Maya & Neel’s India Adventure Series: A Book Review

Advances in technology have made travel more economical and thereby more accessible to many. The prevalence of social media around the globe not only brings people together and but also brings worldwide attention to current events within minutes and hours. With the current political climate, it is more important than ever to provide our children with an awareness and appreciation for other cultures and beliefs.

I’m excited to share with you a new multicultural and educational book series from Bollywood Groove, Maya & Neel’s India Adventure. Your young children will love to join Maya, Neel and their pet squirrel, Chintu, as they visit India on fun, cultural adventures.

Bollywood Groove is a dance studio for kids and adults in Chicago. Founders Ajanta and Vivek aspired to create an environment that immersed kids into the rich and diverse culture of India by using stories and learning dance choreography. This program has been a great success for their dance school and they decided to increase their audience by publishing books.

Children's books about India book series

*I received this product for free from Bollywood Groove in exchange for my honest opinion. This post contains affiliate links; see disclosure for more information.*

Maya & Neel’s India Adventure series

India is a land of festivals, where people from different religions coexist harmoniously. The wide variety of festivals celebrated in India is a true manifestation of its rich culture and traditions.

Diwali, for example, is one of the most prominent Hindu festivals of India. During this festival of lights, houses are decorated with clay lamps, candles, and Ashok leaves. People wear new clothes, participate in family puja, burst crackers, and share sweets with friends, families, and neighbors.

Let’s Celebrate 5 Days of Diwali, the first book in the series, introduces readers to India’s biggest and most important holiday of the year. The festival gets its name from the row (avali) of clay lamps (deepa) that Indians light outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness. Each day of Diwali holds wonderful traditions for the children. My favorite was the fifth, whereupon brothers and sisters promise to take care of each other.

Let’s Visit Mumbai (book 2) brings us to Mumbai (formerly Bombay), a densely populated city on India’s west coast and the largest city in the country. On the waterfront stands the iconic Gateway of India stone arch, built by the British Raj in 1924. Offshore, nearby Elephanta Island holds ancient cave temples dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.

Let’s Celebrate Holi (book 3) introduces children to the festival of colors, one of the famous festivals of India. On the eve of Holi, people make huge Holika bonfires and sing and dance around it. On the day of Holi, people gather in open areas and apply dry and wet colors of multiple hues to each other, with some carrying water guns and colored water filled balloons.

Eid is another major festival of India for the Muslim community. People dress up in fineries, attend a special community prayer in the morning, visit friends, and relatives and exchange sweets. Children are given idi (money or gift) by elders. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting (Sawm) to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad according to Islamic belief. Learn more about each in the fourth book in the series, Let’s Celebrate Ramadan & Eid.

Let’s Celebrate Navratri (book 5) highlights the nine nights (and ten days) of the Hindu festival, Navrati, celebrated in the autumn every year. It is observed for different reasons and celebrated differently in various parts of the Indian subcontinent.

Help fight hate with knowledge. Teach your kids all about the beauty and culture of India in these beautifully illustrated multi-cultural books. You can find more books featuring Maya & Neel on Amazon.

AramKim_MCCBDposter2018FINAL-1Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2018

I am proud to take part in the annual Multicultural Children’s Book Day, celebrated on the 27th of January this year and marking the 5th anniversary.  It was was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2018 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board this year.

2018 MCBD Medallion Sponsors

2018 Author Sponsors

Honorary Author Sponsors: Author/Illustrator Aram Kim and Author/Illustrator Juana Medina

