Raising a Reader – 4 September 2017

Remember when I said we need to borrow more books to satisfy Evangeline’s insatiable thirst for new books?

We are wrong. We borrow too many books this time round and we can’t finish it on time. So we have to extend the borrowing period for some of the books. At least now we sort of know our average consumption rate for book reading. Given that there are some books life are shorter due to its low replay value, we always find a good mix that some of the books are read repetitively thus need longer borrowing time.

Wheels on the bus
A book by Jerry Smath, the pages inside are illustration to the lyrics of the famous nursery rhymes. Evangeline knows all the lyrics and sing it happily from time to time. Not a good book for bedtime story. She ends up singing the whole night and reducing our quality sleep.

It is kind of a flap book without flap. Instead, every odd page you will have a page with cut out hole viewing partial of the next even page. You will guess the object on the next page based on what is visible on the current page. It’s rhyming too, as the object have a discernible rhyme (Boo, Who, Moo, Choo-choo). Evangeline likes this book and bring this everywhere. Thanks to the author Nina Laden for this.

That’s not my monkey
That’s not my squirrel
I’ve told you that it’s tricky to teach kids about pattern. Now texture, is entirely different ball game. How do you teach sensory on kids and the name of certain texture? Luckily the touchy-feely book series solve this problem for us. The duo author Fiona Watt and illustrator Rachel Wells have many of similar books. This time we only borrow two of them. The style of the story telling is the same. First few pages started with “That’s not my (animal), its (certain parts) are too (adjective/texture).” And on the final page it will say “That’s my (animal) confirming that the readers have found the right animal.

Pom pom gets the grumps
This panda main character in the Sophy Henn’s book is called Pompom. We previously had another book about another panda, Chengdu, a panda who could not sleep. So it’s rather amusing when I ask Evangeline to spell this character’s name (Pom Pom), partially testing her alphabet skills because POM is quite an easy letter, given we practice with Papa and Mama spelling most of the time.

“What letter is this?”
“Good. And this?”
“Good. And this?”
“Excellent. What is his name?”

Okay maybe too early. Anyway this is a book about Pompom. The grumpy panda who always said “No” to his friends. He ended up playing alone and sad because nobody is playing with him. Only when he realize how jerk he really is, he said sorry and all his friends forgive him and play together.

Goodnight Owl
I can’t recall which book is this. I’m sorry. We have too many books about good night and too many books about owls. I can’t find who the author is too. It seems that my wife read this book to Evangeline and I don’t really take a good look of this book before returning it.

Numbers: a book
Most of number books are showing the number 1 to 10. This book by John J Reiss is the rare one that have 1 to 20. After 20, it jumps every 10 (30, 40, 50, …) until 100 and the last page is 1000. It’s a good book for learning number and revision for your young readers. The illustration is simple and the overall feel of the book is friendly and not too overwhelming for kids.

Picken: mix and match the farm animal
How do you choose a book from hundreds or even thousands of books in library? I would say I choose the one that’s more interesting. In this case, Mary Murphy’s book Picken is doing a good job. It’s so unique. It is a book with spine on both ends, so you could open the left part and the right part. Each page is a half of an animal, so picken itself is a wordplay from left part of Piglet (Pi) and right part of Chicken (cken). It’s like a puzzle to match first and last part of animal, or a good start if you want to teach your kids about animal experiment on genetic mutation.

Bear and Hare go fishing
We had another book from this series by Emily Gravett. In the previous book we borrow they are playing hide and seek around the house. In these two, they are going out for fishing together, and playing outside during snow day. In Go Fishing, bear caught many unwanted objects from the river, and on the final page they finally caught a fish alive. In Snow, they are building a snowbear instead of a snowman. It is a fun story book series with simple plot and nice illustration.

Shuyeqian literally means leaves money. It’s a chinese story book by 罗琳 and illustrated by 李国龙 . The story revolves around a monkey who proposed an idea to the forest community to use leaves as medium of exchange. While this sounds relevant to us in human world to use coins and bank notes as money is our common medium of exchange, it is not sustainable in forest context. The forest animals started gathering leaves instead of doing their usual activity (hunting, harvesting, etc). This makes the trees in the forest losing the leaves rapidly. Finally monkey realized his mistake after another flaw, its money is expired because all the greenback has turned into dry leaves and not acceptable as payment method. Okay I must admit this is very advanced for my daughter. The language, the storyline, and the illustrations, I think it’s meant for bigger kid. I would suggest revisit this book when the kid is older and understand more things.

