by Suyen Hu on Sat, May 09 2020
A long time ago there was a rocking horse. He was a very special rocking horse. He was very big; about as big as a rocking horse could be. But that wasn’t why he was special. He wasn’t painted dapple-grey like most rocking horses. He was covered in the real skin of a young foal, so he looked as though he was alive. That’s why he was special.
He lived in a corner of my aunt’s kitchen. When I visited my cousin I always hoped my aunt would pull out the rocking horse so I could ride him.... Read more
by Suyen Hu on Tue, Apr 28 2020
Here for a start is the Rupert Bear stories; very popular and successful children’s stories. The Wiki says all you need. The cover pictures are from my copy of 1944. They were produced from 1936 to present. The format is unusual, being from an original strip cartoon, as shown by inside pages. But the stories are very traditional: strange fantastic adventures but based on a comfortable middle class village life, so any child could imagine the stories might happen to them; quite a key point in stories of the time. The older... Read more
by Suyen Hu on Sun, Apr 26 2020
I think some time ago when I was writing my book I found this old map of my village in 1886 (below) with its many orchards. All these orchards were still there when I was a boy. I was tidying up some old files today and came across a Planning Department map showing the village as it is today. What a contrast.
The old map suggests how pretty the village was: houses well-spaced out and apple trees everywhere. These were big trees, not the little... Read more
by Suyen Hu on Wed, Mar 25 2020
I’ve been polishing up an antique corner cupboard today. It’s very satisfying to see the old oak becoming shiny again. I’ve always enjoyed polishing things. It used to be in the corner of my mother’s living room. Before that it belonged to my aunt who used it in a scullery and didn’t value it much. She was proud of her house and washed the stone floor every day which damaged the cupboard as it stood on the floor. Actually quite a lot of antiques have suffered in that way. For years my mother who valued everything beautiful and old really... Read more
by Suyen Hu on Tue, Aug 06 2019
This Chinese festival celebrates the annual meeting of the cowherd and weaver girl in Chinese mythology. It falls on the seventh day of the 7th month on the Chinese lunar calendar and is now more commonly known as ‘Chinese Valentines day, or Double Seventh Festival (On double Seventh day).
The festival originated from the tale of The Weaver Girl and Cowheard, a romantic legend of two lovers, Zhinü (the Weaver Maid) and Niulang (the cowherd).
Well,... Read more
by Roy Preece on Sun, Jul 07 2019
This year, Saturday 6th July, is the National Meadows Day, to remind us of the importance and pleasure of fields full of wild flowers. http://www.magnificentmeadows.org.uk/celebrating-meadows/national-meadows-day
Recently we were urged also to let wild flowers flourish on our lawns to provide nourishment for insects and especially bees. So many people think they should use weed- killers and fertilizers to produce a perfect pure grass lawn, but more pleasure and interest can be found by letting some wild flowers grow. Here I have allowed a large patch of white clover to flower.
It’s very attractive... Read more
by Roy Preece on Thu, May 23 2019
I was very interested in Su Yen’s reply that our pretty and well-loved Kerria bush from Japan does grow in Taiwan too. It set me wondering whether any of the historical ‘Plant Hunters’ from England ever went to Taiwan.
Plants, like people, have two names. These names can tell us things, such as who discovered the plant, what country it comes from, or what it looks like. Many favourite plants in English gardens have names such as ‘japonica’ – from Japan, or ‘Chinensis’ – from China. But are there any... Read more
by Suyen Hu on Fri, May 17 2019
Taiwanese culture is characterised by a meeting of Eastern and Western ethnicities which are constantly evolving. The island’s diverse culture is deeply rooted in Chinese heritage and Aboriginal traditions and welcoming of outside influences such as Japanese, Western and Southeast Asian.
A variety of Art can be found in Taiwan including Modern Art, as well as Traditional, Aboriginal and Folk Art. The traditional Chinese fine arts are mainly comprised of calligraphy and tradition painting and other forms of art found in Taiwan... Read more
by Roy Preece on Thu, May 09 2019
Probably my earliest visual memory is the flowers of Kerria which I likely saw from my pram in someone’s garden! Recalling the memory some years later I thought maybe it was a dream. Were they even real flowers? – with their rugged beauty, they weren’t a bit like ‘proper’ flowers that children draw, such as daisies and tulips.
by Roy Preece on Sat, Apr 27 2019
Our good friend and colleague, Ella (who makes great New Year dumplings too!) was surprised to find what seemed to be an English coin in a famous Art Gallery in Taiwan https://limeishu.org.tw/ So, she sent this picture to Su Yen.