Author Janet Balletta, Author Susan BernardoAuthor Carmen Bernier-Grand, Author Tasheba Berry-McLaren and Space2Launch, Bollywood Groove Books, Author Anne BroylesAuthor Kathleen Burkinshaw, Author Eugenia Chu, Author Lesa Cline-Ransome, Author Medeia Cohan and Shade 7 Publishing, Desi Babies, Author Dani Dixon and Tumble Creek Press, Author Judy Dodge Cummings, Author D.G. Driver, Author Nicole Fenner and Sister Girl Publishing, Debbi Michiko Florence, Author Josh Funk, Author Maria Gianferrari, Author Daphnie Glenn, Globe Smart Kids, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, Author Quentin Holmes, Author Esther Iverem, Jennifer Joseph: Alphabet Oddities, Author Kizzie Jones, Author Faith L Justice , Author P.J. LaRue and, Author Karen Leggett Abouraya, Author Sylvia Liu, Author Sherri Maret, Author Melissa Martin Ph.D., Author Lesli Mitchell, Pinky Mukhi and We Are One, Author Miranda Paul, Author Carlotta Penn, Real Dads Read, Greg Ransom, Author Sandra L. Richards, RealMVPKids Author Andrea Scott, Alva Sachs and Three Wishes Publishing, Shelly Bean the Sports QueenAuthor Sarah Stevenson, Author Gayle H. Swift Author Elsa Takaoka, Author Christine Taylor-Butler, Nicholette Thomas and  MFL Publishing  Author Andrea Y. Wang, Author Jane Whittingham  Author Natasha Yim

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

Connect & Win

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Scholastic Book Clubs: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/27/18 at 9:00pm.

Join the conversation and win one of 12-5 book bundles and one Grand Prize Book Bundle (12 books) that will be given away at the party!

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers

Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators 

Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

Discovering China: Yangshou – Caves, Cormorants, and Snails

discovering china

Nihao!  I’m delighted you are joining me for the seventh of ten posts whereby I introduce you to the culture of China through our eyes.  Today, I bring you to Yangshou – where you will discover caves, cormorants, and snails. Of all the cities we had the chance to see during our three-week family holiday in China, Yangshou remains the most special to me. The scenery was stunning.  The people were so welcoming.  It reminded me a little of my beloved Oregon.

yangshouIn Chinese paintings there are scenes of fantastically shaped misty mountains – these aren’t merely in the eye of the artist – you can see this landscape around Guilin. The Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region is famous for its scenery dominated by the karst peaks that create some of the most famous landscape images of China. You’ve likely even seen them featured prominently in an episode of Star Wars.


What you don’t see in those photos are the hundreds of caves that go right along with the landscape (where there’s a limestone mountain, there is a cave). The area around Yangshuo – where we stayed – has many caves for spelunking, some you wander through, some in which you can even enjoy a mud bath.

We had to make changes to our original itinerary and we didn’t have as much time here as we’d hoped. For this reason, we sadly didn’t make it to these caves.  Even so, we had a wonderful time and Yangshou remains one of our highlights.  With the help of our hotel, a driver met us at the airport in Guilin and escorted us to our resort in Yangshou. We arrived just in time for lunch – a local favorite of braised beer fish – and thereafter enjoyed a delightful motor boat cruise on the Li River.

Li River

The motor boat was loud and in the humidity, it was not the most comfortable ride (our driver went up river very slowly – I think every other boat must have passed us).   After about 45 minutes, he stopped at a small island where he directed us off the boat and we were immediately encouraged by the vendors to sample their offerings as well as have our photo taken with the captive cormorants.  This made me uncomfortable but I obliged.

After our river cruise, we visited Xingping, an ancient village in existence for over 1500 years. In the village, we could see stone streets and crumbly brick buildings with tiled roofs, surrounded by the mountains.   We then returned to the Yangshou Mountain Resort where we were staying to change and go down to dinner. Can you believe we ordered burgers?  The freshly in  house-baked buns and local vegetables (particularly the tomatoes) made it one of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten.


Later that evening, we went into town again for the cormorant fishing show. Cormorant fishing is a traditional fishing method in which fishermen use trained cormorants to fish in rivers. Historically, cormorant fishing has taken place in Japan and China since about 960 AD. The types of cormorants used differ based on the location; Chinese fishermen often employ Great Cormorants (P. carbo).

