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Christmas Picture Books (and literary gifts) in Chinese for preschoolers

Note: Originally writted December 2020, and slightly updated November 2021

This post shares some Christmas-themed books and great bilingual literary/learning-related resources available in Singapore.

Christmas Books for Preschoolers

Martine’s Christmas Eve 玛蒂娜的圣诞夜

Author: Gilbert Delhaye
Country of original publication: Belgium
~ Pages per book: 20
~ Lines per page: 4 – 8
~ Pinyin: no
~ Audio available: yes with Luka
~ Available in NLB: no
Target age range: 4 – 8

This book is one of the 60 books in our “Martine series” 玛蒂娜故事书(全新版 套装全60册)

The “Martine” story set (玛蒂娜故事书) are a mixed bag of books – some are a delight for our household of little girls, and other are really not our cup of tea. We do happen to really like the Christmas book. With its vivid lifelike pictures and descriptive story, the Christmas story makes for one of the more interesting books in this collection.  The kids go up to attic, find ice skates, stumble upon deers, and hear the jingling sound of Father Christmas’s sled on the snow.

Originally written in French in the 1950s, this series has charming original pictures and stories about young Martine’s playful adventures – mainly set in rural France. The stories are all Luka compatible (which is the only way we able to read this set). The protagonist Martine is a courageous, generous and sympathetic soul. Each Martine story contains a nice message or moral, which is usually how we finish up the activities.   The Martine stories are really very long for picture books, so usually once we reach the end, we are all exhausted (and sometimes bored too, but thankfully this Christmas book isn’t in that category!).

I think it’s the charming illustrations and snow-covered fir trees, which make the book feel so magical and different to our modern life in a bustling tropical city. 

Madeline’s Christmas 玛德琳的圣诞节

Author:  Ludwig Bemelmans
Country of original publication: France
~ Pages per book: 28
~ Lines per page: 1 – 6
~ Pinyin: no
~ English: some versions
~ Audio available: yes with Luka
~ Available in NLB: Yes
Target age range: 4 – 8

In an old house in Paris, covered with vines, live twelve little girls in two straight lines.  The littlest one is Madeline. 

This book is part of the Madeline set of 6, although it can be purchased individually too.  My girls just adore these books in both English and Chinese.  In English they rhyme beautifully, in Chinese, they’re just fun (although I note there are a few different translations, and apparently there is a Chinese version which does rhyme).   We actually have two copies of this book – one is bilingual with English above, and the other is only in Chinese, but has a slightly better translation.  Both of the books can be read with Luka.

This series, from the 1940s, captured my heart as a child, so it’s special to be able to share it on with my children – in a new language! The Madeline books are about an energetic, fearless and kind-hearted girl, living in a girls’ home, and her childlike adventures.  Most of the series contains beautiful images of Paris in the background, and is a great way to introduce children to the famous sites of the City of Love.  The Christmas book is one of the less interesting books in terms of pictures (very plain and lacking detail). 

In the Christmas Eve book, and everyone is sick in bed, except for Madeline who is working hard on Christmas eve cleaning the floors and washing the dishes (at her boarding school).  There’s a mysterious knock on the door in the middle of the night.  Could it be Santa Claus?  No, it’s a mysterious carpet merchant who puts the children under a spell and they fly into the sky on magic rugs.  Admittedly it’s a bit random!  I think the reason my kids enjoy the specific Christmas book is perhaps that the already love the rest of the Madeline series. 

The First Christmas 第一个圣诞节

Author:  Rod Campbell
Country of original publication: UK
~ Pages per book: 12
~ Lines per page: 1 – 4
~ Pinyin: no
~ English: a separate version
~ Audio available: no
~ Available in NLB: Yes
Target age range: 3 – 6

This book is written and illustrated by the same author who wrote Dear Zoo!, so it has a slightly familiar look and feel about it.  It actually reminds me most of Rod Campbell’s “Aussie Animals” and “Oh Dear” books. Whilst the Christmas book is a board book, it’s a story that’s appealing for an older child too. 

It’s a simple and warm retelling of the Christmas Nativity Story.  Sentences are simple, and it’s nice to read the book and learn/recognise some less commonly used Mandarin terms such as:

The book doesn’t have any English, but it’s possible to buy the English version (it’s out of print, but I have seen a few online on Shoppee or in the Singapore library) and pair them together. 

We love this season for good reason, and this book helps to explain it.  This book was gifted to us by Linxin from My Story Treasury, and I’m grateful she helped us find such a lovely faith-based Christmas book, appropriate for my pre-schoolers.

