Monkey Gains His Powers: A Chinese/English Bilingual Picture Book by Will Strong and Translated by Robert Noorda

[I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.  No other compensation was received.]

Monkey Gains His Powers is the story of Sun WuKong, the Monkey King.  This stylish and energetic bilingual picture book is an eye-catching, upbeat, and dazzling way to introduce Sun Wukong — the main character from one of the four great classical Chinese novels, Journey of the West — and reinforce Chinese and English! (You can read more about Sun Wukong on Wikipedia.)

Everything about this book is exceptional!  The illustrations, the story, the way the characters are dressed, and the colors used are fabulous!  The thick, black lines and bright, bold colors give it a comic-book feel with nods to the martial arts movies of the 1970’s, thus making an ancient story simultaneously retro and modern — and completely captivating.

When lightning strikes a magic rock, Sun Wukong, a brave and fierce monkey emerges.  He climbs down from the mountain to explore the world and happens upon a group of monkeys.  Sun Wukong is made king of the monkeys after he finds the source of a stream and a golden valley filled with fruit and space for them to play.  

Sun Wukong is happy as king, but more than anything he wants to discover a way to live forever.  He decides that he must leave and search out immortality.  On his journey he finds both a magic staff and a great sage.  He asks the sage to teach him how to conquer death.  The great sage agrees to teach him what he knows but warns him that, “In the end you must face Death alone.”

After many weeks of intense training, the great sage declares that his training is complete.

Sun Wukong is ready to face Death and live forever — but what will happen next?

After reading the story my son is all, “Yeah! Sun Wukong!!! (Fist pump!)  I’m going to tackle Death and be immortal!!!!”  (Good luck with that one, kiddo.)  But he’s a big fan — we all are.  I’ve found him plenty of times sitting and looking through Monkey Gains His Powers by himself, and I’m so pleased with how this book elicits questions and enthusiasm for him to learn more.

Monkey Gains His Powers makes learning Mandarin so much fun.  I’m thoroughly impressed!

Roughly Ages 4 to 10.  ThunderStone Books.  August 2014. 34 pages. ISBN:978-1634110020  Fiction. Paperback. $9.99

Where to Get it:

You Should Read Monkey Gains His Powers because:

  • Monkey Gains His Powers is a great story that is also a wonderful introduction to Ancient Chinese philosophical concepts such as the 72 transformations.
  • The illustrations are bold, fun, and are so engaging that everyone who reads it will have a blast.
  • It has a wonderful, energetic comic-book feel to it.
  • There’s a good balance of common Chinese words that a first or second year Chinese student would know and enough new Chinese words to be both interesting and accessible.  There’s also enough Chinese to be challenging without being overwhelming
  • On the ThunderStone Books website, you can find a list of the less familiar words used in the story.
  • While my son protests if I try to read whole sentences in Mandarin to him, he will let me throw in an occasional word or phrase.  The format of the book lets me incorporate as much or as little Chinese as I need.  The more I read this book to him, the more Chinese he lets me use.
  • The cliff-hanger ending leaves us dying to know what comes next!  This is the first book in a series and I look forward to reading more of Sun Wukong’s adventures.

From Monkey Gains His Powers. Image Courtesy of ThunderStone Books.


From Monkey Gains His Powers. Image Courtesy of ThunderStone Books.


From Monkey Gains His Powers. Image Courtesy of ThunderStone Books.


Book Trailer: (Watch it!  It is so good!)

Author and Illustrator Websites:

More Reviews of this Book:

  • Check back soon!

Where Obtained:  I received a review copy from the publisher. No other compensation was received.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

FTC Disclosures:  Some of the links in the post above are Amazon affiliate links and others are IndieBound affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase something, I will receive an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you. Which goes to fund my family’s picture book habit.  It’s a vicious cycle, but we manage.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


  1. I think this will definitely appeal to kids who also like graphic novels. And it just looks fun! Good for kids who aren’t learning Chinese, as well. I don’t think the trailer does it justice, though. It doesn’t seem powerful enough. I’d pair it with something more pastoral. But that’s just my taste.

    Thanks for highlighting!

    Liked by 1 person

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