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Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  1,430 ratings  ·  213 reviews
In the spirit of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Bringing up Bébé, and The Smartest Kids in the World, a hard-hitting exploration of China’s widely acclaimed yet insular education system—held up as a model of excellence—that raises important questions for the future of American parenting and education.

When American mom Lenora Chu moved to China with her little boy, she
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published September 19th 2017 by Harper
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Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
I am struggling with writing this review because I have so many thoughts about the ideas presented in this book.

First of all, I found the first hand account of the author's experience to be fascinating and well written. The author is first generation American of Chinese descent, educated in Texas public schools, carrying the burden of high academic standards while balancing her own American dream. She subsequently graduates from college, marries a midwesterner, and moves to China for his career
The author is born in Philadelphia and raised in Houston. She graduated from Columbia University with a degree in journalism. Her grandparents fled China during the Cultural Revolution and immigrated to the United States. Chu notes the irony that 50 years ago Mao conducted his anti-intellectual purge and now Shanghai schools top the world in math, reading, and science and the USA is only in the middle of the pack.

Chu and her husband live in Shanghai for his work at a news agency. They have a
Kressel Housman
Comparisons between this book and Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother are inevitable, so here goes. Both books are written by American-born women whose parents were Chinese immigrants. Both married white American men. And both have respect for the Chinese aspects of their upbringing and try to implement it with their own kids, but they go about it differently. The author of this book is not a fierce tiger mother. Instead of staying in the States, she and her family move to China where she enrolls ...more
Maynard Handley
Apr 06, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
There's a famous parody, In the New Canada, Living is a Way of Life, where Bruce McCall mocks the style of writing that insists on claiming differences between cultures rather than trying to see how very similar they are.
I constantly felt like this while reading this book. The author wants to insist on how different China is from America, but all I saw was an unwillingness to face how crazy America is, and how much what you saw in China is the same thing or an attenuated version.
For example
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved every minute of this deep dive into the Chinese education system. Chock full of compelling stories, expert research, honesty and humor. Every parent should read this book - wherever they are in the world and on the parenting timeline. Incredibly thought provoking.
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This is a really interesting book that offers a firsthand view of the Chinese school system from a mostly-American perspective. Lenora Chu is a daughter of Chinese immigrants who was raised in the U.S., her husband a white American who volunteered in China with the Peace Corps. After moving to Shanghai for work, they enroll their son in a prestigious Chinese preschool. Concerning incidents at the school spark the author’s journey to learn more about the Chinese school system: she observes ...more
Anna Mussmann
May 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ms. Chu, the child of Chinese immigrants but raised in Texas, placed her own son in a Chinese school when living abroad for work. The authoritarian culture within his classroom soon filled her with alarm. Her background, however, gave her a certain respect for Chinese methods; and so she did not yank her kid out when his preschool teachers did things like require him to sit with perfect discipline in his chair, force feed him egg, or claim his mommy would not come back to get him if he did not ...more
Feb 10, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
There were two parts to this book: (1) an American woman (whose parents immigrated from China) sends her child to a state-run Chinese school and experiences culture shock and (2) she does some journalistic investigation into how the Chinese educational systems functions. Part (1) should have been limited to perhaps the foreword and epilogue, and part (2) should have gotten much more of her attention. Probably a matter of taste, but I preferred Lenora Chu the objective journalist to Lenora Chu ...more
Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, arcs
Many Westerners probably have a vague idea about the rigors of Chinese education, but this book sheds light on the system from a personal level, which makes the read that much more engaging. The author focuses on the system first by detailing her own (American) son's experiences in Chinese early education, and then provides a broader view through visits to other schools and interviews with other students, parents, teachers, and administrators of widely varying degrees of privilege. The result is ...more
Will Mego
Oct 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those interested in education, east-west differences, China, future of world
In my usual (good/ok/bad = 5 stars/3 stars/1 star) rating this was a good book. I saw Ms. Chu speak on C-SPAN recently about the differences between Chinese and American education and was interested in learning more. Her book certainly doesn't disappoint the reader, moving gracefully between the reportage of herself as a mother of a child living in China dealing with the early education of her son, and more journalistic sections with interviews with experts, educators, and students. The writing ...more
370.951 CHU

I guess the book title from 红小兵,红卫兵 derived from The Cultural Revolution, formally the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, was a sociopolitical movement in China from 1966 until 1976 文革

Summary: It is very honest writing about Chinese culture and Chinese education system.