To control the birds, the fishermen tie a snare near the base of the bird’s throat. This prevents the birds from swallowing larger fish, which are held in their throat, but the birds can swallow smaller fish – we observed this on a few occasions.  When a cormorant has caught a fish in its throat, the fisherman brings the bird back to the boat and has the bird spit the fish up. Though cormorant fishing once was a successful industry, its primary use today is to serve the tourism industry.

yangshou cormorant fishingThe following day, we stayed close to the resort as we were to depart in the early afternoon for the train station.  We enjoyed a lazy float on inner tubes reminiscent of my childhood on the Yulong River amid a beautiful backdrop of karst mountains.  We played a little Pīngpāng qiú (乒乓球) – a sport in which China dominates.  We slowly, reluctantly packed our things.

While in Yangshou, travelers can also enjoy a relaxing ride on a bamboo raft on the river. The skillful crewman uses a long pole to navigate the raft.  As our time in Yangshou was limited, we didn’t have the chance to take a bamboo raft down this section of the river – but we did enjoy watching others.


The kids would have liked to captain their own raft but had to console themselves with the one that was anchored near the resort.  Here they found numerous snails who they quickly befriended. We’d watched the movie Turbo just prior to departing for China, so they both had a fond affection for snails.  You can read more about our impromptu snail study in my earlier post, Nature Study in China: Phylum Mollusca.

Had we had more time in this province, we would have enjoyed a trek in the Longji Rice Terraces. This famous area is north of Guilin and famous for its minority villages and incredible scenery. The mountains here are terraced from top to bottom and create a stunning landscape.

I will be wrapping up the Discovering China series tomorrow with Hong Kong where during our final days in China, we celebrated Sweeetie’s birthday.


This post is part of the iHomeschool Network’s Autumn Hopscotch, a 10 day series of posts by over 40 different homeschool bloggers. You can visit the hopscotch home page at iHN for ideas and inspiration. Have you taken a peak at some of the other posts?  If not, I encourage you to do so. You’ll surely find something to inspire you!

All 10 days of Discovering China will be linked to one landing page.  Bookmark it for reference!

Discovering China: Suzhou – Canals, Gardens, and the Silk Road

discovering china欢迎 (Huānyíng) !  I’m delighted you are following along with us as we tour China, city by city.  We recently returned from a three-week family holiday in China. This is the eighth of ten posts whereby I introduce you to the culture of China through our eyes.  Suzhou is a city of gardens, canals, and silk. Come along and I’ll share a few of our trip highlights.

The new high-speed rail system linking Shanghai to Suzhou now makes the trip to Suzhou so doable it’s now a day trip. At just under an hour, we arrived in the early morning and had the whole day to explore and still get back to Shanghai by dinner time. Suzhou is one of China’s most famous tourist destinations for domestic and foreign visitors alike.

This post contains affiliate links. 

suzhou gardens

While visiting Suzhou’s UNESCO-listed gardens may not at first seem like a fun kids’ activity, especially if your kids are as active as Buddy, there’s one garden you won’t want to miss, the Humble Administrator’s Garden. While adults can enjoy the aspects of a pristine classical Chinese garden, kids can explore, climb and play. The rockeries are especially fun for kids. They can climb up and through them – many are cave-like or have steps up to the top. You’ll have plenty of time to take the photos you want and you’ll probably end up having to drag your kids away!  We did. 🙂

The Silk Road

For me, our excursion to Suzhou was one of the highlights of our holiday in China.  This is because I have been fascinated with insects my entire life – I had even considered minoring in entomology when I was at the university.  The silk factory in Suzhou took us away from the usual tourist areas and we even began to wonder how far we’d have to travel (we went by taxi and the driver, in retrospect, seemed to meander all over the city).  The factory tour, however, was very interesting and there was no pressure to purchase anything.  I’m kicking myself for not bringing home a silk blanket, however.  Next time!

suzhou silk

Silk fabric was first developed in ancient China; legend gives credit for developing silk to a Chinese empress, Leizu, who discovered silkworms while having a midday tea, and a cocoon fell in her tea. Upon her discovery, she persuaded her husband to give her a grove of mulberry trees, where she could domesticate the worms that made these cocoons. Leizu is also attributed with inventing the silk reel, which joins fine filaments into a thread strong enough for weaving and with inventing the first silk loom.

