Asia Mine

     Asia Mine Children’s Stories (hard copy ISBN: 9781547042227) published, copyright and written by Haran Choi

The prospective reader is informed that the author “graduated from UCLA with honors in East Asian Studies and studied International Affairs at Columbia University.” This short (20 page) presently read e-book edition contains eight, mostly very short stories about Ada, a very young, probably lowest caste child in India who qualified for MENSA; a bear in India who loved cheese pizza and coke; children taking pictures of Hong Kong ‘skyscrapers’; children waiting at the end of line for their parents to return from climbing Japan’s Mt. Fuji; a child in a Japanese Tea House; saving the Hainan Gibbons; a young girl who wants to continue life with her grandmother who is one of the storied women Japanese divers; and how tasty is Korean Kimichi when properly prepared.

Discussion: Children reading, or lack thereof, has been a growing problem for quite a number of years and only exacerbated with the advent of TV and the mass of electronic devices and games. In fact the problem had risen to such a level that educators embarked upon a large number of studies of how best to combat the situation. Gradually several factors evolved as helpful. Regrettably, although the author’s educational endeavors should make her highly qualified with respect to knowledge of her subject, she either is unaware of these seemingly helpful guidelines, or has experienced a degree of difficulty in attempting to impart them to children, at least in this volume. For example, with respect to Ada, MENSA will mean nothing to most children, would need explanation and some follow-up as to its importance to this child and her culture; there is no ‘point’ per se made with respect to diet and/or harmful effects of substances in the pizza/coke story; nothing of importance is ‘attached to’ the pictures of Honk Kong’s buildings; the importance of tea and tea ceremonies in Japan is not presented, etc. And there are no illustrations in the book, an element educators believe provides an excellent stimulus for gaining and maintaining children’s attention and interest. There additionally are none of the usual quietly interposed ‘lessons’ these books almost invariably contain.

Summary: Most unfortunately, the author has approached a most difficult task – the presentation of reading material that will appeal to children. Even if an author does not have a truly empathetic sense or ‘feel’ for presentation of this material, a number of quite effective specifics have been discovered. But even following these leads, a sizeable hurdle till remains to reach these young minds. Any author is entering an area of highly skilled activity requiring a ‘special mind and approach’. A number of authors have been most successful in producing such products. Regrettably, this well-intentioned volume does not compare favorably with a substantial number of these books already on the market for children.

2* Thoughtful attempt leaving a wealth of knowledge unexpressed.


MORT in CHINA, Comic Series, Issue 1 by Vali T. C. Morrison (Author), Sun Xing (Translator), Charlie Tian (Author) and Skyla Bai (Editor)

The authors have initiated a series that has all of the indications of becoming a charmingly amusing, yet very informative string of stories. Admittedly the opening couple of pages provide some momentary initial questions with respect to the anticipated series, but the reaction quickly dissipates as Mort begins to develop. We discover him to be a mild mannered agent for Final Destination which is an ‘afterlife soul collection agency’ that unfortunately after 500 years of work, still is considered to be only ‘2nd best’. To rectify the situation, they decide to ‘shake things up a little’ and Mort’s boss sends him to root out and correct the efficiency issues in their China branch office. Upon arrival, he quickly realises that he is totally unqualified to deal with the nuances and pitfalls of Chinese culture and his personal nightmare begins.

The Mort in China project has been initiated by ALBA, a small indie-comic studio based in Beijing and is the brain child of Vali Morrison, a much travelled English/ American war veteran and Macedonian born Katerina Morrison, both of whom are fluent in Mandarin. For this reader who still enjoys the Sunday newspaper ‘Comics’, the proposed series offers not only an amusing cartoon possibility, but a huge number of possibilities for learning more about China as well. As such, it could well prove to be immensely informative at this crucial time in our country’s history with the growing intensity of our interrelationship with this country especially with respect to the Korean situation. It projects the possibility of a most interesting and worthwhile development as we learn more about this sprawling nation and its people in a laid back manner as we follow Mort’s adventures and misadventures as he attempts to adjust.

5* For anticipated series development.