Le Le Books – Ice Skating 溜冰 , Coloured Candy House 彩色糖果屋 and Snowing 下雪

Author:  Cathy Ju Yao
Country of original publication: Taiwan
Language: Simplified Chinese (although Traditional is also available)
~ Pages in book: 8 – 12
~ Lines per page: 1 – 2
~Pinyin: No
~ Audio available: Yes – through Le Le reading pen
Available in Singapore NLB libraries: No
Target age range: 3 – 6

These short Christmassy related books are part of the Le Le Chinese readers set – which I’ve raved about in a separate post.   

Le Le Chinese is a series of highly-engaging picture book graded readers, and it has on optional pen which can read the books character by character.  The intention of the books is to “literacy through literature” – which is to say that by reading lots of books, the child will naturally pick up characters.   The books use common characters from literature, and become progressively harder throughout the 300 books. 

We often use Le Le for thematic studies, so it was perfect time to get out a few Christmas-themed books and do some gingerbread baking together.  We chose two books about the ice and snow, and two books about baking/gingerbread. I like these books because they are simple enough for my pre-schooler to read by herself, and are a great aid to home activities.

Christmas Gifts for Preschoolers

I put up a Christmas gift list on my Instagram account a few weeks ago now, but I thought I’d add these into this Christmas post too.  It’s a few suggestions of great gifts which can encourage bilingual play, and won’t break the bank.

Geosafari Junior Talking Microscope in English and Chinese

Geosafari Junior Talking Microscope

Kids can examine all sorts of critters on 12 prepared interactive slides, spoken in either Chinese or English. It has 5x magnifying power and a light, and really robust! A child can also use it to magnify other things, not just the pre-prepared slides. We bought this as our toddler’s Christmas gift last year, and it’s still a favourite. When purchasing, be sure to choose the “Asian” model, as it’s the only one with Chinese audio. Available easily through Amazon.

Habbi Habbi reading wand and bilingual books

This is the brainchild of two passionate mums who designed beautiful board books to encourage early literacy and their content is uplifting! It comes with a sturdy reading band to read out individuals words, sentences, and phrases in both Chinese and English. See my more detailed Habbi Habbi review on a previous page.

Oracle Bone cards

So many fun games can be played with these durable cards, which teach the history of Simplified Chinese characters. We often use them a lot for creative play. Available in Singapore from My Story Treasury.

Mandarin Prodigies Chinese Flash Cards

These beautifully designed Montessori-style flash cards are actually fun for children, and will help to increase Chinese conversation between children and parents (or grandparents). They would work for both bilingual Chinese families and non-Chinese speaking families, and focus on making the learning fun & engaging. Available in Singapore from Books4Tots.

Bilingual Book of Nursery Rhymes

This was a 2020 kickstarter project by Bilingual Kiddos, based in Australia. We bought a handful of Yvonne’s brightly coloured board books to gift this year to littlies we love. The books put the words of popular English nursery rhymes into Chinese, with pinyin and Simplified Chinese characters, along with a downloadable audio file too.

Luka Reading Companion

If you are looking for a bigger gift, consider a Luka Reading Robot, and yes, it will read classical Christmas books like Madeline and Martine too.   I’ve put a more detailed Luka review on an earlier page, which includes details of where to buy in Singapore and a discount cou. 

Where to buy these books and toys?

What is a better gift to give than the gift of language? The gift of Christmas surely. But language is a pretty good gift too. If you’re after any of the titles/toys mentioned above, check out where ours came from:

The First Christmas Storey & Oracle Bone Cards:  available from My Story Treasury (online, based in Singapore but ship globally). My Story Treasury is a lovingly curated collection of Chinese picture story books for kids.  My blog readers have a 10% discount (which will finish up on Dec 2020) if you use “LahLahBanana10” at checkout from their store.

Madeline series, Martine series, and Luka Mini:  available through Luka Reads (online, with presence in Singapore, Australia, Indonesia, and Hong Kong, although ships globally).  If you use “LahLah20Off”, you’ll receive a $20 discount of a Luka Original or Hero Robot purchase, although not the books.

Le Le Chinese Series:  must be purchased direct from the publisher Le Le Culture in Taiwan (they ship globally too).

Bilingual book of nursery rhymes:  Bilingual Kiddos have progressed from a Kickstarter project, to their own online shop

Blessed Christmas!! 圣诞节快乐

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