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Fables

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Title: 中國寓言
Translated title: Chinese Fables
Author: 風車編輯群
Year: 2005

Once upon the time, I thought that the best way of reading some extra Chinese was to buy lots of fairly small books, presenting numerous even smaller stories of various kinds, often related to Chinese culture and history. At that time, I bought a truck load of those books, which means I still have lots of them, although I’m tired of reading them.

This book contains a huge number of stories, even compared to other books I’ve read recently. Each explains the meaning of an idiom and where it comes from, along with a story illustrating the main point. It feels good that I actually know quite a few of the stories already, meaning I’m beginning to get some grasp of what most Taiwanese children have read, heard or watched.

However, reading hundreds of disconnected stories is exhausting in the long run, I crave something more coherent. A book like this one would be perfect for classroom use or for reading just a few minutes before going to bed, but as serious reading, it really doesn’t work. To give you some idea of the diversity of the content, the book spans around 280 pages, averaging close to 120 characters per page, which means roughly 35 000 characters in all (i.e. not that much). Still, there are more than 130 stories in the book! The book is almost as long as the longest book I’ve read in Chinese, but due to the odd format, it felt a lot longer.

The level is okay, meaning I can understand most of the text without a dictionary, even though there are naturally a great number of adverbs and adjectives I have never even seen before. Still, the content is perhaps a little too close what I’m already familiar with, which isn’t necessarily the author’s fault, but which nevertheless forces me to set a rather low grade on this otherwise quite enjoyable book.

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Title: 小故事大道理 – 寓言故事
Translated title: The Little Stories – Fables
Language: Chinese
Author:
吉林美術出版社
Year: 2005

I don’t know if this just happens to be a worse collection of stories than the previous one about folk tales or if my dissatisfaction simply stems from the fact that these stories appear duller because they are more familiar. I know very little about Chinese mythology, at least if compared to what I know about fables. Regardless of the reason, this book was hardly worthwhile.

Some of the stories are too simple and to repetitive (and no, this isn’t because of the language level, because the next book I will review shortly is in the same series and I read that one the day after I finished this, and I noticed no such tendencies). The manga style for the pictures also seems more suitable for Eastern stories, but feels a bit out of place illustrating Western fables. Of course, I still think the format is quite interesting and some stories also merit a couple of snails.

It was good that I decided to read this book now, though, because if I wait too long, this kind of book will be too easy, and since I’ve already bought the book, it would feel a bit wasted.  As I have already mentioned, I have already finished another book in this series, and after that, only one remains; expect more reviews in the near future! My quest for better reading comprehension and speed continues!

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