Britta interviews Roy Preece: the Cornerstone of Snowflake Books

by Christina Barker on Fri, Oct 13 2017

Before becoming friends with Suyen and Lihui, how much did you know about the Chinese/Taiwanese culture, history and language?

I have had several Chinese and Taiwanese students over the years and I got to know some of them quite well, and I also learnt quite a bit from their dissertations, such as the history and administration of Taiwan, attitudes to conservation and to families, and the complex relations with mainland China. I picked up a few words and expressions of Mandarin, but never learnt the language. I came to realise that China and Chinese culture are large and diverse and... Read more

Britta interviews Lihui Wang- the First Loyal Reader and Supporter of Su Yen Hu and Snowflake Books

by Christina Barker on Wed, Oct 11 2017

Hiya Lihui - sorry, I should really address as you Dr Wang, correct?

Well technically right. But I prefer to be called Lihui.


Did you do your doctorate here in the UK? What about, what are you trained in and briefly, what is your day job?

I did my PhD in the UK and was trained in molecular biology. I am a researcher as my day job.


That must have been hard for a young woman whose mother tongue is not English?

Usually Chinese students worked very hard to prepare when we were still in China (at least... Read more

Britta interviews Christina Barker: the Social Media Organiser

by Christina Barker on Wed, Oct 11 2017

Hi Christina! What was the job description at Snowflake Books that you applied for?

It was originally for the social media executive which was fun to do. A few months into the job Steph - the business development manager left to go on maternity leave so since then I have taken on a lot of the jobs in her role to cover her leave and so became the sales and marketing manager instead with Taylor covering some of my social media jobs.

My job is to maintain the website and oversee a lot of the social media. I am... Read more

Britta interviews Taylor Brooker: the Open-minded Designer and Artist

by Christina Barker on Wed, Oct 11 2017

Hiya, Taylor! What have you been working on today?

Hi! I’ve been working on a drawing of you as your Chinese animal zodiac for our Meet The Team page on our website!

Britta interviews Taylor

Does that count as an average day at the office since you started working for Snowflake Books?

Not exactly, although my average day with Snowflake does always involve art in some way, I’m usually more focused on design, as it’s not everyday someone new joins our team and we need to update the website! My... Read more

Britta interviews Su Yen Hu, the Founder, the Heart and Soul of Snowflake Books

by Christina Barker on Wed, Oct 11 2017

Hi there, Suyen, you’re looking busy! Your desk is looking more like an artists workshop...what are you working on at the moment?

We've been working on our Jade Emperor's costumes for nearly a week now as we are going to run an event in Oxfordshire Museum on the 30th September! We try to make the style 'right' but artistic so people would have some ideas about what the Jade Emperor looks like while playing the Animal Zodiac game around the Jade Emperor in the Museum!

Britta interviews SuyenBritta interviews Suyen

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Why is Peter Pan called Captain Hook codfish?

by Suyen Hu on Thu, Oct 05 2017

I was reading a story to a child today at school. She loves to read Peter Pan as she says it’s the best story ever!

The story is about a young boy who never wants to grow up and is very brave to fight pirates on the sea. One day, when Peter was fighting with Captain Hook, he said: ‘You don’t want to be called codfish, do you, Captain Hook?’ Captain Hook was irritated and fought back with great anger! The child asked me what does that mean? Why doesn't Captain Hook like to be called... Read more

Five things to do for Moon Festival with your Taiwanese friends

by Suyen Hu on Thu, Oct 05 2017

The Harvest Moon for this year is 5th Oct which is a day after Chinese Moon Festival. During the Harvest Festival in the churches, English people used to have a Harvest Loaf by the altar along with other produce. In Taiwan, people offer moon cakes and pomelos to their ancestors and gods in the temples. The main idea for having Moon Festival in Taiwan is not only to celebrate good harvest but to bring families together.

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Poetry Heals

by Roy Preece on Wed, Nov 23 2016

Scientific discoveries support Dear Su Yen

In her introduction to Dear Su Yen, Su Yen writes “I wanted to show how poetry, like music, can be healing”. She also found that thinking about poetry helped improve her everyday English too. Now the latest scientific techniques of brain scanning lend strong support to this idea. An article by Julie Henry in The Daily Telegraph of January 13 shows how the brain “lights up” much more when reading classical poetry than when reading the same information in modern English (see Dear Su Yen, pages 23-4).

... Read more

Diversity Teaching and Snowflake Books

by Suyen Hu on Wed, Nov 23 2016

What better way to introduce a nation’s culture to young children than through its favourite fairy tales and legends? Western children can share the delight and wonder of Chinese children at these exotic yet sympathetically human stories.

