I studied abroad in China on a short-term study abroad program. My trip, over the course of just a couple of weeks, was not like the typical school program I hear about. We visited new cities every other day. Our bus, train, and airplane rides were spent learning about the next destination, giving speeches, and studying. Except for an afternoon speaking to students at a university, we stayed out of the classroom. We got a crash course on Chinese history while being immersed in China.
Our last stop on the trip was Shanghai. By the time we flew into SHA from CGO, we were exhausted. Most of us hit China full-speed two weeks earlier in Beijing taking a million pictures a day. I averaged 400-500. We’d stopped at popular sites and lesser-known sites. We saw rural villages and mid-size cities. We came across cities larger than most American cities, but we hadn’t even known they existed until we got there. Just before Shanghai we visited the Shaolin Temple and I was sure that nothing could top that. I know we only saw a handful of what the whole of China has to offer, but I also know there wasn’t much more we could’ve crammed into that time.
Shanghai, I thought, was just going to be the city on the checklist. We needed to go there because that’s where the airport was taking us home. I didn’t have high expectations. I had already seen and done so much. What was left in Shanghai?
Then we landed. Within a few minutes of being in the city of Shanghai, I turned to my classmates and said, “I love this city.” Shanghai, to me, was perfection. Even in its congestion and pollution. I had traveled to many countries, lived abroad half of my life, but Shanghai is what I was searching for. There are many cities in the world that I appreciate and love, but none have made such an immediate impact.
A few days later, I left China.
I haven’t returned to Shanghai. At least not yet. In the meantime, this city is one that I want to share with my kids. Since it’s not in our immediate plan to visit, I have to find other ways to make it happen.
You guessed it – books.
When I saw the variety of travel books available from the Molly and the Magic Suitcase series, I knew I had to read Molly Goes to Shanghai. So, what did I think?
A review of Molly and the Magic Suitcase: Molly Goes to Shanghai
Molly and her brother, Michael, became interested in visiting China because of something almost all of us have experienced. The food. Chinese food, using chopsticks, and a restaurant with the word “Shanghai” in the title are all things we can relate to. The kids question these things that they see in their lives at home, and that’s what makes them want to visit China.
With the help of their magic suitcase, they show up in the middle of Shanghai. They meet Nan Nan. She guides them through the city.
Her tour accomplishes two different goals. It’s a list of sites to see while in Shanghai. It hits all the popular places like the Bund, Nanjing Road, Pudong, and YuYuen Gardens. It also takes us to the zoo, a museum, parks, and more. And then it gives us more insight into the culture of Shanghai, and to some extent, China. We learn about traditional and ancient games, costumes, instruments, past times, exercise, religion, and more. So more than just a list of places we have to see, it also shows kids specific experiences they can have in Shanghai. And some of those, like the food that brought us to China in the first place, can also be tried at home.
An educated look at Shanghai from a kid’s perspective
I love that the main characters are so interested in where they’re visiting. They don’t just let the trip happen to them. They make observations, ask questions, and compare things they see in Shanghai to things they’ve seen at home or in other countries. To me, this is deep travel. It’s also one of the benefits of traveling with kids. Kids make these observations, ask these questions, and compare the familiar with the unfamiliar to help them understand it all.
Molly Goes to Shanghai was the perfect introduction to one of my favorite cities for my favorite kids. It was in-depth, but never over their head. It offered an overview of the city, but gave a large variety of details to appeal to many interests. It let me reminisce with them about my trip. It provided us with the jumping point to look into the different aspects of Shanghai they would want to learn more about. For them, that’s the maglev train, the games at the park (gun tie huan especially), and the food.
Who should get this book?
If you have any interest in the Chinese culture and need an easy introduction for your kids – this is your book! It’s an awesome way to prepare kids for their trip to Shanghai, or to show kids of Chinese heritage a little about their history. It would also be great reference material for homeschoolers starting a China curriculum.
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Ready to learn more about Shanghai? Buy the book here.
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This post is part of Molly Week!
Age Range: 4-8 Years
Author: Chris Oler, Illustrated by Amy Houston Oler
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Please note: I was given a copy of the book to review, but all opinions are my own.
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