Five Family Favorites with Allison Branscombe, Author of All About China
Allison Branscombe | The Children’s Book Review | December 15, 2015
Pinpointing our family’s favorite five books was much harder than I had imagined! My daughters are 19 and 21 and in college. My simple inquiry about their favorite books sparked a barrage of book titles dancing on my smart phone! Of course, there were the obvious ones, such as Goodnight Moon, and Love You Forever (and everything Robert Munsch), Elmer, Where the Wild Things Are, everything Winnie the Pooh and Corduroy, and a few less obvious ones like The Giving Tree, the Tale of Despereaux, and The Quiltmaker’s Gift. My oldest devoured everything Harry Potter, and the youngest Junie B. Jones and Amelia Bedelia. After a bit of thought, and lots of important memories sweeping in, I settled on these favorites:
Written by Barbara Berger
Grandfather Twilight is a magical, meditative picture book showing a gentle man with a flowing white beard unpacking a pearl from his luminous magical trunk. As he walks through the forest quietly greeting all the animals, the small pearl grows, bringing more light to the darkened forest. When the walk ends at the ocean’s edge, Grandfather Twilight lifts the pearl up into the skies where it becomes a softly glowing moon. Sure-footed and kind, Grandfather Twilight was part of a beloved nightly ritual of cuddling, relaxing and preparing for sleep.
Ages 3-7 | Publisher: Puffin Books | 1996 | 978-0698113947
Written by Robert Munsch
Paper Bag Princess is a story about a princess who bravely rescues her prince from a fire breathing dragon, ending with an unexpected but ironic twist. Like many of Munsch’s books, it gently makes fun of stereotypes and helps kids to think about appropriate responses to socially expected behaviors. My daughters thought it was hilarious; I would like to think it was the beginning of our conversations about sexual stereotypes and standing up for oneself.
Ages 4-7 | Publisher: Annick Press | 1992 | 978-0920236161
Written by E. B. White
Charlotte’s Web is a touching story about the friendship shared by a barnyard pig, a spider and a young girl. Life on a country farm was new to my city kids. It also sparked conversations about the cycle of life and what being a friend means. Barely noticed were the fact that the pig and the spider could talk, and the spider conceived a simply brilliant plan to save the life of her friend the pig. We read this classic book after my mother died of cancer. It became a poignant way to talk about feelings of losing loved ones, but how life does go on and there are always new beginnings happening down the road.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: HarperCollins | 2012 (Reprint) | 978-0739477076
Written by Grace Lin
The Year of the Dog was one of the first chapter books my Chinese-born daughters read that featured real life stories about someone like them. Taiwanese American author Grace Lin wrote the book she wished had been available when she was young. It was fun for my kids to see themselves in the lead character, exploring what it means to be Asian in a nearly all white school, but also relating to many common experiences with other girls their age, regardless of race. There was lots to learn about Taiwanese traditions and cultural view points, all centered around young girls growing up and discovering what they care about in life.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | 2007 (Reprint) | 978-0316060028
Written by Beverly Cleary
Beezus and Ramona was perhaps a more important book for my older daughter than she realized at the time. Little sister Ramona continually causes big problems and trouble for her older sister Beezus, in ways that embarrass, humiliate and exasperate Beezus. This hilarious and touching book about sisterly relationships informs us all about the complex mixture of feelings that siblings negotiate as they grow up, and how these experiences shape who they become along the way to adulthood.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: HarperCollins | 2013 (Reprint) | 978-0380709182
About Allison Branscombe
Allison Branscombe is an avid traveler, researcher and writer. After adopting two children from China, she took a keen interest in learning about the country in order to help her children learn about their heritage. Her interest grew as she became a founding board member of Families with Children from China in Northern California, helping to organize Mandarin playgroups and other cultural and educational learning opportunities. As a board member of the Sacramento Chinese Culture Foundation, and a founding organizer for Sacramento’s Chinatown Mall Culture Fair, she developed arts, crafts, and other instructional activities for children. Allison and her family have traveled extensively in China. She resides in California.
Written by Allison Branscombe
Illustrated by Lin Wang
Publisher’s Synopsis: Take the whole family on a whirlwind tour of Chinese history and culture with this delightfully illustrated book that is packed with stories, activities and games. Travel from the stone age through the dynasties to the present day with songs and crafts for kids that will teach them about Chinese language and the Chinese way of life.
**Winner of Creative Child Magazine 2015 Preferred Choice Award**
**Winner of the Independent Publisher Book Award Silver Medal**
**Winner of Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards 2015 Silver Medal**
Ages 3-6 | Publisher: Tuttle Publishing | 2014 | 978-0804841214
Allison Branscombe, author of All About China: Stories, Songs, Crafts and More for Kids, selected these five family favorites. Discover more articles on The Children’s Book Review tagged with Family Favorites and Books About China.