Pandas Gordon and Li Li learn common terms in English and Chinese.
In this apparent compilation of earlier bilingual books by McSween (Gordon & Li Li: Words for Everyday, 2009; Gordon & Li Li Learn Animals in Mandarin, 2010; and Gordon & Li Li Count in Mandarin, 2010), the two pandas introduce vocabulary in three separate chapters: Everyday Words, Animals, and Counting. Each page covers four different concepts with, for each, the word in English, the translation in simplified Chinese characters, an illustration of one or both of the pandas, the corresponding pinyin, and a phonetic pronunciation of the Mandarin. The crowded layout, with eight concepts on a two-page spread, discourages focus and learning. The ad hoc phonetic guidance offers little help to readers unfamiliar with the language—printed accents give no functional clue as to tonal differences—and those familiar with pinyin will not need it. With the pandas prominently featured in each image, sometimes obscuring the vocabulary item, the boldly colored digital illustrations do not convey concepts particularly effectively. The text overall reads as a mashup of three books, with no overarching trajectory and the phrase “Bye-bye!” occurring one-third of the way into the book.
A dearth of bilingual Chinese-English books for children means those looking to introduce young readers to Mandarin will be glad that this book, though quite flawed, exists—but they may prefer the stand-alone offerings. (Board book. 6 mos.-8)