Su Yen and Ella wondered about the design. On one side was the crowned head of the present Queen of England, Elizabeth II, while on the other side was a very Chinese-looking three-toed dragon with deer’s antlers. https://en.numista.com/catalogue/pieces21075.html Was this just a... Read more
by Roy Preece on Wed, Apr 03 2019
In Taiwan, ornamental cherries bloom from February to mid- April. The Taiwan Tourism Bureau lists many sites where tourists can go to enjoy spectacular views of hundreds and even thousands of cherry trees in bloom. It is a sort of unofficial festival.
This attractive custom of gazing on the beauty of the trees in flower and revering their beauty is known as ‘Hanami’ and is inherited from Taiwan’s neighbour, Japan.
Through the wild cherry-blooms that snow
Yamato’s hills with petals... Read more
by Roy Preece on Sat, Mar 23 2019
Taiwanese are very religious people. The custom in Taiwan was for each family to have its own ancestral tomb because ancestor worship is an important part of Taiwanese life. A special day is devoted each year to weeding and tidying the tombs of ancestors, Tomb Sweeping Day, which is a time also for family reunions to pay respect to the ancestors. This video shows the ceremonies of a large and important family in Taiwan whose relatives come from many countries too.
In England only, very aristocratic families would have their... Read more
by Roy Preece on Wed, Mar 06 2019
Chinese legends often refer to the stars and their constellations, notably the story of the Weaver Girl and the Cowherd. In the old days, stars were much more visible and familiar.
When I came to live in my present house nearly forty years ago, it was such a pleasure to find the sky at night was completely dark. This is very rare in England today. I grew up in an England where it was forbidden to show any light at night, even a... Read more
by Roy Preece on Wed, Jan 16 2019
Farmers in Taiwan plan their work traditionally around a calendar known as “24 Terms” that divides the year into twenty-four periods.
‘Great Cold’ is the last period before the New Year, or Spring Festival, when spring begins again.
Each period has its own farm jobs to be done. Great Cold, called ‘da han’, begins around 21st January. This is one period when in fact there is not much to do except to make sure animals are fed and warm.
But the cold... Read more
by Roy Preece on Sun, Dec 30 2018
Huang Yung-fu’s village was going to be bulldozed to make way for modern development. Ever since he’d come to Taiwan as a young soldier he had lived in Nan Tow built especially for the followers of the Nationalist General Chiang. Yung-fu didn’t want his village to be destroyed. What could he do?
Yung-fu started to paint. That’s what he did. He painted his room; he painted his house all over; he painted the next house. He ended up painting the whole village! All bright colours: reds, yellows, blues, greens … bold patterns; birds; animals; dogs; cats; famous people.
A few... Read more
by Roy Preece on Tue, Jan 01 2019
When Bukut Tasvaluan first set up his imaginative and sympathetic scheme for the children of the Bunan people in Taiwan, could he have imagined that his choir would become famous all over the world? Perhaps he did, for the slogan of the Vox Nativa, or ‘Voice of the People’, children’s choir is
‘Let the world hear the sound of Yushan singing!’
Vox Nativa Association was founded by a group of retired school principals to foster arts and humanities among the aboriginal or indigenous peoples of Taiwan.
The school nestles among the foothills of Yu-Shan Mountain, or Jade Mountain, in the... Read more
by Roy Preece on Sun, Dec 30 2018
Su Yen had a dream of Saint Paul’s Cathedral. She thought she saw snow falling from the dome. But was it snow? What else could it be?
The St Paul’s we see now was built to replace a much older cathedral that was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. But there was a Second Great Fire of London in 1940.
England was at war with Germany. For over eight months, from 7th September to 11th May, German planes dropped bombs on London nearly every night. There was a... Read more
by Roy Preece on Wed, Dec 12 2018
I love this passage from Dear Su Yen. It says so much about the lives and attitudes of real people and how courageous Su Yen was to come to England, where she has achieved so much since . . .
“In those days I never imagined that one day I might leave not just my hometown, but my island home of Taiwan, perhaps forever; but it came to be the only solution I could see when I could find no other way for my life to go . . . . But... Read more
by Roy Preece on Wed, Nov 28 2018
Su Yen is a dreamer in many ways. But her dreams are not just idle ‘daydreaming’. She has positive visions for the future: for herself, for her friends, for ancient buildings, for Taiwan. Of course, she also dreams when she is asleep, but unlike most of us she can remember and tell her dreams in great detail – and they have a strange way of coming true in her life . . .
