Children’s Stories: 《西红柿女孩》Tomato Girl

Poor little Mile (米乐) is so shy (害羞 – hài xiū), she never speaks, and her face turns bright red whenever someone speaks to her. This story is upper-beginner, will be a reasonably comfortable read at around HSK 4, and a do-able read at HSK 3 with a bit of effort.

Poor little Mile (米乐) is so shy (害羞 – hài xiū), she never speaks, and her face turns bright red whenever someone speaks to her. This story is upper-beginner, and is much longer than most beginner reads on this site. It will be a reasonably comfortable read at around HSK 4, and a do-able read at HSK 3 with a bit of effort.

Sooooo, this is an actual picture book for kids, available in print, from a French author and a Chinese illustrator. I’m not 100% sure about the copyright on this story. I found it floating all around on dozens of sites on the Chinese internet, but considering lax copyright protection in China, that doesn’t mean it’s not stolen. I hope not… but if you like it, I found one print copy of the Chinese version on Amazon, so go buy it to read aloud to young readers at home or in the classroom. It’s better with pictures. If you are the copyright owner, contact me.

Anyway, this is a sweet story that also includes a little bit of story-ception. At one point, Mile has to read a story to her class, so you get two beginner stories for the price of one.

Some language stuff

As with most of these pieces, a few advanced phrases have snuck in, so let’s take a look at those before we get going:

小得不能再小 xiǎo de bù néng zài xiǎo – This structure actually just came up in my last advanced post, so it’s pretty commonly used. Let’s break it down:

小 – Small
得 – To the point that / to the degree that
不能 – Cannot
再 – Again
小 – Small

Yikes. Hard to piece that together, even though we know the definition of each character. It means “small to the point that it could not be any smaller”, or in better English, “so small it could not be smaller” / “extremely small”. We can use this structure with many different adjectives. In the advanced post, the phrasing was: 丑得不能再丑, or “so ugly it couldn’t be uglier”.

不知所措 bù zhī suǒ cuò – To be at one’s wit’s end, to not know what to do.

硬着头皮 yìng zhe tóu pí – This one cracks me up. 头皮 is the skin on the top of your head over your skull. 硬, as we know, is usually an adjective which means “hard”, as in “a hard surface”. In this case, 硬 is being used as a verb, as in “to harden”. But, “to harden the skin over one’s head” still doesn’t make any sense in English. That’s because in Chinese, hardening one’s head-skin is used to describe “bracing oneself to do something scary or difficult”. For example, you’ve got to 硬头皮 before you walk out on stage to give a performance, or before you have a hard conversation with your significant other, or before you walk into a job interview. 着 is a grammar word indicating something is continually happening. You can’t just brace yourself for a second. You’ve got to brace, and then hold onto that courage to go forth and complete whatever task you had to brace yourself for, so 着 shows us that this is a continual state.

腿发软 – tuǐ fā ruǎn Three easy characters that seem to make no sense together. Let’s look at each:

腿 – Legs
发 – To radiate, to send out
软 – Soft

Legs send out soft?! Clearly, the hard part here is the appearance of the character 发. In Chinese, 发 can be used to describe a kind of discomfort that radiates out from some part of the body. For example, after a workout, your muscles can 发酸 fā suān, “radiate ache”, or in better English “be sore”. When you’re sick, you may 发烧 fā shāo, “radiate burn”, or in better English “have a fever”. If a cut gets infected, it may 发炎 fā yán, “radiate heat” or “become inflamed”. If you’re terrified, you may 发抖 fā dǒu, “radiate twitches”, or “tremble”. So, all together, 腿发软 is equivalent to the English for “to go weak in the knees” or when ones “legs go soft” from fear.

以为 yǐ wéi – And last but not least, 以为 means “to think”, but not “to think” in the sense of sitting around pondering something, like “to think up a solution” or “to think about a friend”. It means to have the wrong idea about something, or to believe something false, as in, “Did you really think you could beat me?” or “Do you think this is some kind of joke?” or “I really thought I turned that paper in already!”

Alright, ready? On with the Chinese.

Want something easier?

Du Chinese has a big catalog of easy HSK 1 and HSK 2 texts for ultra-beginners. There are quite a few free practice lessons, but CRP readers get 10% off on paid accounts using the discount code CRP10.















老师说,“怎么这么吵!你们以为这里是动物园吗? 是菜市场吗? 你们这些捣蛋鬼,不觉得难为情吗?她叫米乐。不叫西红柿!”








Buy on Amazon:

Tomato Girl

Show English translation »
This little girl is named Mile. She is very, very, very shy. One only needs to call her name, and her whole face will turn red! Poor Mile!

On the school playground, her classmates’ favorite game, is to make Mile’s face change color. Mile’s face will change from light pink to rose red. From “Mile” she becomes “Tomato”.

During classtime, if the teacher calls her name, her heartbeat immediately speeds up, and it’s difficult to breathe. Although she clearly knows the answer, the answer always hides in her brain, unwilling to come out. Not one person has ever heard Mile’s small [so small it couldn’t be smaller] voice. Never!

In front of the lady [lit: auntie] at the bakery (that’s the lady that always gives her some candy), Mile still can’t speak a word. The neighbor’s little girl came to Mila’s house to play, and Mile was so shy she was at her wit’s end.

Poor Mile, she had never dared to play hopscotch with her classmates, and her classmates also weren’t willing to play with her.

But all this was nothing. Most most frightening of all, most most miserable, most most worrisome, was tomorrow. Because tomorrow she had to read aloud in front of the whole class!

Mile spent the whole night terrified. She tossed and turned on her bed, first she couldn’t sleep, and then she had many nightmares.

But on the second day, Mile had to brace herself and go to school…


“Mile, it’s your turn!”

Mile’s legs went soft, her heart beat madly, and she wished she could immediately disappear.

“Her face is so red!”


The teacher said, “How are you all this noisy? Do you think this is a zoo?! That it’s a vegetable market? You troublemakers, aren’t you ashamed? Her name is Mile. Not Tomato!”

At this time, Mile discovered all her classmate’s faces were as red as hers! Suddenly, Mile opened her mouth.

“Little bird,
One little bird,
Not at all pretty,
All the animals made fun of it.
It’s color was very strange,
And its feathers were not soft.
One morning, in the light of the dawn,
The little bird sang a pleasant song,
All the animals perked up their ears,
For it turned out that under unremarkable feathers,
There was hidden the most beautiful song!”

She finished.

“So great!”

“Well done!”

“Really impressive!”

From that day on, Mile had a new nickname, “Mile the Little Lark”.

2 replies on “Children’s Stories: 《西红柿女孩》Tomato Girl”

Hi. I think the beginning of the second sentence in the fourth paragraph should be 邻居家 línjūjiā neighbor’s house.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *