Expanding Our World with Books

Article excerpt

Byline: Brandy Hilboldt Allport, Times-Union staff writer

Paddington Bear's adventures involve sticky marmalade sandwiches and his befuddled ideas about humans. Harry Potter is all about magic and friendship and intellectual curiosity.

Children love these characters for their likable, entertaining personalities, and as they read these stories, children pick up bits of information about other cultures.

Paddington and Potter reveal that a "lift" is an elevator, and in England, the yard is "the garden." Fans of the irrepressible Eloise know from Eloise in Moscow that blizzards are a regular occurrence there and that "da" is Russian for yes and "nyet" means no.

Today's first selection is an entertaining story about a big sister and baby brother, and it's packed with information about Chinese culture.

-- Title: Henry's First Moon Birthday

-- Author and illustrator: Lenore Look/Yumi Heo

-- Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers

-- Price: $16

-- Ages: 4 to 8

Jenny's baby brother, Henry, is 1 month old, and Chinese tradition calls for a first-moon birthday celebration. The party involves a lot of yummy food and visits from many relatives.

The story is told from Jenny's point of view, and the childlike illustrations make it seem like she drew them. It is as if readers are leafing through a scrapbook.

This is GninGnin (never Grandmother or Granny or Grandma) and me working fast as machines. She boils a million eggs. She hands me a hungbau [a red envelope used for monetary gifts] and shows me how to dip it into water to make the red dye come off. Then she runs the hungbau all over an egg, turning it red. They are lucky eggs to welcome the baby. Look at silly me. Red as a firecracker.

Jenny helps her grandmother with every aspect of the party, calling Daddy in from his spot underneath the car where he is doing repairs. She watches and learns as GninGnin writes Chinese symbols for good-luck words on a cloth for everyone to read. GninGnin made the ink, and it is so interesting. Jenny decides to give the ink a try, first making a spaceship and a dinosaur before making an escape when GninGnin discovers the mess on the kitchen floor. …