Silks were originally reserved for the Emperors of China for their own use and gifts to others, but spread gradually through Chinese culture and trade both geographically and socially, and then to many regions of Asia. The first evidence of the silk trade is the finding of silk in the hair of an Egyptian mummy of the 21st dynasty, c.1070 BC. The silk trade reached as far as the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, Europe, and North Africa. This trade was so extensive that the major set of trade routes between Europe and Asia came to be known as the Silk Road.

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To learn more about the Silk Road, you may be interested in the following books for children:

Bonnie Christensen’s book,  A Single Pebble: A Story of the Silk Road, is a delightful story of a little girl in 19th century China who sends a small jade pebble to travel with her father along the Silk Road. The pebble passes from his hand all the way to the Venice, the end of the Silk Road, where a boy cherishes it and sees the value of this gift from a girl at the end of the road.

Each page of The Silk Route: 7,000 Miles of History by John S. Major, reflects a different culture with different customs, architectural styles, and ethnicities, moving from China east to Constantinople. The illustrations are well-drawn and offer a lot of information in their own right; the text is a wonderful look at cultural communication and long-distance travel.

In her historical activity book, Marco Polo for KidsJanis Herbert chronicles the famous explorer’s travels along the “Silk Road” to the palace of the Kublai Khan and incorporates activities and projects for the various cultures that he experienced.

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entomology previewTo learn more about insects, check out my Introductory Entomology unit study I developed earlier this year. It is full of engaging, hands-on activities and collaborative projects for the budding entomologist.   There are over 20 printable notebooking pages and handouts, links to exclusive video lessons, and illustrated instructions for constructing your own collection equipment.

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We’re off to Yangshou tomorrow – certainly a highlight of our holiday for all of us.  Growing up in a rural area, it is no wonder that the dramatic scenery of the Karst Mountains and the confluence of the rivers here captivated our hearts.

Autumn-Hopscotch-2013This post is part of the iHomeschool Network’s Autumn Hopscotch, a 10 day series of posts by over 40 different homeschool bloggers. You can visit the hopscotch home page at iHN for ideas and inspiration in topics like Geek Projects: Narnia, Middle Earth, Doctor Who, Star Trek, and Beyond.

All 10 days of Discovering China will be linked to one landing page.  Bookmark it for reference!

Discovering China: The Super Skyline of Shanghai

discovering chinaWelcome back!  I hope you are enjoying your city by city tour of China.  If you are just joining us, I am delighted you are here.  We recently returned from a three-week family holiday in China. This is the seventh of ten posts whereby I introduce you to the culture of China through our eyes.

Teeming with international high-rollers, glittery skyscrapers and construction cranes, China’s sophisticated capital of business, Shanghai, wouldn’t seem a welcoming place for children at first glance. But it won’t take long to discover that with its many parks, markets and museums, Shanghai can captivate all ages.

Shanghai is a great city for kids to explore, from the top of the pink Oriental Pearl TV Tower overlooking the skyline, to classical Chinese gardens and zig-zag bridges, to boats on the Huangpu River, there’s always something new to see. You’ll also find Shanghai is a crossroads – the largest port in China, the city is hopping with a unique blend of old and new, east and west, Europe and Asia, the latest high-tech innovations and oldest traditions.


