THE DOT by Peter Reynolds – Book Review

Cultivate the artistic heart, October 27, 2010

Behind every artist is a great teacher. THE DOT is a simple and inspirational story: Vashti is intimidated by an art project and believes that she can’t draw. The teacher’s timely and sensitive advice to “just make a mark and see where it takes you.” opens the door to all possibilities of making the dot a perfect art for Vashti. Awarded for her creative endeavors, she is also able to pass her teacher’s encouragement to another child who is filled with self-doubt that he can’t even draw a straight line. My 6-years old made her own “dots” collection after reading the book and I truly appreciate a book that honors teacher’s influence and reminds young readers to take the first faithful step which may be the beginning of a great journey.


I know Abe Lincoln always wore a hat, but I don’t know he kept notes and papers in them until I read this book with my kids! One of the great reads from STEP INTO READING (STEP 2) books written for grades 1-3, ABE LINCOLN’S HAT has much to teach young history readers about America’s 16th president. In this book, Abe Lincoln wore a smile and did not look serious at all. He was portrayed as a hard-working, people-friendly, visionary and brave leader. From a poor lad to a respected lawyer, he fought for justice on behalf of common people. When neighborhood children played tricks on him, he was not mad at all and even liked the joke. Abe Lincoln believed slavery was wrong and he tried to get elected into the US Senate so he could change laws. He lost the election to Stephen Douglas but became famous and when he ran for the president in 1860, it was a victory. He freed the slaves and helped unite the nation after a long war.

My kids are deeply drawn into the biographic anecdotes and watercolor illustrations where they found the true story about Lincoln’s hat very interesting (and unforgettable) and it successfully shows them through easy-to-read lines Lincoln as a great man and president.


A Fable of it’s Own, 2010/10/26

Leo Lionni’s tales are characteristically simple, unpredictable and beautiful and A COLOR OF HIS OWN is one of those touching fables where a sad chameleon who is tired of his color changing wishing to be more like other animals with same colors all the time. Opening the pages, young children learn about different animals with different colors – pigs are pink, elephants are grey but chameleons change color wherever they go. Then the humor comes into play as the artist explores how the chameleon looks like on lemons, on the striped tiger and just as the chameleon thinks he has got hold of the solution to his problem by remaining on a leaf so he would be green forever, the readers discover along with the chameleon the cycle of tree leaves turning from green, yellow to orange and eventually fall when winter comes…But eventually, he makes a great discovery that will solve his problem and the new-found wisdom (friend) will help him accept and appreciate his own colorful life to the fullest.


Very highly recommended, this Step 4 book that comes with longer paragraphs for ready readers grades 2-3 introduces kids to Benjamin Franklin, one of the greatest figure in the American history – his life and his many accomplishments through humorous texts and vivid illustrations. It starts with Ben as a curious and inventive kid, to his famous newspaper (The Pennsylvania Gazette), his Almanac as well as his well-known quotes such as “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. BEN FRANKLIN AND THE MAGIC SQUARES also reveals many inventions that are attributed to him and adds dimensions to the Ben Franklin whom I simply know as a great writer who helped Jefferson write the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Over the years, he also started America’s first library, first fire station, first hospital and when he was a clerk for the Assembly, he invented the magic squares. I am very happy that my kids get to know this founding father first from the book: his greatness is fully humanized and the kids also get to meet his cute squirrel pet, Skugg. In one book, kids learn good English,great American hero and also amazing math – Franklin’s magic square that the sum in any vertical, horizontal and diagonal row and colume will all add up to the same number – 15! This book, like what Ben shouted, is itself “magically magic”.

The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin

A Legendary Halloween, October 22, 2010

This review is from: The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin with CD (Hardcover)
I was introduced to SPOOKLEY by my kids who every Halloween, request to hear THE LEGEND OF THE SQUARE PUMPKIN year and year again. Teaching kids tolerance and being different can be great, this book is highly recommended also because it is beautifully written in verse and comes with a CD that his story can be sung and appreciated. Spookley is a square pumpkin and because he is not the usual round-shaped pumpkins, he has been made fun of terribly. It seems that his adversity prepares and strengthens Spookley’s spirit for the great legendary role that he is going to undertake. Though it is hard for me to see Spookley go through so much teasing, the kids are thoroughly fascinated and focus on the right messages – they are intrigued by its unique shape and they want to know how this square pumpkin becomes the legend. First the story exerts sympathy from kids and later, their admiration. In the end, it has become our tradition to read about this colorful book and remember its lesson that is so splendidly told.

ROOM ON THE BROOM by Donaldson

A Ride in the Sky, October 21, 2010

This review is from: Room on the Broom (Paperback)
With a soft heart for animals, this unconventional sorceress with her tiger-striped cat embark on a windy flight full of accidents – first her hat blows away, then her hair bow and then her magic wand! But thanks to helpful dog, parrot and frog that retrieve the lost items, the witch is able to keep her cheerful grin and one by one the animals plead with eloquence to ride on the broom to which the witch with well-executed rhymes, pleasantly agrees. But too many animals on board become the last straw for the broom and it snaps in half in the worst middle of a bog where the witch is captured by a fiery dragon. The animals return the witch’s good deed by making a joint monster to scare the dragon and save the day. With ingredients contributed by the passengers, the sorceress conjures up the last piece of super-magic that will surprise and delight the readers’ mind! Funny and friendly, ROOM ON THE BROOM offers quite a happy Halloween ride in the sky.

