Gai See: What You Can See in Chinatown

Book review by
Patricia Tauzer, Common Sense Media
Gai See: What You Can See in Chinatown Book Poster Image
Colorful, seasonal peek at Cantonese food and fun.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Reveals sights, sounds, tastes, and some vocab words you may experience in a typical Chinatown.

Positive Messages
Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this book presents a simple rhyming introduction to a Cantonese open-air market, or "Gai See." Kids will be interested in the boldly colored illustrations and pleasant language that sings of the treasures being sold by the various vendors during different seasons of the year.

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What's the story?

Throughout the year, a young Chinese boy explores the outdoor Chinese street market (Gai See) with his family. From Cheong-fun noodles, song birds, and slippers to sweets, medicinal herbs, and firecrackers, he finds new treasures as the seasons change.

Is it any good?

Like the shoppers in such a market, readers get a rich and tasty glimpse at all things you might find as you stroll through a Gai See. Young kids, especially, will enjoy the pleasant, armchair shopping experience. Most of what they may not recognize is covered in a glossary in the back.

Gai See means "street market" in Cantonese, and that is where this book takes us. Bright, bold illustrations fill the pages as simple rhymes lead a young Chinese boy, and the reader, through booths of a market in Chinatown. As the seasons change, so do the foods and other merchandise. In the springtime, he eats "oodles of noodles," in summer he cools off with soybean milk and enjoys mango and starfruit. The fall brings incense sticks, chocolate coins, and crispy duck while in winter he searches out medicinal herbs, greens, and fire crackers to celebrate the new year.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the things the boy sees in the marketplace and how they change with the season. If they have never been to an open-air market, they might want to visit one and see just how different it is from the supermarket. If you have been to the farmers market, how is it like the Gai See? How is it different? Do you find different goods for sale at different times of the year where you shop? Do you recognize the foods the boy sees, such as blocks of tofu heaped on a tray, bubbling tanks of deep-sea fish, starfruit, lychee nuts, or dragon fruit?

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