Despite the crowds (the population of Shanghai is 17 million), the city is relatively crime-free. Taxis are cheap, and the subway is easy to navigate. In fact, transportation is part of the fun, which begins as soon as you land. From the Pudong International Airport, about 30 miles east of the city, you can catch the 267-mile-per-hour German-engineered Maglev, or magnetic levitation, train. It’s a scenery-blurring, eight-minute hurtle to the edge of town. One-way trips are 50 yuan, about $6.40 at 7.85 yuan to the dollar, or 40 yuan with a same-day airline ticket. From the Maglev’s terminus at Longyang Lu, you can take a taxi or the subway to the city center.

discover shanghaiYuYuan

As early as the 15th century, the heart of Shanghai was the Yu Yuan (Yu Garden) area.  From the Yu Yuan’s zigzag bridge, children can toss fish food (2 yuan a bag) into a murky pond, and the water will roil with red and gold carp and red-eared slider turtles.

This Ming Dynasty walled garden of pavilions, willows and rocks has been overshadowed by its bazaar, a labyrinth of kiosks and specialty shops overhung by swooping, Ming-style tile roofs. Here, you can buy chopsticks, silk pajamas, wigs, American fast food, guitars, kites and fermented tofu (we had tried this at the home of our tutor and knew to avoid it – sorry, Shaun), among many other items. Merchants demonstrate everything from bubble-blowers to Chinese yo-yos; others beckon passersby to sample tea and gelato.


Shanghai’s lifeline to the sea, the Huangpu River, also divides the city into Puxi, its older, western part, and Pudong, the more recently developed, flashier section. Pudong’s riverfront promenade is ideal for strolls, flying kites and views of the Bund, a stretch of early 20th-century European edifices. The hard-working Huangpu bustles with tugs, barges and freighters.

shanghaiNight Cruise on Huangu River

One of the best ways to spend a few hours in Shanghai is to take a Huang Pu River Tour. The boats depart along the Bund every half-hour and you can book short or longer tours. We opted for a night cruise which departed at dusk, when landmarks on both banks are illuminated. The tour boats take you up and down the river and you’ll see not only the fabulous architecture on either side of the river, you’ll also get to enjoy the traffic along the river – a sign of an economy in motion.

The Huang Pu River is a tributary of the Yangtze and there is plenty of traffic on it to prove its importance. You’ll see the magnificent building skylines on both the historic west side (the Bund), and the modern east side (Pudong) as well as the working area of coal boats filling barges and sending them downriver. It’s fun to see such lively river life as well as Shanghai’s amazing skyline.

Super Skyline

There’s a new building going up in Shanghai’s Pudong that is slated to be the tallest building in Shanghai and the second tallest in the world. Upon its completion, the building will stand approximately 632 meters (2,073 ft) high and will have 121 stories, with a total floor area of 380,000 m2 (4,090,000 sq ft).  The Shanghai Tower will be completed in 2014 but until then, you can take your kids up to the top of other towers in China, Jin Mao Tower and the Shanghai World Financial Center. We chose The World Financial Center because of its a fabulous sky deck.


Engineering: World's Tallest Buildings Unit Study

Engineering: World’s Tallest Buildings Unit Study

To commemorate Shanghai and to the delight of my daughter who desires to be an environmental / architectural engineer, I have put together an Engineering Unit Study that is sure to captivate the hearts of young engineers the world over.

Suzhou is our destination tomorrow.  For me, our excursion to Suzhou was one of the highlights of our holiday in China.  Come back tomorrow to discover why. 

Autumn-Hopscotch-2013This post is part of the iHomeschool Network’s Autumn Hopscotch, a 10 day series of posts by over 40 different homeschool bloggers. You can visit the hopscotch home page at iHN for ideas and inspiration in topics like Art for All Ages: Tips & Tutorials. There are literally hundreds of posts now compiled for you!

All 10 days of Discovering China will be linked to one landing page.  Bookmark it for reference!


Discovering China: Leshan and the Giant Buddha

discovering chinaZǎochenhǎo (早晨好) !  I’m delighted you are following along with us as we tour China, city by city.  We recently returned from a three-week family holiday in China. This is the sixth of ten posts whereby I introduce you to the culture of China through our eyes. Our focus today is the Buddhist influence in China and our visit to the Dàfó (Giant Buddha) in Leshan.

