The Girl Mechanic of Wanzhou is a novel written for middle schoolers by author Marjorie Sayer. This book won First Runner Up for the Scholastic Asia Book Award in 2011. Asianmommy received a free copy of this book for review.
The story takes place in a village in China in 1902. Twelve-year-old Zun lives with her mother and father and spends most of her time helping her father work in the foundry. Her father designs bicycles, and she happily works alongside him.
One horrible day, Zun's parents are attacked. Her mother comes home injured, and her father does not return at all. Soon, her mother is arrested, and Zun must find a way to help bring her home safely. She starts off on a quest to find help for her mother. Shifu, Han, and Li, old friends of her parents, come to her aid.
Zun sneaks her way into the Magistrate's compound to gather information about her mother. She is armed only with a small green silk purse containing small glass bottles filled with potions from Dr. Hei. Will Zun ever find a way to set her mother free?
What I liked: This story sets the stage from the very first chapter--the details situate you in long ago China, and then a terrible tragedy strikes. Following along Zun's journey, you can't help but hope for her and root for her, feeling her joys and her sorrows deeply. This is a story well told.
What could be improved: Some of the events which unfold in this story seem utterly inconceivable, but I suppose that is the purpose of fiction, to take you away from common-sense reality. :)
LaQ is a new construction toy made in Japan. Asianmommy received the Hamacron Constructor Fire Truck and Mini Racer 2 free for review.
The kids and I had the pleasure of putting these toys to good use. We built the Fire Truck, but the 170-piece Fire Truck set also allows you to build an Ambulance, a Police Car, or a Police Motorcycle. The set comes with complete directions for building these four models. The Mini Racer 2 comes with 38 pieces.
You must review the instructions carefully, because there are 7 types of pieces, including base parts and joint parts, as well as special parts. Some of the pieces are very similar, so you need to refer to the numbers on the diagram to make sure you're using the correct pieces. The toys are recommended for ages 5 and up, but I think little ones may need some help at first, so be prepared to lend a hand.
What I liked: These construction toys are so much fun! I love the interconnecting, 3-D aspect to them.
What could be improved: Haha! I accidently put the wheels of my Mini Racer 2 on backwards, so the wheels wouldn't turn, and I couldn't figure out why. Luckily, someone pointed this out to me, and my Mini Racer now glides smoothly. :)
This app tells the story of a little girl named Anna and her Chinese cousin named Mei Ling. Jing Li, Anna's pet panda, was hungry one day, so the girls decided to make some ice cream sundaes to eat.
This animated story has cute characters with a storyline told in English with accompanying English words or in Mandarin with accompanying Chinese characters and pinyin. The words are highlighted as they are spoken, so it's easy to follow along with the reader.
What I liked: One nice feature of this app was the ability to practice writing English words or Chinese characters. You can write on the iPad or have the iPad write for you, showing you the correct stroke order.
What could be improved: This app is not for beginners just starting to learn Mandarin. The sentences are too long, and you have to keep turning the pages mid-sentence, which makes it difficult to switch back and forth between Chinese and English and be able to correlate the English words with the Chinese characters. I would say that this app is better suited for older kids who are already familiar with Mandarin. A Chinese-English glossary would have been helpful.
Also, there are special buttons to touch on each page, which allow English words and Mandarin characters to pop up, labeling items in the background, such as "tree" or "grass." This is a fun addition to the app. The only problem is that for beginning students, there's no accompanying pinyin or auditory component for the special buttons, so it's hard to figure out how to pronounce the words in Mandarin, which can be frustrating.
That said, I'm happy to see more Chinese & English language apps for kids, and I look forward to the day when my kids can understand stories such as this in Mandarin.
Curél® Intensive Healing Cream is a daily fragrance-free cream for extra-dry or sensitive skin. Asianmommy received a free sample jar for review.
Curél® Intensive Healing Cream comes in a large 16 oz jar. Dip your finger in the jar and apply the cream to your skin. I put it on immediately after my shower for five days and found that it absorbed well and didn't leave my hands feeling greasy. It helped my dry skin feel much more moisturized throughout the day.
This product contains Advanced Ceramide Therapy, which is designed to replace the natural lipids found in the skin and help the skin to retain moisture.
What I liked: I like that the cream is unscented. It kept my skin feeling softer and more hydrated, without leaving a shiny residue on my skin or leaving my hands covered in goo.
What could be improved: A travel-sized version of this product would be great!
JumpStart.com is an online game for kids ages 3 to 10. Asianmommy received a free 3-month membership to the JumpStart Online 3D Virtual World for review. Membership includes JumpStart.com, MathBlaster.com, and 4 downloadable games.
I played the game with my 10-year-old daughter. We are not avid gamers and found this game to be confusing and difficult to navigate at first. We did a lot of aimless wandering and got lost in some areas, unsure of what to do or where to go. Luckily, we found an interactive map, which allowed us to escape and find new sections to explore.
Upon exploring, we found many different sections, one which allowed us to change our hair, face, clothes, and accessories. We found our house, and discovered that we could modify the roof, the walls, the porch, and the furnishings. We collected coins, which allowed us to buy accessories for ourselves and for our house. We found movies, games, and quizzes to test our reading, math, and science skills. We found an egg, hatched it, and cared for our own pet dragon.
The game guide helps you find which sections are appropriate for your child’s age group. StoryLand is aimed at 3-5 year olds. AdventureLand and MarineLand are designed for kids in kindergarten to second grade. 3rd to 5th graders can check out FutureLand, Poseidon’s Hangout, and Uncle Milton’s Scienceland, geared towards older children.
What I liked: There is a wide variety of activities to choose from, many of which are educational. It seems like a safe place for kids to spend time online. The graphics were nice, and it was fun to see the Madagascar characters (Alex, Marty, Melman, Gloria, and the Penguins) at the Central Park Zoo and to learn various facts about the animals.
What could be improved: I think clear instructions at the beginning of the game, as well as at the beginning of each section would have been helpful. I would have liked having a map pop up at the onset of the game, detailing which sections of the game are appropriate for which ages, helping us to figure out where to go.
Disclosure: I was provided with a JumpStart membership at no cost by JumpStart in order to test the products’ abilities and give my own personal opinions on it. The opinions I have given are mine and may differ from others but were not influenced by the company or the free product provided.