl who visits her aunt in Shanghai. The combination of Chinese characters and English text and the play between realistic photography and whimsical drawings create a visually enticing and thought-provoking book. The colors are muted and the drawings inspire the imagination while the photographs bring you right into the reality of modern China. This is not a book full of sentimentalized clichés about Asian culture. There are no dragons and people in straw hats cultivating rice fields, but rather a contemporary depiction of Shanghai and the feel of modern China. The gestures described through the visit to the aunt are daily ones and trigger curiosity about the differences and similarities between Chinese and American cultures.
I See The Sun In Nepal is the second book in the series (many more are to follow in this amazing series I hear) and follows a little girl living in a village through the minimal gestures and rhythms of her simple rural life. It is an existence centered around school and farm work, family, friends, and tradition. The daily routines are strictly established along the rising and setting of the sun. Throughout the book, we feel the magical presence of a natural environment in which people, animals and nature live in perfect harmony. A glossary is given at the end of the book to explain some of the customs of Nepal.
This series of books feels refreshing and has a calming effect at the end of a busy day by gently lulling children into a journey where surprise and suspense depend on discovering subtle cultural differences that amuse and fascinate at the same time! The fact that the books are written in both English and Chinese or Nepalese is a brilliant way to trigger curiosity about other languages. Both are available at http://www.satyahouse.com.