Leshan  乐山 

About 120 km (75 mi) from Chengdu, Leshan translates literally to Happy mountain. It is  located at the confluence of the Minjaing, Qingyijiang, and Dadu rivers, on the southwestern fringe of the Red Basin.   We took the bus from Chengdu to Leshan (about 2 hours).

Buddhism has flourished in China since ancient times and has played an enormous role in shaping the mindset of the Chinese people, affecting their aesthetics, politics, literature, philosophy and medicine.  Scholars classify Chinese Buddhism into 7-15 schools (most commonly 10).  Perhaps the greatest Buddhist influence occurred during the Tang Dynasty, evident in the many scripture-filled caves and structures surviving from this period.

Giant Buddha 大佛

The Leshan Giant Buddha (乐山大佛) was built during the Tang Dynasty (618–907AD). It is carved out of a cliff face that lies at the confluence of the Minjiang, Dadu and Qingyi rivers in the southern part of Sichuan province, near the city of Leshan. The stone sculpture faces Mount Emei, with the rivers flowing below his feet. It is the largest stone Buddha in the world and it is by far the tallest pre-modern statue in the world.

Leshan Giant BuddhaConstruction was started in 713, led by a Chinese monk named Haitong. He hoped that the Buddha would calm the turbulent waters that plagued the shipping vessels traveling down the river. When funding for the project was threatened, he is said to have gouged out his own eyes to show his piety and sincerity. Apparently the massive construction resulted in so much stone being removed from the cliff face and deposited into the river below that the currents were indeed altered by the statue, making the waters safe for passing ships.

The charm of the Buddha lies not only in its size but also in its architectural artistry. There are 1,021 buns in the Buddha’s coiled hair. These have been skillfully embedded in the head. The skill is so wonderful that the 1,021 buns seem integral to the whole. Another architectural highlight is the drainage system. Incorporated into the Leshan Giant Buddha when it was built, it is still in working order. It includes drainage pipes carved into various places on the body, to carry away the water after the rains so as to reduce weathering.

It’s possible to walk from top to bottom (and back up again) along a staircase carved in the wall overlooking the Buddha. A popular activity near the head is for people to have their photo taken “touching” the nose or sticking their finger in the ear of the buddha, supposedly for good luck. Behind the Buddha’s head, you can step into the cave that Haitong took shelter in while he oversaw the construction of the Buddha.

Giant Buddha LeshanThere was a moderately large crowd visiting on the day we visited; we walked down to the feet among them. Then we walked back up the other side – to the grumbling of the kiddos who were both tired of the stairs and getting hungry. There’s no food to be found in the park so we departed.

It took some time to hail a taxi, we were even getting a little worried, but one arrived soon enough and we returned to the bus station.  We enjoyed a delicious bowl of noodles at a small restaurant near the station before returning to Chengdu in the evening.

proverbs thumbI have created a couple of notebooking pages to correspond with today’s post.  The first is a list of Chinese Proverbs that you may find inspirational.  You may wish to have your children create small posters to illustrate a proverb or two. The second is a chart to compare / contrast the World’s Religions.  I first created this when my children and I were studying ancient times and though they were young at the time, we found it very interesting.

We are off to Shanghai tomorrow. Shanghai is a huge city – there is so much to see and do but I’ve condensed it into one post. You won’t want to miss it for I’ve created a fun activity sure to be a hit with young engineers.

Autumn-Hopscotch-2013This post is part of the iHomeschool Network’s Autumn Hopscotch, a 10 day series of posts by over 40 different homeschool bloggers. You can visit the hopscotch home page at iHN for ideas and inspiration in topics like Great Science Books and Early American History for Kids. There are literally hundreds of posts now compiled for you!

All 10 days of Discovering China will be linked to one landing page.  Bookmark it for reference!

