Years ago when I began to learn Chinese with my daughter, I had a hard time finding interesting books with Pinyin and English. If only I knew about Candied Plums back then when we were overwhelmed and completely illiterate!
A few months ago, I bought some of Candied Plums books on Amazon and discovered that they are perfect for non-fluent families like ours
Great news: some of these books have free narration on Ximalaya FM.
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About Candied Plums
Candied Plums is a publisher that specializes in Chinese books for Mandarin learners and picture book lovers.
Their titles are contemporary works from China which have been reprinted to include:
- Simplified Chinese and Hanyu Pinyin as the main text
- Glossary of key Chinese words with English translations
- Thumbnail illustrations with full English translation of the story at back of the book
Chinese Books with Pinyin and English from Candied Plums
The content of the Chinese books is quite varied, ranging from realistic to fiction. Some were immediately interesting and relatable for my children (5-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son). Others will be better understood with time and repeat readings.
Pinyin and English are definite perks for non-native Chinese speakers. Since I’m trying to spend less time on my phone, I am glad that I don’t need to check my Chinese dictionary apps while reading these books.
Finally, the Chinese-style illustrations are beautiful and vivid while also gentle on the eyes. This is a refreshing change from most contemporary books which feature cartoons with disproportionate body parts and bold, overly stimulating colors. More books by Chinese authors is always a bonus, and we have needed some balance with the hundreds of translated books in our home library!
Related: Chinese books with Pinyin
General downside of Chinese books with Pinyin
For those who are learning to read Chinese, the downside of all Pinyin books (not just Candied Plums) is that Pinyin often distracts from the Chinese character. There are 2 problems that I hope to changed in future publications:
- Move Pinyin from above to below the Chinese character (since people read from top to bottom)
- Lighten the Pinyin color. Since the Pinyin is the same color as the Chinese characters, they are visually equal and thus difficult for Pinyin-dependent readers to concentrate on the Chinese characters. Please see my Chinese Library Series review for examples of light-colored Pinyin font.
However, I am forgiving of this drawback, because relatively few bilingual books with Pinyin have interesting stories.
I also appreciate the English translations that are at the back of the book. Since my Chinese skills are limited, the English translation serves as a scaffold for improving comprehension of the Chinese text.
I also prefer the location of the English text away from the Chinese characters (in contrast to the placement in books such as Sagebooks). This placement allows for English to serve as a reference without visually competing with the Chinese characters.
Photos of Candied Plums Chinese Books for Kids
Here’s a closer look at 6 Candied Plums books we that have read!
1. 安的种子 (Ān dì zhǒngzǐ / An’s Seed)
- 作者 (Author): 王早早 (Wang Zaozao)
- ISBN: 9781945295133
- Where to buy:
- Where to listen: Ximalaya
During winter, Ben, Jing, and An each receive a dormant lotus seed from their master. While Ben and Jing rush off to plant their seeds, An goes about regular life. The other boys are unable to get the seed to sprout, while An waits patiently for spring. The story teaches children the important virtues of patience and hard work.
Our first experience with the author, 王早早, was through the Chinese Festivals Stories Collection of 12 books 中国记忆(传统节日共12册). This story is actually easier to read than the festival books because the language is relatively simple and there are only 1-2 lines of text on each page.
2. 借尾巴 (Jiè wěibā / Where’s My Tail)?
A young gecko loses his tail from a snake bite, and he asks various animals for help. He is hoping for the animals to lend him their tails, but they each decline, expressing concern that they cannot function without their tails. At the end of the story, he tells his mother how he lost his tail. Without realizing it, he had grown his tail back!
Although we tend to prefer realistic stories over those with talking animals, I think this is a wonderful book. This is my 2-year-old son’s absolute favorite story, and even my 5-year-old daughter learned something from it! We actually don’t have any books about geckos, so we learned it’s Chinese name 壁虎 (bìhǔ) and it’s amazing ability to regenerate it’s tale! Plus, it’s so fun for toddlers to see the tail and guess the animal on the subsequent page!