What author think Chinese education is good: early years is good, but not after.
--- "the ideal upper limit in the Chinese system is sixth grade, possibly earlier, depending on each child...
Jul 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an engaging and invaluable read in helping me understand Chinese education.
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I’m not a perfect parent. And I’m not an expert in education. Years ago when I was first divorced and raising my toddler as a single a mother, I didn’t speak Mandarin to him even though he spent his first two years hearing it from his grandparents (for the first year) and his father (until I left him a few months shy of Jake’s second birthday).

I didn’t speak Mandarin to Jake because I was worried he would pick up my American accent, often devoid of tones. As a result, Jake didn’t really learn
It’s hard to find a good book about the Chinese education system: most coverage of this topic quickly veers off into politics, fearmongering, and reductive “which system is better” comparisons to American education.

The truth, as usual, is somewhere in the middle... and that’s where Little Soldiers shines. This is both the most comprehensive and levelheaded treatment I’ve seen yet on this topic, and I love that it’s not afraid to examine shades of gray on both sides.

The main arc is the author’s
Fascinating topic, pretty good writing (it was much more casual than I expected), interesting and eye-opening real life experience, but beyond that, it didn't meet the high expectations I had for it. She didn't really come to a set conclusion—not just about which is better, which I'm fine with because I don't think you can really say one is categorically better in every way, but just the whole book in general felt unfinished like, okay, what was the point of that? I read it just a few months ago ...more
Ted Chyn
Oct 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a personal journey through the Chinese Education system from 2010 to 2017. The story begins with the experiment of sending the author’s preschool son Rainey to a coveted preschool in Shanghai after her family’s relocation. The motivations for sending Rainy to a Chinese public school were rooted in their own backgrounds– her husband’s Peace Corp experience in rural China, and her own Chinese American background by birth. As parents, they felt it was important for Rainey to learn ...more
Oct 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was given a copy of this book by Harper Collins in exchange for an honest review.

Today's post is onLittle Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve by Lenora Chu. It is 368 pages long and is published by Harper Collins. The cover is white with sharpened pencils on it. The intended reader is someone who is interested education and the differences between China and other parts of the world. There is no foul language, no sex, and no violence in this book. There
Christine Irvin
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Author Lenora Chu and her husband were living in China when this book was written. Her parents came to the US before she was born, so she was raised in a Chinese-American household. Her husband is an American. They were living in China because he got a job there.

Because she had heard good things about Chinese schools, they decided to enroll their eldest son in a Chinese preschool in Shanghai. What happened next formed the basis for a research project into the Chinese educational system, as well
Sep 06, 2017 rated it liked it
***I received an ARC of this book through a GoodReads giveaway***

Approaching this book from the perspective of someone with some pre-existing understandings of the educational styles in East Asia, I found Little Soldiers to be both readable and relatable. Although the Japanese schooling system is not identical in all manners, there were certainly concepts that were familiar to me and that I could easily imagine. I would bet that those unfamiliar with the Chinese educational system would still
John  Hill
Oct 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education
Lenora Chu's insights into the Chinese education system were fascinating. At once alarming, and insightful, I appreciated the way she navigated the line between American education philosophy and Chinese education philosophy.

From an educators point of view, I find the whole of Chinese education to be fascinating. The idea that a central form of education has sprung up in a couple of decades, compared with America's public education system that has existed for around 150 years, the Chinese are
Dec 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed reading about an American Chinese mother who enrolled her son in a top Shanghai kindergarten, albeit with some apprehension, and watched him struggle and also thrive in the grueling Chinese education system. The book throws into the spotlight the many so-called “ills” of the ultra cutthroat educational race in China,but the author managed to also discover and appreciate the merits of a tough disciplinary system, rote-learning and the focus on hard work. She also questioned the western ...more
Oct 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was amazing, it was heartbreaking, funny, eye-opening, reaffirming, and full of connections to teaching and learning. I enjoyed the book so much that I ordered a hardback copy before I finished listening to the audiobook.

