Wednesday, 3 December 2014

四季叢書上市了 Four Seasons Books Are Available in Print

It took two years... well, three years if you count the very initial writing of the spring poem, to producing the print version of the Four Seasons series. I re-learned photography, re-worked the texts with editors, and re-arranged the layouts with the help of a talented graphic designer. Lots of technical details throughout the production process. The Chinese saying "好事多磨 (hao shi duo mou)" is very true as good things do and should take long. Now I have something to show my ideal of bilingual stories as a reflection of our living at the intersection of Chinese and Canadian cultures. Books are available on or you can email me (iningtracychao at gmail dot com) to request a sample or just to let me know what you think about the books. I love hearing from the readers - young and old!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

如果花会说话 If Flowers Could Speak

Have you ever wondered if you put your ears close to flowers, I mean really close, what would you hear? Living on the West Coast of Canada, we are blessed with lots of colourful and fragrant flowers. I am also grateful that I can visit a heritage garden site at work everyday. Without it, I wouldn't be able to produce this story... you should see the sad state of my home garden. Well, I spend my time between my design work, and writing these stories. No time for pulling weeds and tending my own garden. So I use my lunch breaks at work to stroll through the heritage garden. From season to season, it's a feast for the eyes, and ears if you listen carefully.

Chinese with English Subtitles

Chinese with pinying

This is the debut recording of Emilyn playing violin. She started early this year and made really good progress. Emilyn also typed all the text and Pinyin this time. One thing she really likes to do is to proofread my work. So when the movie was done, I asked her to proofread it. She picked out two mistakes in Pinyin and was mighty proud of that. Movie Maker has been a great tool for my story projects but with this flower story, I was a bit frustrated by the limitation of the software and want to use more editing functions. I guess I have out-grown the tool. Progress on my part. I remember learning and using Adobe Premier back in the days when I did media production work. I might have to think about the next step in terms of building my skills. That includes my writing skills. I'm already creating the next set of stories. They are sketches by Emilyn and scribbles by me on paper for now. 12 animals from the Chinese zodiac with a twist. I think we completed six animals. Another six to go. And at the same time Emilyn and I have brainstormed ideas for the next QiQi story. I don't think photography will suit these new works. Another ambitious art project on the horizon and I'll see if I can get Chantal to help this time. 

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

奇奇的祕密任務 The Secret Mission of QiQi

Watch the video.

QiQi is a squirrel. "Hao Qi" means being curious in Chinese. So we name the squirrel QiQi.

It has been almost two years since our encounter with a squirrel trapped in a chimney. That was the summer when we travelled to Kimberley and stayed at our friend Erica's cottage. A squirrel fell into the chimney in the kitchen and screeched, in pain I thought at the time, the whole night. My imagination ran wild: an injured bird, a hurt squirrel, bloody feather and mangled fur?  Erica had to call in her neighbour to help. We were happy that we freed a very scared but healthy squirrel after several hours of dismantling the kitchen fan under the chimney. The kids had a frenzy trying to chase the squirrel out of the house. It was all for a good laugh at the end and Erica said: why don't you write about it. Here I am: two years later, I finally finished the project. And I owe Erica a big THANKS!

As always, the writing part is easy. I wrote the story shortly after the trip. The art work and the video production always take a long time. We had a "draft" hand-made story book before I asked Emilyn to re-do all the illustrations. That proved to be a challenge for an 8 years old to keep a consistent design and style. She had to learn how to draw a squirrel from different angles with different actions. She settled on a grey squirrel, the same kind that frequent our backyard, and researched the habitat and food habit of this creature. Quite a process and an accomplishement for Emilyn. The voice recording  also took a while as the story lines are longer and more complex linguistically. Fortunately, days of recording got Chantal, the 4 years old, interested in the production and she sang the opening song with all the enthusiasm she had. Perfect sound effect I was looking for.

This is the spring break week so I am very pleased that this story is finally on the blog for all the kids to enjoy. I am still busy with the upcoming publication of my first series of story books. Camera in hand, the kids and I are in search of flowers in the woods or gardens. Every time we run into a squirrel, we say "hey look, QiQi is busy with his secret mission".

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

倒頭栽 Up Side Down

It’s been a while since I posted a story.  Good news, though. I’m working on my first book deal to turn the four seasons series into a set of talking books. I re-working the text and taking photos and I am quite excited about that. Learning photography has been the most rewarding experience so far. Emilyn and Chantal will often join me. Even though they need to be my subjects most of the time, what ends up happening is the two taking their own toy cameras and mimicking what I do. It’s all fun and produces creative photos at the end. What more can I ask for?!