“I once dreamt of a cathedral which was so beautiful. I saw a great... Read more
by Roy Preece on Wed, Nov 21 2018
There were several reasons for choosing each poem for Dear Su Yen. Of course, I was looking for a representative range of English poetry to show Su Yen, but there are thousands of poems to choose from. So, as Su Yen and I developed a dialogue, the final choices often were made in response to her questions, ideas and stories: for example, of her discovery of Oxford (Betjeman) or of her lost love (Browning). It all started, however, with... Read more
by Christina Barker on Sat, Sep 15 2018
It was just before bed time for my 6 year old son Riley when I asked him if he would like to play a quick ‘Chinese game’. He was excited to examine the contents and see what he had to do to win. He is quite competitive you see! I explained the rules of the game to him and he was genuinely interested in learning a few words of Mandarin.
Upon lifting the lid off the box he gently placed each item on the table. First, there was a... Read more
by Stephanie Henwood on Wed, Nov 14 2018
The more time I spend with those of an eastern origin the more I realise how much we all have in common.
So, we have different faiths, different beliefs and a different history. Yes, we have different skin and speak different words. Yet we are all so very human and ordinary.
All wanting the same things in life; simple love and happiness. For people to be kind to one another. To have fun.
There was once a... Read more
by Suyen Hu on Sat, Nov 10 2018
The way I love design is like the way a fish cannot survive without water. But people often say that the obsession with a dream may burn us. Perhaps it is this burning passion that reduced me to tears when I first saw a Venetian mask of a beautiful clown with shining tears on the cheerful cheeks. I know what the artist who made the mask wanted to say.
Even since, I have been trying to discover the way to convey my ideas truly in depth together with a visually conspicuous form. I’ve found writing to transcend my design concepts... Read more
by Lihui Wang on Sat, Nov 10 2018
‘I learned The Tempest when I was at high school but I forgot all the beautiful words after so many years. The picture brought all my memories back. I really like the idea of the notebook and so much look forward to the original book.’
‘The picture for The Tiger appeals to me the most and is my favourite. It conveys William Blake’s mysterious words about the flaming coat of the tiger. It is burning! I remember there is a famous band used to sing The Tiger. The notebook... Read more
by Roy Preece on Thu, Nov 08 2018
The tall heavy doors swing inwards. Cautiously, you go into the temple. In classical times the doors were placed at the east end of the temple, so the rising sun could shine in, but there are no windows and the interior is dark and mysterious. As your eyes get used to the gloom, you see at the far end a tall imposing figure, surrounded by candle flames and wreathed in smoke. This is the god you have come to see.
In ancient times gods were often cruel. Perhaps the worst was the Carthaginian god, Baal, cast in bronze, who consumed... Read more
by Roy Preece on Thu, Nov 08 2018
Oolong tea is halfway between green tea and black tea. Black tea, what we often think of as English tea, is made by blowing air over the dried leaves to oxidise them; but Oolong tea is not oxidised so much and unlike black tea is usually taken without added milk, like green tea.
Taiwan produces very fine Oolong tea. The short clip in this video shows tea leaves being harvested in the beautiful Alishan Hills in Taiwan to be made into Oolong tea,... Read more
by Roy Preece on Sat, Nov 03 2018
People ask when is the Harvest Festival in England. We have just heard of the traditional Moon Festival in Taiwan and the new Farmers Harvest Festival in China. But when is the English festival?
Well, it depends on what you mean by festival. The Christian churches have a special thanksgiving service when the church is decorated with produce and familiar well-loved harvest hymns are sung. This should be on the Sunday nearest the harvest moon; and the harvest moon, as in Taiwan, is the full moon nearest... Read more
by Christina Barker on Fri, Nov 02 2018
Lihui recently went over to China to visit friends and family. She very kindly bought me back a real moon cake! I was excited to receive a real one to try after seeing Suyen making them out of air-drying clay and seeing real ones in photos.
I'm always very wary about eating anything 'foreign' to me. We have a very strict food law here in the UK. Everything must be packaged with clear labels enabling us to decide if we want to purchase the item or not. They need to... Read more
by Roy Preece on Thu, Nov 01 2018
Are these the surgeons of tomorrow?
Crafts are important for everybody!
A professor of surgery is worried that young people today do not have the manual skills and dexterity necessary to be good surgeons.
Of course, surgeons need a lot of scientific knowledge, but success and our safety still depend on how skilful they are with their hands. Professor Kneebone – what a lovely name for a surgeon – thinks this is because children don’t do enough craft work these days, making models, sewing, construction... Read more
by Roy Preece on Sun, Oct 28 2018
What does language do to you? In ten parts.