Discovering China: Chengdu – Pandas & Hot Pot

discovering china你好 (Nihao) !  I’m delighted you are following along with us as we tour China, city by city.  We recently returned from a three-week family holiday in China. This is the fifth of ten posts whereby I introduce you to the culture of China through our eyes.  Today, I bring you to Chengdu – though a thriving modern metropolis, Chengdu is most well known for the Giant Panda.

Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan province in Southwest China.  Chengdu is one of the most important economic, transportation, and communication centers in Western China. As China’s National Treasure, the giant panda is one of the rarest animals in the world. The total number is estimated to be 1,500, including those living in the wild, 80% of which are in Sichuan Province.

This post contains affiliate links.

chengduPanda Breeding Center

Beloved by all, the panda has a special place in the heart of Chinese people and visitors alike.  At the Panda Breeding Center we had the exciting opportunity to encounter pandas and to learn about the care of these amazing animals. We were able to see pandas up-close and learn about their habitat, mating habits, diet, intelligence and how they have survived despite increasing natural and human threats to their existence.

Here we had the opportunity to hold and cuddle baby Giant Pandas but for the health of this remarkable species – and the exorbitant cost – we refrained.  Our friend Carlo put together a couple of great videos: the Giant Panda & Red Panda and the adorable Panda Cubs at the breeding center in Chengdu.

If you would like to learn more about the Giant Panda, I encourage you to check out the Free Panda Lapbook Lessons and Printables at Homeschool Share; Carisa Hinson and Ami Brainerd have done a fabulous job putting this together.  Partner these videos and lapbook together with a few non-fiction books and you have a great unit study.  A few titles I would suggest include Giant Pandas by John Seidensticker and another by the same title, Giant Pandas, by Gail Gibbons.

Hot Pot

 火锅  (huǒ guō) is one of our favorite foods. We first discovered it with our Mandarin tutor when he taught us how to make it ourselves.  As wonderful as his recipe is, it doesn’t quite compare to what you find in China, especially in Chengdu where huǒ guō is a specialty dish.

hot potA simmering metal pot of stock is placed at the center of the dining table; while kept simmering, ingredients are placed into the pot and are cooked at the table. It can be eaten bland to very spicy, depending on how much spice has been put in the stock.  We selected both varieties as I like it spicy but the kids do not.

Frozen meat is sliced thinly to prepare it for hot pot cooking. The common meats used include lamb, beef, chicken, duck, mutton, and others. Meat or vegetables are loaded individually into the hot cooking broth by chopsticks, and cooking time can take from 1 to 15 minutes, depending on the type of food. Meat should be cooked at the very least 20 seconds depending on the thickness of meat. Other hot pot dishes include leafy vegetables, mushrooms, seafood, and noodles. One of the foods I discovered I really like is Dried Black Fungus.

Here is an easy to follow tutorial on How to Make Traditional Chinese Hot Pot in your home.  As she stated, the food is usually eaten with a dipping sauce on the side. The important thing to remember is this sauce is personalized so be creative to find what ingredients and blends you like best.  You may wish to use soy sauce, oyster sauce, Sriracha, sesame paste, chili paste, minced garlic, cilantro, salt & pepper, sliced scallions, and/or sesame oil.

To make it at home, you’ll want a Tayama Hot Pot or other stainless steel cooking pot.  The divider isn’t necessary unless you want two different broths. An Induction Cooktop Stove is also recommended so that everyone can take part and enjoy the meal in comfort around the table.

I’ll be taking the weekend off but be sure to come back on Monday.  You won’t want to miss our visit to the Giant Buddha in Leshan.

Autumn-Hopscotch-2013This post is part of the iHomeschool Network’s Autumn Hopscotch, a 10 day series of posts by over 40 different homeschool bloggers. You can visit the hopscotch home page at iHN for ideas and inspiration in topics like Fun Autumn Craft Activities for Young Kids and Using Board Games for Learning.

All 10 days of Discovering China will be linked to one landing page.  Bookmark it for reference!