Diversity teaching is essential in a globalised world and a multicultural society, which is why all English schools are required to include this teaching in their activities. While there is much professional advice available to teachers on effective ways to teach diversity, they all have two main aims:

to increase awareness of other cultures and life styles; and

to develop understanding and respect... Read more

Are there really only 12 animals for the Chinese Animal Zodiacs?

by Suyen Hu on Thu, Sep 07 2017

Chinese people often don’t really care much about the translations for the 12 Animal Zodiacs because they don’t really know how Western children would feel for different kinds of animals. The most confusing thing is Chinese sometimes use the same characters for different animals, and it’s hard for us to think carefully how to explain the different animals with the same name. For example, Chinese call mouse, rat, mole, squirrel and even Guinea Pig 鼠 shǔ. But actually, a mouse is often called old mouse 老鼠, a rat is often referred to as big mouse that lives outdoors when a... Read more

A little girl loves to be a mouse but not a rat!

by Britta Bielenberg on Thu, Sep 07 2017

Mouse or Rat

“Quick-witted, resourceful, smart and lovely” - personality traits to die for, right? Well, maybe not die in the literal sense. But I would be extremely happy if I could “rely” on awesome characteristics and all it took was to be born in the right year! Some zodiac animals of the Chinese lunar calendar are said to pass on physical strength, others stand for wisdom or kindness. What fun to discover what we are all “made of” I thought one night as I took off for my friend's house shortly... Read more

A new language can bring magic!

by Suyen Hu on Thu, Jul 27 2017

I picked up some books for Bella to choose as usual. She didn’t want any of them today and told me, ‘I want to read Chinese stories.’ She chose How Mouse Gave His Name to the First Year and started reading Mandarin from the cover! I didn’t want to encourage children to read any Mandarin as the teachers once reminded me the children might want to read English as this is their first language.

Bella started reading word by word slowly, but when I turned the page for her, she looked at the Chinese text... Read more

Never too little to teach!

by Suyen Hu on Thu, Jul 27 2017

Katie who loves cats chose a fairy story because there was a missing cat in the story. She said she knew where the cat was, but wanted to read the whole story to see if she was right.

I read the story slowly to her as she was colouring a picture of a cat. Sometimes I was not so confident to pronounce some words like Jack, pan and factory, she would turn her head to read the book and help me to say the words confidently. I love that because this was a relaxing way to improve my English... Read more

Little White, Little White, what a beautiful name!

by Suyen Hu on Thu, Jun 29 2017

I arrived at the school today and put the books the girls have chosen to read on the table. I was reading and waiting for the first girl to come when some pupils walked by the table. Some of them stood behind me and looked at the picture book Daughters of the Land God for a few minutes. One even tried to pick up the book. When I turned to them, one ran away and one was still looking at the book. ‘Do you want to read the book?’ I asked. ‘Yes,’ she said, and wanted to hold the book,... Read more

A little dog and a big dog who built an aeroplane

by Suyen Hu on Wed, Jun 28 2017

Bella brought her own book to share with me. Bella is ‘The Little Girl Who is Shy’. Her book was about a little dog and a big dog who built an aeroplane to fly to find a place for a picnic. She seemed to love the story and the pictures a lot.

When the little dog put all the buttons on the dashboard, she forgot a button on the kitchen table. Bella looked at the picture quietly and suddenly said, ‘I know the story now, I think she forgot to put the landing button.’ I was not sure why she... Read more

Red Bottom Horse Monkey

by Suyen Hu on Tue, Jun 27 2017

Katie chose to read Cheeky Monkey, but didn’t pay much attention to the Chinese language. Katie is 'The Little Girl Who Loves Cats’. She was colouring a cat picture as she loves cats so much. But she kept turning her head to see the pictures and told me the story when I was reading the story to her.

She seemed to be attracted by the monkey’s red bottom and giggled when she saw the red bottom from the pictures. As the Monkey was very big, much bigger than any other animals, I asked her if the... Read more

Every child is talented to learn and read

by Suyen Hu on Fri, Jun 23 2017

Every child has his or her talent to learn and read. With a little bit of patience, properly designed books, and without underestimating their talent, all of them will be able to read not just the beautiful English language but also the seemingly impossible Chinese!

I was so interested to see how the traditional Chinese legends, especially Cheeky Monkey and Little White, really engaged the children’s sympathies, which is what good art should do. I have always thought that this is the strength of these apparently simple ancient legends, which in fact are very deep. I was... Read more

How big is Cheeky Monkey?

by Suyen Hu on Thu, Jun 22 2017

It was my second week at the school to read with the girls on a one to one basis. Two children chose to read Cheeky Monkey for the day’s reading as they were so excited to see how cheeky the Monkey was! At the very beginning of the story, it says: ”Cheeky Monkey is a very big monkey”. The first girl I met was Evie. I think of Evie as ‘The Little Girl Who Loves Reading’. Evie read the story and said: ‘Let me guess how big it is. I think, it will be from the... Read more

