Bowls of Happiness: Treasures from China and the Forbidden City by Brian Tse


Bowls of Happiness

Bowls of Happiness
Author: Brian Tse, Illustrator: Alice Mak, Translator: Ben Wang, Editor: Nancy S. Steinhardt
Published: November 17, 2015 by China Institute in America

GoodReads Summary: Piggy’s mom loves her so much that she has decided to make a special porcelain bowl just for her. As mom makes the bowl, Piggy enters the world being painted on its outside. There she meets and learns about the animals used on these Chinese artworks and the messages of happiness and good-fortune that they convey.

Created by internationally renowned children’s book artists Brian Tse and Alice Mak, this book teaches children about Chinese artwork and culture and their universal spirit of generosity, love, and respect for nature. The lovable illustrations are coupled with photographs of porcelain art found in the Palace Museum’s collection. Children will learn about how bowls are made and be able to draw their own Bowl of Happiness after they have finished reading the story.

My Review: It was a lot of fun reading this book. It begins with an imaginative story reflecting the designs on a Chinese bowl. Then, in the second part, the book shifts to informational nonfiction. The author shares a variety of different bowls and their meaning. In the last portion, the readers are given instructions on how to create their own bowls. This book taught me a lot about these bowls of happiness, and I wanted to make my own bowl! Readers will enjoy learning about these bowls and will be intrigued to learn and research more.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: I would love to teach a book like this one. I’d have students begin by researching even more about these bowls, their symbolic meaning. Then, I might have the students create drafts of their own bowls. The book provides a wealth of information about the symbols and colors of bowls, and students could select their own designs and symbols. While their bowls would not be authentic and teachers would have to be careful to explain appropriation, it would teach the students to enjoy and appreciate another culture and reinforce their knowledge about the bowls.

Discussion Questions: What symbols do you find most interesting? If you could have any of the bowls in the book, which would you pick, and why?; What symbols are used in your culture? How might they compare to the symbols on these bowls?; Why do you think the author divided the book into such different sections?

We Flagged: “These two bowls were not used for eating. Chinese emperors used them for important rituals that paid respect to Heaven and Earth.”

Read This If You Love: Books about culture, history, art, or museums

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2 thoughts on “Bowls of Happiness: Treasures from China and the Forbidden City by Brian Tse”

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