Someone sent me this article ‘Can language slow down time’ and asked if I thought it meant that our cultures were determined by the languages we use. http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20180806-can-language-slow-down-time?ocid=fbcul
It all started with a study of the Hopi tribe in America in 1939, which seemed to suggest that because the Hopi had no tenses in their language the present and the future were all the same for them. This idea has been taken up more recently to argue that cultures which do linguistically distinguish future from... Read more
by Roy Preece on Wed, Oct 17 2018
Chinese and English
Su Yen went to New Zealand to study English for a while and had quite a difficult time there as she tells in Dear Su Yen*. I have always admired these brave young people who go, usually alone, halfway across the globe to study in a very different culture and with little knowledge of the local language. For an English person to pop over to France seems very easy in comparison.
Many Chinese, especially from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, live in New Zealand. Australia and New Zealand... Read more
by Christina Barker on Thu, Oct 11 2018
The first animal to win the legendary animal race was, of course, the mouse, also known as a rat. He... Read more
by Roy Preece on Thu, Oct 04 2018
Chinese just love festivals; now they‘ve got a new one to celebrate!
The Chinese love festivals. They have one almost every month. Now they have a new one you probably have never heard of because it only started this year!
The new festival is called the Farmer’s Harvest Festival and it’s not just to celebrate the harvest but to raise respect for farmers too.
With its rush to industrialisation China has neglected its farmers, but now realises the importance of land reform and rural communities.
As... Read more
by Roy Preece on Thu, Oct 04 2018
Su Yen’s favourite painting, The Legend of the Briar Rose, will be on show at the Tate Museum in London this October.
You can find out more about this by going to the Tate Museum website using the link below.
We first saw Briar Rose in a quiet country house in Oxfordshire which has a remarkable collection of valuable paintings. Su Yen likes to call it Sleeping Beauty, and indeed that is the legend.
Here is a little of what Su Yen wrote at the time. If... Read more
by Roy Preece on Fri, Sep 21 2018
It was the best job I ever had. Twenty years ago when I retired as a tutor in the Faculty of the Built Environment I was asked if I would spend an afternoon each week helping graduate students from overseas with their English. Tutoring on a one to one basis with intelligent motivated students suited me very well. I think it suited them too.
As higher education supposedly... Read more
by Lorna Snowflake on Wed, Sep 12 2018
As a child, I was in love with dragons. My favourite series of books followed a young man as he grew up to be a powerful Mage and, as a prize for all his efforts with magic and self-mastery, he finally learned how to communicate with them. They taught him no less than the secrets of existence.
This became my own childhood fantasy – that I would one day reveal my own magic powers and commune with dragons. Unfortunately, this never quite came true but I never stopped being inspired by their... Read more
by Lorna Snowflake on Wed, Sep 12 2018
When I lived in Hangzhou in China in 2012, I worked as a teacher at a well-known international language school teaching English to children. One of my duties was to name any children who arrived at the school without an English name. On the one hand, I felt quite excited about the prospect of naming someone and yet on the other I saw how this responsibility could be easily be abused.
Now, naming someone is a very large responsibility and an honour. I now have child and I remember how much time I spent looking for good boys’ names which... Read more
by Stephanie Henwood on Wed, Sep 05 2018
Isn't it amazing how we can teach our children about other cultures through story?
Whether it be of the picture book or video kind, media is clearly the most attractive way to teach our children in the modern day. This method gives us a way in which we can educate whilst keeping their attention with creative imagery and colourful depictions; because let's face it, attention span isn't that high at the ripe old age of seven, right?
As I sat over breakfast with my gorgeous daughter, Summer, recently watching Disney's original... Read more
by Suyen Hu on Thu, Aug 30 2018
Do you always choose books and activities for your children, or do you let them choose? Do you really know what your children like? We have many years’ experience of making books and designing activities for children and working with children at various events and workshops. Here we’d like to share some ideas with you.
We’ve taken part in many local craft fairs around Oxfordshire and held many events at libraries, primary schools and museums in London and Oxford. We’ve made bilingual picture books for people to enjoy traditional Chinese stories in English and pick up some Chinese words from... Read more
by Lorna Snowflake on Tue, Aug 28 2018
When educators seek to teach children about the traditions and cultural practices of other countries, we start with festivals. We show them pictures of other children, usually smiling and excited to celebrate with family and friends. They learn about the bright lights of Divali, the feasting of Eid and the Dragon Dances of East Asian New Year.
From my own experience at school and now as a parent, it is clear that what children love about this is others having a good time. “It’s a lot like Christmas,... Read more
by Christina Barker on Tue, Aug 14 2018
After being inspired by an article I read recently in the Metro online which tells of how culture influences children’s development, I decided it might be a good idea to delve a little deeper into this topic and discuss it with our team where we could each share a bit about our own culture in our younger lives and look at the differences.