Who are the Strawberry Thieves in our Garden?

by Suyen Hu on Sun, Jun 11 2017

William Morris who inspired my book Dear Su Yen made a famous pattern called 'The Strawberry Thief'. The thief is a pretty song bird called a thrush. We have a thief that takes our strawberries, but he is a blackbird. The blackbirds stay around our strawberry farm to... Read more

Learning through legends, learning with Snowflake Books

by Suyen Hu on Thu, Jun 08 2017

As part of my voluntary work at a local school, helping children to read, I went to see the year three children (aged seven to eight years) for the first time today. I realised they all could read our Animal Signs books easily without any difficulty! That’s good, because the books are meant for children aged five to seven. When the children were reading the story, they also looked at the Chinese characters and told me the meaning in English word by word because they've seen the English texts next to the Chinese texts. I didn't even need to tell... Read more

A Dragon Tree for the Chinese New Year

by Roy Preece on Wed, Nov 23 2016

To celebrate the Chinese New Year here is a picture of my Dragon Tree. Usually I like plants to grow naturally, but this willow would get too big. Also there is a long tradition of cutting willows in this way. The new shoots are allowed to grow for several years according to the size of branches or “poles” required; then they are cut again. The process is called “pollarding”. The poles had many uses in traditional country life and  “pollard willows” were once numerous in the landscapes of English wetlands.

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Chinese Gongs

by Roy Preece on Sat, Jan 21 2017

The powerful sound of a gong will get the attention of everyone! In the West gongs are used mostly in orchestras and bands, but in China they have been used for thousands of years in ceremonies and official occasions.

Not surprisingly then, the best gongs are made in China, especially in the city of Wuhan where craftsmen have been making gongs by hand for over 2000 years. You can still buy hand-crafted Wuhan gongs today.

The gong and its “spirit” are given great respect, both because the craftsman is believed to have put his spirit into the gong and because... Read more

Famous Chickens For the Year of Chicken

by Suyen Hu on Mon, Jan 16 2017

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Living with Rice

by Suyen Hu on Mon, Jan 16 2017

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Have a cup of Chinese tea-Episode II

by Suyen Hu on Mon, Jan 16 2017

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Have a cup of Chinese tea

by Suyen Hu on Mon, Jan 16 2017

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Discover the meaning of Christmas with Dear Su Yen

by Roy Preece on Wed, Dec 14 2016

Su Yen’s Four Christmases.

Christmas is the defining event of European civilisation.  Other nations are fascinated by Christmas, but only up to a point. Between the extremes of worshipping many gods or none at all, Chinese people are likely to miss the true spirit of Christmas. Europeans believed Christmas was a unique event, when the world stood still and the eternal entered into our frenetic time-bound existence.

We have moved on of course. We are not an obviously religious society, but something of that uniqueness still clings to the Christmas festival in a way it does to no other. Time... Read more

Poems for Su Yen

by Roy Preece on Mon, Dec 12 2016

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

Poetry Heals: Scientific discoveries support Dear Su Yen

by Roy Preece on Thu, Dec 08 2016

In her introduction to Dear Su Yen, Su Yen writes “I wanted to show how poetry, like music, can be healing”. She also found that thinking about poetry helped improve her everyday English too. Now the latest scientific techniques of brain scanning lend strong support to these ideas.

An article by Julie Henry in The Daily Telegraph shows how the brain “lights up” much more when reading classical poetry than when reading the same information in modern English (see Dear Su Yen, pages 23-4). A sympathetic little poem by William Shakespeare, from his... Read more

Story Plots Part 2: Defeating the Monster

by Roy Preece on Mon, Dec 05 2016

Having spent many years investigating traditional stories and legends, Christopher Booker claimed to have identified seven universal story plots, which reflected perhaps an ancient “shared subconscious” among humankind. Defeating the Monster is the first of the seven universal plots described by Booker: a hero overcomes a “monster” which is threatening the hero’s life or the life of his community.

From classical Greece we have, for example, the well-known story of Theseus, who by bravery and cunning killed the Bull Monster, or Minotaur, and freed his people of Athens from the dreadful obligation of sacrificing seven young men and seven young... Read more

Story Plots Part 1: Missing of the Hero

by Roy Preece on Mon, Dec 05 2016

As well as language and style, when we edit a Chinese story for young English readers, no matter how short and apparently simple the story may be, we have to think about ‘plot’ and how to emphasise the plot in our writing. This may involve some restructuring of the original.

In his book, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, Christopher Booker argues there are seven fundamental and universal plots. He was influenced by the ideas of the psychologist Carl Jung and the theory of the ‘collective subconscious’ which suggests that... Read more

The Making of the New Year Beast

by Suyen Hu on Wed, Nov 23 2016

Everyone has heard of Chinese New Year celebrations! They are busy and noisy with drums and firecrackers, and there are red banners, red lanterns and red costumes and paper dragons. Why are these ceremonies always so red and noisy?  There is a popular ancient legend telling us all about the traditional customs around Chinese New Year.