Dao tou zai is a Taiwanese slang and it has a clever and mischievous connotation to it. This short poem is all about Chantal. She really is an up side down girl. That means she has more fun with her head down and her feet up. I often ask her why she likes to be up side down so much. She just gives me a grin and says: it’s fun 好玩 Hao Wan

This up side down game also reminds me of how we need to turn our head around once in a while and look at things from a reversed perspective. It really gives you a different perspective, doesn’t it?

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

種菜 Planting Vegetables

種菜 Planting Vegetables

Chinese with English Subtitles

I never consider myself as having a green thumb. I started with 10 strawberry plants about 5 years ago. When they all survived my care that first year and spawned numerous baby strawberry plants, that was enough to give me confidence to expand my garden, adding tomato plants, blue berry bushes, bok choy, brocoli, cucumber, and even corn just last year. Now we have a sizable garden and the harvest throughout Summer and Fall is just too delicious. 

Chinese with Pinyin

Our encounter with a snake was a true story. I completely freaked out when I saw the slithering creature. I'm not sure why but I had this phobia toward snakes ever since I was a kid. Emilyn was only 3 at the time and she sat there, watching the snake for a good half hour or so. She very much wanted to "pat" the snake and keep it as a pet. To this date, she still loves snakes. She had her chance of patting them at a zoo and an aquarium. I'll continue with my vegie garden and I won't mind a snake's visit once in a while. But just like the story line, snakes have to stay outdoors.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

你好,雪人先生 Hello, Mr. Snowman

Chinese with pinying

I’m not a fan of snow and cold but this year I really wished we can have some white magic for this story. Well, we had just enough snow and the snow lasted just long enough so we could make a snowman and have a snow ball fight.

Chinese with English Subtitles
We celebrated Chinese New Year this weekend, the official start of the Spring. Looking out the window, all the snow has melted away. But the memory of this winter – a day off from school and work, my surprise that Chantal fit into her older sister’s snow suit, a foot of snow on the driveway that became a toboggan lane, and the children’s attempt to eat snow – is sealed with this short poem. It also completes my Four Seasons series, one poem for each season.
Again, Emilyn read this poem without difficulty. Her reading is improving and she is also interested in Chinese books that she can read on her own. It’s not easy fitting all the languages into our daily routine. She reads French books assigned by her school teacher, and loves Roald Dahl’s series of The Big Friendly Giant in English.  I am in continuous search for Chinese books and story ideas. Well, this is a good problem to tackle.

Here is the poem. Happy reading!
你好, 雪人先生! nǐ hǎo,  xuě rén xiān shēng!
Hello, Mr. Snowman 
冬天到了,下雪了 dōng tiān dào le, xià xuě le
Winter is here, it is snowing
雪是白白的  xuě shì bái bái de
snow is white

從天空飄下來 cóng tiān kōng piāo xià lái
drifting down from the sky 
軟軟的 ruǎn ruǎn de
snow is soft

tíng zài shù shàng, cǎo dì shàng
landing on the trees, on the grass
也停在我的頭上、手上  yěi tíng zài wǒ de tóu shàng, shuǒ shàng
also landing on my head, my hands
看一看  kàn yī kàn
have a look
雪花亮晶晶  xuě huā liàng jīng jīng
snow flake is sparkling
拿一拿 ná yī ná
take a hold
雪花結成一個球  xuě huā jié chéng yī ge qiú
snow forms into a ball
打雪仗! dǎ xuě zhàng
snow ball fight!
滾一滾  gǔn yī gǔnr
roll it up
雪球變大  xuě qiú biàn dà
snow ball grows bigger
一個、兩個,疊起來  yī ge, liáng ge, dié qǐ lái
one, two, stack them up
加兩個石頭眼睛  jiā liáng ge shí tóu yǎn jīng
add two pebbles as eyes
兩個樹枝手臂 liáng ge shù zhī shǒu bài
two twigs as arms
別忘了肚子上的鈕扣 bié wàng le dù zi shàng de niǔ kòu
don’t forget the button on the belly
你好, 雪人先生! nǐ hǎo,  xuě rén xiān shēng!
hello, Mr. Snowman!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Who is Santa?

