It’s always an exciting endeavor to work on ideas for new books. When John and I conceptualized a lower level that used only 150 characters, we didn’t realize the challenges that lay ahead of us. Now that we are announcing the release of the 5th book, Just Friends?, at the new 150 character Breakthrough level, it’s quite exciting to see the feedback and buzz that these new books have generated.
Perhaps the most rewarding feedback we are getting is that so many Chinese learners around the world are now able to begin reading a book at a much earlier stage and are seeing for themselves how this seemingly simple experience of reading in Chinese has such a huge impact on their language ability. That translates into a general increase in Chinese language proficiency for these readers and a lower drop-out rate simply because these learners are feeling progress and experiencing wins sooner. This is exactly what John and I had hoped for with this new level.
At the same time, Chinese teachers are jumping on this series and using them in greater numbers in the classroom. I’ve had the opportunity to work with many Chinese teachers in dual immersion, middle school, and high school Chinese programs who are experiencing exciting results with their students. As part of this, I am in the process of writing a teacher guide for extensive reading in Chinese that combines our collective experience with graded readers in the classroom, academic research, and best practices from around the world into one guide specifically for Chinese teachers. I expect that this will be released by summer of 2020.
Dapeng and Wendong are best friends attending the same college. When the beautiful Zixin arrives on campus, they soon discover they both share an interest in her. To preserve their friendship, they make a promise not to pursue her. However, when Wendong sees Zixin going for a ride in Dapeng’s car, the truce dissolves into a battle between the two friends trying to gain the affection of Zixin. Whom does she really like, or are they “Just Friends?”
John and I worked on this story last of all, simply because it was the most complex of the five stories that we came up with. The idea of two guys who had fallen for the same girl and ensuing hijinks elicited a plethora of hilarious ideas to my mind. I took this story and ran with it.
Some of what I thought were the best ideas sadly ended up on the cutting room floor simply because we just didn’t have the vocabulary to tell it. One idea for a scene involved one of the friends trying to sabotage the others dinner date by borrowing a jackhammer from construction workers outside the restaurant and proceeding to tear up the sidewalk and create unbearable noise. While we had the word for workers (工人), we couldn’t spare the words for jackhammer or even loud or noisy!
That being said, we did come up with a number of quite humorous scenarios for this story. It required more editing than normal, but both John and I are happy with the final story and we hope you enjoy it too!