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From The Asian Reporter, V20, #6 (February 9, 2010), page 15.

Itís time for Tet!

Ten Mice for Tet

By Pegi Deitz Shea and Cynthia Weill

Illustrations by To Ngoc Trang

Embroidery by Pham Viet Dinh

Chronicle Books, 2003

Hardcover, 36 pages, $15.95

By Julie Stegeman

Itís time for Tet!," opens Ten Mice for Tet, a book that offers insight into the Vietnamese New Year while allowing kids to count along with the 10 steps the joyful, titular mice use to get ready for the holiday. Preparations range from one mouse planning a party by making a guest list, two mice going to the market for supplies, and three mice painting and polishing their house, all the way to 10 mice who gather to watch the celebrationís fireworks at the end of the story.

After the counting part of the book is complete, readers can learn all about Tet in the remaining pages. The celebrationís full name is Tet Nguyen Dan, meaning "Feast of the First Day," and it is celebrated for four days beginning on the first day of the lunar calendar. Tet, which falls in late January or February in the western calendar, "unites ancestors of the past; family and friends of the present, who may travel home to celebrate together; and hopes and dreams for the future."

The 10 steps used to prepare for Tet are listed again and expanded upon in the final section of the book, giving readers insight into the customs and traditions of the Vietnamese New Year. The party-planning mouse, for example, embodies the Vietnamese tradition of people visiting with their fatherís family on the first day of the holiday, their motherís family on the second day, and celebrating with friends on the third day. The practice of buying items for Tet ó such as lamp oil, incense, salt, and ingredients for special meals ó is indicated by the two mice who go to market, and so on. Itís a fun way for kids and adults to learn more about the Vietnamese celebration.

The bookís storyline is accompanied by vibrant illustrations created in a unique fashion. Illustrator To Ngoc Trang drew the pictures, which Pham Viet Dinh turned into elegant works of embroidery by placing each illustration on a cloth, poking holes through it with a pin, and sprinkling powder on top, leaving the drawingís outline on the cloth. Next, the cloth was embroidered with colorful cotton thread and photographed for the book. The scope of the embroidery is amazing and kids will enjoy finding the small details in each one, such as the lucky red envelopes in "6 mice open presents" or eight different musical instruments in "8 mice make music."

So enjoy a Tet celebration with a merry band of mice and Chuc Mung Nam Moi ("Happy New Year")!

To buy me, visit these retailers:

Powell's Books

  Amazon