We told the story of the Dragon Boat Festival at one of our events recently.... Read more
by Christina Barker on Wed, Aug 01 2018
Photo credit - BBC
For those of you with young children, you will know what 'Biggleton' is. For those that are unfamiliar with the word, I shall enlighten you. Biggleton is a children's television series which has been broadcasting for the past few months on BBC - CBeebies. In short, it's a children's series which shows live action from 5-7-year-olds in an imaginary town pretending to be grown-ups. They have exciting adventures as they pretend to do the jobs around the town. They all have a particular role to play and are great... Read more
by Roy Preece on Tue, Jul 31 2018
Right here in Liverpool’s Chinatown the Chinese Ceremonial Arch is 15 metres high and is believed to be the largest one outside of China.
Photograph by John Allan
The Liverpool Ceremonial Arch was actually made in China, a gift from Shanghai which is Liverpool’s twin city, and shipped over in pieces. The arch is made of wood and marble, and painted in gold, red, green and yellow which traditionally was the colour reserved for kings and emperors. It displays 200... Read more
by Roy Preece on Sun, Jul 29 2018
This poem is causing lots of argument among admirers of William Blake, an English poet, artist and mystic.
Experts can’t agree about where to put the commas! At last, after 200 years, a tombstone is being made for Blake’s grave and this poem is inscribed on the stone.
This is the original poem as found in Blake’s own notebook. No commas at all! Experts feel there ought to be some but can’t agree about where to put them.
by Roy Preece on Fri, Jul 27 2018
Tonight in England at about 8.45 pm BST (or 7.45 GMT or UT) and in many other parts of the world the full moon will turn the colour of blood.
What does it mean? Well simply it means that the earth will come between the sun and the moon so the sun cannot light up the moon as it usually does.
Perhaps that’s not really a ‘meaning’. Just a statement of fact.
But if people think it has a deeper meaning then a blood moon or eclipse can influence history. The Shang Dynasty of China lasted for 600 years and... Read more
by Stephanie Henwood on Sat, Jul 21 2018
We recently shared an article written by the BBC’s Newsround, ‘Black, Asian and ethnic minorities are not properly represented in Children’s books’
This article came just days after I had read, for the second time, Chloe Perkins ‘Cinderella’ to my darling daughter, Summer.
This book covers the beloved traditional tale of Cinderella the servant girl and her two stepsisters, stepmother, the Fairy godmother and her handsome prince. The twist, being that this particular version of ‘Cinderella’ is set in Mexico.
You will see from some of the pictures that I have shared, the... Read more
by Roy Preece on Sat, Jul 21 2018
A study by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (funded by the Arts Council) highlights the very low proportion of children’s books published with black, Asian or ethnic minority (BAME) characters.
Snowflake Books titles such as Chinese Farmers’ Calendar and Pingxi Sky Lantern have 100 per cent Chinese children, zodiac animals and fairy tale figures as the main characters. But it’s not enough just to produce the books. As Malorie Blackman, the new
Children’s Laureate, has said, parents may be put off buying a book with ethnic characters, feeling it’s not for them. That’s why Snowflake Books mount successful... Read more
by Christina Barker on Wed, Jun 27 2018
I recently read this article in relation to stereotypes written in the Guardian (Source) by Shuja Haider).
I genuinely am a huge fan of the Simpsons and my family watch it often. Apu is an absolute legend in himself and although he has been stereotyped somewhat, so have most of the other characters in the show. Ratings may well have dropped but the show will live on for years to come. I think what you could get away with on TV a few years back; you can no longer... Read more
by Stephanie Henwood on Sun, Jun 24 2018
As we near the end of term with my story time sessions (held at Blackwell’s Bookshop of Oxford with Snowflake Books), I begin to reflect upon the experiences I have learnt over these 2 years.
When I was very first asked to read some stories to children I didn’t think that it was for me, but I gave it a go because you never know what opportunities are around the corner. And, as it happened I quite liked it!
It was the earlier days that I really learnt some big lessons in... Read more
by Christina Barker on Wed, May 30 2018
Source: Alamy Stock Photo
Upon reading the above article it seems The Guardian have discovered that there were whole months last year when not a single BAME (Black, Asian, Minority or Ethnic) person featured on the cover of our best selling magazines. This seems a little concerning. Growing up, I, like the author of this article, also read magazines like ‘More’ and ‘Just Seventeen’ from a young age. At the time I didn’t even think about it not being relevant to other minorities. I guess... Read more