I guess it is official. The tree is up; decorations all over it. The singing moose repeats Christmas songs over and over again and my 3 year old dances to the music like she is the happiest kid in the world. Over the weekend, we produced this story. I wrote this short piece a long time ago, almost a year ago, I think, when Chantal first got an idea of who Santa is. I showed Emilyn my script two weeks ago and we discussed the "plan" to make a Santa for the video. She was very excited about the project and we invited Song Fei, Emilyn's friend, to join the art production. The story is a conversation between me (mother) and Chantal (little sister = mei mei).We recorded the conversation in one take. This was not the case for previous stories when we had to practice and record line by line. Emilyn has made good progress on her Chinese reading.

Chinese with pinyin

Chinese with English subtitles

So here it is. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all. And thank you for reading and supporting my story blog. There will be more fun stories in the New Year and I welcome your ideas and suggestions.

妹妹: 媽媽, 誰是聖誕老公公?Mèi mèi: Mā Mā, shéi shì shèng dàn lǎo gōng gōng?Sister: Who is Santa Claus?

媽媽: 聖誕老公公是一個很有愛心的老公公Mā Mā: Shèng dàn lǎo gōng gōng shì yī ge hěn yǒu ài xīn de lǎo gōng gōngMother: Santa Claus is a caring old man

妹妹: 他有多老了?Mèi mèi: Tā yǒu duō lǎo le?Sister: How old is he?

媽媽: 很老很老, 但是他很健康,胖胖壯壯的Mā Mā: Hěn lǎo hěn lǎo, dàn shì tā hěn jiàn kāng, pàng pàng zhuàng zhuàng deMother: Very old, very old. But he is very healthy, chubby and sturdy.

妹妹: 他為什麼胖胖壯壯的呢?Mèi mèi: Tā wèi shé mo pàng pàng zhuàng zhuàng de nē?Sister: Why is he chubby and sturdy?

媽媽: 因為他總是笑嘻嘻Mā Mā: Yīn wèi tā zǒng shì xiào xī xīMother: because he always smiles.

妹妹: 他對誰笑嘻嘻呢?Mèi mèi: Tā duì shéi xiào xī xī nē?Sister: Who does he smile at?

媽媽: 對每一個人都笑嘻嘻,尤其對好孩子笑嘻嘻Mā Mā: Duī měi yī ge rén dōu xiào xī xī, Yóu qí duì hǎo hái zi xiào xī xīMother: He smiles at everyone, especially the good kids.

妹妹: 誰是好孩子?Mèi mèi: Shéi shì hǎo hái zi?Sister: Who is a good kid?

媽媽: 每一個孩子都可以當好孩子,對別人有愛心,就是好孩子Mā Mā: Měi yī ge hái zi dōu kě yǐ dāng hǎo hái zi, duì bié rén yǒu ài xīn, jiù shì hǎo hái ziMother: Every kid can be a good kid. As long as you are caring toward others, you are a good kid.

妹妹: 要怎麼樣對別人有愛心呢?Mèi mèi: Yào zěn mo yàng duì bié rén yǒu ài xīn nē?Sister: How can you be caring toward others?

媽媽: 要幫助別人,要分享你的好東西,就是有愛心Mā Mā: Yào bāng zuì béi rén, yào fēn xiǎng nǐ de hǎo dōng xī, jiù shì yǒu ài xīnMother: You help others and share what you have. That’s caring.

妹妹: 聖誕老公公小時後是不是一個有愛心的小朋友?Mèi mèi: Shèn dàn lǎo gōng gōng xiǎo shí hòu shì bú shì yī ge yǒu ài xīn de xiǎo péng yǒu?Sister: Was Santa Claus a caring kid when he was little?

媽媽: 是吧! 他才會老了,還是個有愛心的老公公Mā Mā: Shì ba! Tā cái huì lǎo le, hái shì ge yǒu ài xīn de lǎo gōng gōngMother: Yes! When he got old, he is still a caring old man

妹妹: 他會送禮物給我嘛?Mèi mèi: Tā huì sòng lǐ wù gěi wǒ mā?Sister: Will he give me a present?

媽媽: 你是好孩子嘛?Mā Mā: Nǐ shì hǎo hái zi mā?Mother: Are you a good kid?

妹妹: 是呀! 我現在是好孩子, 有愛心,等我長大以後老了,我也可以當聖誕老公公Mèi mèi: Shì yā! Wǒ xiàn zài shì hǎo hái zi, yǒu ài xīn, děn wǒ zhǎng dà yǐ hòu lǎo le, wǒ yě kě yǐ dāng shèng dàn lǎo gōng gōngSister: Yes! I am a good kid now. I am caring. When I grow old, I can be Santa Claus too.