We happen to have a beautiful Korean science book about animals and their tails, which perfectly pairs with 借尾巴!
3. 西西 (Xīxī / Cee Cee)
Throughout the story, a girl sits alone on a bench while her classmates are busy playing tag, hopscotch, and other playground games. All of the children are wondering why she appears to sit alone and isn’t joining the fun. At the end of the book, we learn that the girl was patiently sitting for an artist who was painting her portrait!
This book has very detailed and somewhat crowded illustrations (in contrast to the other books here) that reflects the amount of children and action at the playground surrounded the solitary girl. When my children enjoy studying the different people on each page and looking for Cee Cee, I am reminded of the Where’s Waldo series, albeit a subdued version with the soft choice of colors. This wonderful story ended up sparking discussions with my daughter about keeping an eye out for children who are sitting alone and learning more about them!
Related: Realistic Chinese Stories for Kids
4. 小兔子的问题 (Xiǎo tùzǐ de wèntí / Little Rabbit’s Questions)
Little Rabbit plays outside and asks his mama many questions.
“Why are your eyes so big?”
“Why are your ears so long?”
Each reply is filled with heartwarming motherly love. This is a sweet anthropomorphic story with gorgeous Chinese brush paintings, subtly introducing children to beautiful artwork on each page.
5. 冰糖葫芦谁买 (Bīngtánghúlu shéi mǎi? / Who Wants Candied Hawberries?
An elderly man sells 冰糖葫芦 (bīngtánghúlu / candied hawberries) on the streets of Beijing, and he needs money to buy medicine for his wife.
A child shows great interest in his dessert, but he still has so much to sell. Then, suddenly, all of these cats-in-clothing appear, waiting for hawberries.
Thanks to these cats, the hawberry peddler earns enough money to buy his wife medicine.
After reading Bao Dongni’s poignant 满月 (Full Moon) book, I have been looking for more books by this Chinese author. This story has a much lighter feel and is actually quite whimsical.
We’re still trying to figure out what those cats are doing, and my 2-year-old son has fun looking for cats on each page!
On the other hand, my 5-year-old daughter was first drawn to the hawberries, which she recognized from the Chinese YouTube Cooking videos by Tinrry. It was wonderful to see her smile when seeing a familiar cultural dessert, even though we have not tried it in person.
6. 谁吃了我的栗子 (Shéi chīle wǒ de lìzǐ?) Who ate my Chestnut?
One winter, a squirrel finds a chestnut and buries it beneath a tree. To his surprise, when the snowfall stops, he cannot find his chestnut! Throughout the book, he follows footsteps in the snow and tries to figure out which animal has eaten his chestnut.
This is another fun book for my son who loves to play hide-and-seek and other object permanence games!
- 作者 (Author): Lei Xia
- ISBN: 9781945295089
- Where to buy:
- Where to listen: Ximalaya
In summary, I highly recommend Candied Plums’ Chinese books with Pinyin and English for non-fluent families!
RELATED CHINESE BOOKS FOR KIDS
- Ximalaya FM has thousands of Chinese stories for children for free, and we listen to our favorites almost everyday! Since the entire website and app is in Chinese, please refer to this guide if you cannot read Chinese.
- Here are other Chinese children’s books with Pinyin
- Check our all of our favorite Chinese book recommendations for kids! Each week, I will be adding book reviews to this website!
WHERE TO BUY CHINESE BOOKS FOR KIDS
RECOMMENDED ARTICLES ABOUT HOW TO TEACH KIDS CHINESE
- Tips on creating a Chinese learning environment at home
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RECOMMENDED BILINGUAL FACEBOOK PARENTING GROUPS
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- Montessori-inspired Kids Learning Chinese and English
- Christian Parents Raising Bilingual Children in English & Chinese
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