SECTOR 7 by Wiesner

Sky is the limit, October 20, 2010

This review is from: Sector 7 (Caldecott Honor Book) (Hardcover)
Children love to daydream about the clouds and this amazing Caldecott Honor book will take them steps above for a field trip mix with fantastic and realistic details of storyline as well as illustrations to visit the cloud dispatch center in the sky – SECTOR 7. This wordless book has a fascinating and friendly story for the kids to discover about a boy who can draw and a mischievous cloud who takes the boy’s hat and their adventures thus begin. An incredible work to spark children’s imagination and observatory skills while looking at a book, SECTOR 7 delights children as the young hero cheers up the bored clouds by giving them new ocean creatures’ designs and it also provides a wealth of information regarding clouds’ types, textures, and formations subtly transmitted through intricate drawings. Easily one of the best children’s picturebook, SECTOR 7 also has a satisfying ending where the sky is transformed temporarily into sea in effect of the boy’s visit and the jolly cloud who first befriends the little boy still comes to visit his room at night to cuddle him for a floating sleep.

At the Beach by Huy Voun Lee

Stories of Ten Chinese Characters

This review is from: At the Beach (Hardcover)
A book that I’ve been searching for, AT THE BEACH teaches young children about the beauty and meaning of 10 Chinese written words – the easier, frequently used ones – all of them under seven lines that comes with pinyin pronunciation notes so kids can attempt at saying and writing them. Chinese characters are fun and pictographic as the basic words imitate natural objects around us and author Huy Voun Lee using a family’s trip to the beach successfully selects ten representative ones and through conversational dialogue with cut-paper collages in summer-themed borders, the kids would learn the logic behind the words’ composition. “Ren (person)” shapes like a person walking, “da (big)” looks like a person stretching out, “xiao (small) is a person putting arms down taking a bow, “tien (sky)” simply add one line to the top of “big” because sky is on top of a person and bigger than big, “shui (water) resembles drops of water, “shan (mountain)” is three peaks of mountain put together, “sha (sand)” is a combination of water, little kid and stroke. They are exactly how we will teach our youngsters about these symbols and I especially love the author to include the following three: “nu (woman)” is derived from a mother holding a baby, “zi (child)” symbolizes a child serving his parents and when one puts the two letters (woman & child), the word “hao (good)” is born. The order of how to write these words are not included but the rule of thumb is one writes from top to down and left to right.

My mom always shares with me and now my kids about a story: in ancient times, there lived a very poor family (the father had passed away) that did not have any money to buy any books nor send the child to school. The resourceful mom who learnt how to write from her late husband used a twig and every day she would write words on the sand to teach her child how to read. The poor child grew up to be one of the most respected and knowledgeable scholar in Chinese history. This book echoes with this allusion and makes it remarkably precious to introduce young children to Chinese writing ten characters at a time.

Welcome to My Blog!

Hello readers, welcome to GARDEN HAIKU by Lily Wang blog. I am certainly happy that the publisher sets this blog up so I can update my readers with the news in a timely manner regarding GARDEN HAIKU, BABY HAIKU and my newest book, REFLECTION HAIKU which will be published in 2012. I am very excited that GARDEN HAIKU has touched many parents’ lives and many readers have shared with me the stories of how this book has changed their lives and their relationship with their children for the better. GARDEN HAIKU with its 80 reader-friendly modern haiku celebrates children, poetry and parenting. GARDEN HAIKU wishes to plant a seed of poetry for our world and keep our living environments – both spiritual and physical – simple and green. If you have not discovered GARDEN HAIKU, we hope you stop by and smell the flowers inside.

Beside news, I will also post daily book reviews to recommend great books in the areas of parenting, poetry and children’s literature. Be sure to come back and check! If you have questions regarding haiku, Chinese poetry, parenting, children’s literature, my books or anything at all, please leave your comments here so I may answer them for you.
Synopsis of GARDEN HAIKU
In eighty uniquely and beautifully written haiku, poet Lily Wang weaves inspirations from the Ancient and the Modern, from the East and the West into the tapestry of her award-winning GARDEN HAIKU: RAISING YOUR CHILD with ANCIENT WISDOM which in four sections of “Messages for Parents”, “Messages for Children”, “Haiku on my Children and Family” and “Nature/Season Haiku” offers spiritual guidelines for raising happy, respectful and resourceful children. This 3-line haiku collection is concise and accessible for readers of all ages to enjoy and to learn about Zen poems and wise parenting. In the introduction, the history of haiku is included and the reference and notes provides readers with valuable insight on major ancient Chinese philosophers such as Lao Tzu, Confucius to today’s child-development experts, Mackenzie and Faber. The simplicity and wisdom that characterizes the haiku form come alive with GARDEN HAIKU as Wang revives golden virtues and character-building principles with original poetic lucidity to bring Zen to parenting:

A child is a lighthouse, full of love–
To get to it,
Paddle with patience

The art of parenting is moderation –
Too much rain brings the flood
Too much sun dries the land

Disappointment is a heavy stone–
When a mistake is made,
Correct it; do not carry it

GARDEN HAIKU is a book that celebrates poetry and parenthood. We are all our own best parents and while we have our children’s future in our hands, they also have our future in their hands. Whether you are a seeker looking for a haiku moment or a caregiver looking for a manual on the art of parenting, inside GARDEN HAIKU, there is wisdom to be found.

“Highly recommended” – Midwest Book Review
“Just right for parents.” – Kirkus Book Reviews
“Distills magic into 3-line poems celebrating life.” – ForeWord Magazine
“Uniquely lovely book with lessons written in the form of gem-like haiku.” – Amazon Vine Voice
“This book is a small miracle, an elegantly simple testimony to the shining spirit and unquenchable faith of the child parent relationship and all nature.” – Benta Fries, World service humanitarian.

Lily Wang is a Chinese-American poet and the author of GARDEN HAIKU and BABY HAIKU. She received her BA in English from Soochow University in Taipei, Taiwan and earned her M.A. in English from California State University in Fresno. She has done literature coursework worldwide. She and her husband live with their two children in Clovis, California.