The Misadventures of Zhou Haisheng
BREAKTHROUGH LEVEL (150 unique characters)
Zhou Haisheng is a fun-loving and determined young boy whose life revolves around school and his family’s Chinese restaurant. Always well-intentioned, he finds ways to help out his hard-working parents with the family business. Whether it’s inventing his own noodle recipe, delivering the wrong order to a customer, or resorting to extremes when a competing noodle shop opens across the street, Zhou Haisheng manages to combine his mischief and wit to save the day.
Writing a story can be easy. Writing a good story is challenging. Writing a good story limited to a constrained set of words is difficult. Doing all of this in Chinese with only 150 characters is a downright daunting task.
This story from the Breakthrough Level is an original story co-written by John Pasden and Jared Turner. It is different than other Mandarin Companion stories at higher levels, which are largely adaptations of existing and popular stories. The restrictions of the Breakthrough Level make it virtually impossible to adapt existing stories using this limited character set.
However, this story does tie into the larger “Mandarin Companion Universe” (we’d call it our “MCU,” but that nickname seems to be taken). You’ll read about the childhood and escapades of young Zhou Haisheng, specifically sharing life events which put him on the path to one day open his own restaurant. If you’re curious how things turn out for him, you’ll definitely want to prepare to read Emma, a Level 1 story. If you can read this book, you are already well on your way towards progressing to the Level 1 stories.
The following is a list of the characters from The Misadventures of Zhou Haisheng in Chinese followed by their corresponding English names from Pasden’s original story. There are, of course, other characters in the story besides these, but many do not have exact correspondences to the original. The names below aren’t translations; they’re new Chinese names used for the Chinese versions of the original characters. Think of them as all-new characters in a Chinese story.
- 周海生(Zhōu Hǎishēng) Zhou Haisheng
- 老周(Lǎo Zhōu) Mr. Zhou
- 周太太(Zhōu Tàitai) Mrs. Zhou
- 钱太太(Qián Tàitai) Mrs. Qian
- 马老师(Mǎ Lǎoshī) Ms. Ma
- 做菜 (zuòcài) vo. to cook food
- 晚上 (wǎnshang) n. evening
- 一边 (yībiān) conj. while doing… (two things)
- 笑 (xiào) v. to laugh, to smile
- 又 (yòu) adv. again
- 开心 (kāixīn) adj. happy
OMGB (Oh My God, Becky) I really did read a book in Chinese!
I’m not in school, but I have been learning Chinese for fun on my own for about 3.5 months. The breakthrough level of these graded readers is PERFECT for me at this stage (I study about 2 hours per day). Here’s a list of the reasons why they are so great:
-You can practice reading longer form text that uses high-frequency characters. My character recognition improved as soon as I was done with the first chapter!
-Reading out loud is a great way to practice your cadence and natural speech.
-interesting stories even at the breakthrough level using only 150 characters. Will 周海生 get in trouble for making noodles??? What’s that kid at the other restaurant saying? Put your Chinese reading skills to use and find out!
-The list of grammar points in the back is also extremely useful. The headings directly correspond with the headings on Chinese Grammar Wiki (which if you already aren’t using, you should).
-it’s very encouraging to be able to read at this level. It definitely takes you beyond the textbook things like “Miss Zhang’s clothes are very pretty”, “Do you eat apples?”, “Is it raining in Shanghai?”, which can get pretty boring.
-At least for me, it is encouraging me to reach the next level in a few months (Level 1 readers).
This kind of content is so good for beginners and I believe will help to decrease the “drop-off” rate for Chinese learners. It CAN get pretty frustrating at times, so give yourself a little encouragement and learn in a fun and engaging way!
I know there are plans for a few more breakthrough readers to be released in the coming months and I know I will be buying them all!
I’ve been working on learning Chinese for just under 1 year with audiobooks, apps, and a weekly language exchange with a native friend. This breakthrough level is about right for me. I’m familiar with ~90-95% of the characters, and the authors have put most of the other 5-10% in as footnotes leaving me about 1 character per page to look up in a dictionary.
The authors of the book have clearly made an effort to make the story interesting while keeping the character set small.
I love having simple stories with 150 characters. Awesome! My daughter in 5th grade Chinese immersion was able to read and enjoy this book. Definitely recommend for 4-6 grades of Chinese immersion students. Looking forward to more books in this series.
I wish this book would have come out 4-5 years ago when I was first starting to read characters. It will be a great resource for the upper beginner learner. I’m going through it with my daughter and with only 150 unique characters she’s getting a ton of repetition. Thanks for putting this out. Now, how about a few more level 2 books!