Chu describes her son's experience as a Kindergartener attending an authentic Chinese school in Shanghai. Through Chu's experience as a parent, she and her husband Rob navigate the world of communicating with teachers, cultural expectations, and best wishes for their
Ingrid Mcconnell
Loved it! I started this book with a preconception what Chinese schools must be like: authoritarian, group focused, and a obsession with studying and memorization that produced automatons devoid of critical thinking skills. The author's personal experience (from an American perspective) at the coal front of the classroom with her young son, as well as her thoughtful research including observations in classes in urban and rural China as well as the US, greatly changed my perception. True, much of ...more
Melanie Haynes
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
I loved this look in on the Chinese education system and the steps this family took to understand it better. The comparison to our education system in the US and the Chinese system is very informative. It helped me understand the Chinese customs better and their ways of educating their children. Along with what the outcome was for their child against all the doubts and fears when the initially enrolled him. I think it is a great read for anyone who is interested in the Chinese culture.
Jeesun Hunting
I appreciated that this was written from the viewpoint of a Chinese American living in China (as opposed to a typical American ex pat). I am a returned Peace Corps volunteer (the author's husband is also a China RPCV!) who taught and lived in China for two years and I am Korean American. The author goes beyond the tired generalization that is often repeated by westerners that Chinese education is all rote memorization, authoritarian teaching, and no creativity.
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Being a former educator and now a mom, I have always been a bit of a geek when it comes to anything about education (and anyone who's followed me for awhile knows that I'm a sucker for stuff that analyzes and compares different cultures, especially as it relates to parenting). This informational/research-based memoir about an American-raised woman who moves to Shanghai and enrolls her son in the school system there is at turns shocking (to my Western sense of what education usually should be ...more
Dec 03, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Lenora Chu endures a tug of war between the positives and negatives of a Chinese education for her preschool son. I found the parts that took place in the school fascinating. The research parts were tedious. If I were not reading this book for a book club, I probably wouldn’t have finished it.
Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a kid who experienced Chinese school and American school, this book is required reading to bring insight into the dichotomy of educational systems. I always bristled against memorization, conformity and student rankings. However, I have better understanding on the roots of this and why it works in China. There are 4-5 times the students as in the US and school is a filtering mechanism. Testing and ranking comes out of a desire for meritocracy. However, there are a lot of "losers" in this ...more
Yasmina Walker
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Little Soldiers" offers a unique perspective on China. Lenora Chu, an Asian American journalist, living in Shanghai puts her three year old son in a Chinese private preschool. She precedes to chronicle her son's experiences with the Chinese school system. This is a wonderful insight into the Chinese educational system, as well as the cultural mindset of the Chinese. The United States should pursue some of the Chinese methodology highlighted in the book. A great area to start would be with the ...more
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Jun 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thank you Edelweiss for my review copy of this book. This was an intriguing look into the Chinese educational system and the differences between the chinese and American cultures. Lenora Chu was raised in America by parents who came from China and so instillee in her many Chinese ways in addition to her American upbringing.

Upon finding herself and her husband in China with their small son they must decide what type of education they will choose for Rainey. Ultimately deciding to enroll her son
I won a free copy of this book from the publisher in a Goodreads giveaway and an honest review was requested. This book is truly fascinating and I think a must-read for anyone interested in education. The author, an American woman of Chinese descent living in China, does a terrific job of interweaving the story of her own young son's integration into the Shanghai school system with her observations and insights about educational systems from all over the world. Lenora Chu is a beautiful, ...more
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Madison Mega-Mara...: #50 Little Soldiers 1 3 Sep 25, 2018 09:25AM  

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Lenora Chu is a mom first, journalist second. She's author of Little Soldiers, the story of her parenting journey inside China's school system, one of the highest-performing—and most extreme—systems in the world. Since moving from Los Angeles to Shanghai in 2010, she has worked as a print and television journalist, and a media consultant to universities and the private sector. Her articles and ...more
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