Like Santa Clause for Christmas, there is also a very important character for Chinese New Year. However, there is something different between them. Before Christmas Eve children are so excited and looking forward to seeing what they will get from the kind Grandpa... Read more

Taoist Gods

by Suyen Hu on Mon, Nov 28 2016

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Witching bottle

by Suyen Hu on Mon, Nov 28 2016

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Chinese ornament of a ball within a ball

by Suyen Hu on Mon, Nov 28 2016

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Taiwanese legal document for land selling

by Suyen Hu on Mon, Nov 28 2016

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Ancient Chinese coins

by Suyen Hu on Mon, Nov 28 2016

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Jewellery & Kingfisher

by Suyen Hu on Mon, Nov 28 2016

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Boats from the world

by Suyen Hu on Mon, Nov 28 2016

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A Sunday in Taiwan

by Suyen Hu on Mon, Nov 28 2016

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Paper Dragon Statue Making

by Suyen Hu on Mon, Nov 28 2016

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Participation in local community brings in confidence and happiness

by Suyen Hu on Mon, Nov 28 2016

This is the second time we have participated in the Christmas craft fairs in our local West Oxford community centre. What we have found the most exciting is the confidence, happiness and sense of achievement that participation in local communities can bring to us.

We have met many different people: artists, authors, linguists, school teachers and of course lovely children, parents and grandparents!


In such a small community as West Oxford, it seems as if the whole world has come to us. An artist could recognise immediately that there was a design... Read more

Some corners of Castle Drogo

by Roy Preece on Sat, Nov 26 2016

           Anyone old enough to remember the cult movements of rebellious Westerners seeking wisdom in Eastern religions may recall a book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  Its author was a fanatic about doing things well, especially caring for his powerful American motorbike.  His story has a strange ending, but it wouldn't be right to give that away here. However, the author of Zen expected other people to do things well too.  Many Americans build their own houses of wood.  An American airman described to me how they knock up a frame, cover it with... Read more

On Translation

by Roy Preece on Wed, Nov 23 2016

Culture speaks to Culture

There is always a concern that the original spirit of words may disappear when translated from one language to another. It may be difficult to find the word in one language which exactly expresses the meaning of another. The French use the same word, aimer, to mean both ‘to love’ and ‘to like’; similar ideas, but essentially different in degree. The correct English word must be decided by the context. The French word demander means ‘to ask’; if translated as ‘to demand’ it suggests a forceful and somewhat bad mannered request. In English life, to say... Read more

Dragons are everywhere

by Roy Preece on Wed, Nov 23 2016


The night was very dark. I was driving along the motorway with a Chinese friend. We had been sailing all day on the sea and were quite tired, and now we faced a long drive home. As we reached the top of a hill we could see the next hill rising in front of us. Up and down the hill hundreds of lights were moving. ‘Oh! See that,’ said my friend, ‘It looks like two dragons; a red dragon and a white dragon’. 

‘Ah!’ I said,... Read more

It’s OK to be different – Nine Sons of the Dragon

by Stephanie Henwood on Fri, Oct 21 2016

The charming tales of The Nine Sons of the Dragon raise some key points on equality.  Each son is so unique yet they resemble a tight family unit made up of strong individuals, each with their own set of talents and skills.

I have perceived, that Dragon King loves and treats his 9 sons equally regardless of their differing looks and talents, as he sent all 9 sons to help Liu Po Wen.  What I feel particularly touching Is that the sons all appear very close too, for example,... Read more

Sharing our culture with new friends is satisfying

by Suyen Hu on Thu, Oct 20 2016

Some days ago, a friend of mine in Canada shared a post online asking about how to help her little one share the ideas of the Buddhist 18 layers of Hell in his class at school. The sharing must be in simple English for Western kids.

One of the comments under the post said: ‘Ask Snowflake to help.’ It is interesting that for some friends, they don’t call me Su Yen, but like to call me Snowflake, or Xuehua in Chinese. I love being called Snowflake actually!

That morning, when I met another Snowflaker, I talked about our Buddhist... Read more

Illustration Time-Lapse

by Suyen Hu on Wed, Aug 24 2016

Heres a video of our extremely talented snowflake books artist creating an illustrationof out brilliant business development manager Steph

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A lovely morning with Ruth

by Suyen Hu on Thu, Feb 18 2016

No sooner had we met Ruth at the coffee shop than she couldn’t wait to tell us that she heard about us from our Chinese New Year interview on BBC Radio Oxford. Unfortunately she was driving in traffic and she only heard the last five minutes, and didn’t get our names at all. She said she was so touched by our ideas of reviving the lost Chinese wisdom and culture of China, but it was very hard... Read more