Chī zǎocān is a simple book that narrates the story of a boy who is having breakfast. This is a simple book to learn chinese and enrich the vocabulary.

Little Owl’s night
Little Owl’s day
I always think that people who optimize to get more results are genius. Divya Srinivasan is one of them. The two books by this author are essentially telling the little owl’s journey throughout the forest. One is during the day, and one is during the night. You will see similar animals the little owl encounter. They are good bedtime story books. Evangeline did learnt few more animals from these books. I would say not many books have “moth” in their animal repertoire.

This book is borrowed because its illustration caught my eyes in the library. It’s time for Evangeline to learn about storyline, so it’s good to have a book whose character she already recognize. Clip-clop by Nicola Smee is suitable for this purpose. Cat, dog, pig, and duck are riding Mr. Horse. I have high hopes on this book and who would have guessed that Evangeline shows her true potential by telling me the story after my long day at work. Basically she shows that she understand what her mother told her, what the story is all about, and when she forgot, she refer to the book pages as a cue and reference to keep her story telling on track. I couldn’t be more happier.


Raising a Reader – 30 August 2017

In view of story telling session with grandparent who doesn’t really speak English, I tried to borrow some book in Chinese. The bulk quantity will be English book, because we ourselves can’t really read Chinese. And we are the ones spending most of the time reading the book to her. Chinese book is secondary items when Evangeline’s grandparents story telling time kicks in.

I get this  你大我小 book from the shelves. It’s a series by popular cartoon character miffy. The pocket book has several animals sequenced in order based on its size, and the last page is an elephant. Evangeline had fun learning new animal names in Chinese. Overall I think it’s a good exposure to let children learn new language. For now she can associate elephant with 大象 (Chinese) and Gajah (Bahasa Indonesia).

But her chinese pronunciation is rubbish. She sounds like german pronouncing korean when she’s attempting to read chinese. But of course I didn’t say that in front of her. I just make a little clap and said “good effort! try harder!” instead of saying “your chinese sucks!” because that what a father supposed to do.

Raising a Reader – 29 August 2017

With Evangeline now being a big sis, we tried to contain her at home and not sending to school to minimize the exposure to virus from childcare. At the same time, it could give more time to the grandparent to play with Angel. The thing is, we need books to keep her entertained. So I need to cycle this borrow return book in a faster manner. Today I went to Ang Mo Kio public library during my lunch time, because it’s nearest to my workplace.

What’s everyone doing?
There’s this girl called Tilly. She has many friends. She has many objects. On the left page there are objects like paintbrush, paint, and some drawing equipment. And on the right page there’s a flap asking what’s Tilly doing. If you open the flap it will show you that Tilly is painting. So the left page are the objects hinting what is the character doing on the right page behind the flap. Overall this is a good book. And the author Polly Dunbar also have another title in this Tilly and friends series, Who’s hiding?, which we will borrow next time.

Easter egg hunt!
This book by Beatrix Potter tells the story about Peter rabbit and his friends. Lily, and Jemima and I’m not really sure what’s the other bunny’s name. Peter and friends helps Jemima to find her eggs. It was stolen. And there was a plot twist because the egg was stolen from the thief. Don’t worry it has a happy ending as Peter found the culprit and return the egg to Jemima. I would think this is too complex for my two years old. She doesn’t understand the plot.

Chengdu could not, would not fall asleep
With all the Hollywood whitewashing, this is a fresh approach to have a main character which conveniently Chinese. I doubt Barney Saltzberg is a chinese though, juding from its name. Naming the panda Chengdu is possibly inspired by the fact that currently the Chengdu city in China is a home of biggest conservation center for giant panda breeding. What he may not know is, Chengdu was a capital for Shu kingdom in the famous Three Kingdoms era. Liu Bei, its leader, was buried in Chengdu, too. But this is not story about Three Kingdoms. This is a story about a panda who has difficulty sleeping, and at the end of the story, it sleeps.

Hide and seek Harry around the house
Harry is an awkward Hippo hiding all over the place. I found several similar book under same series by Kenny Harrison. The illustration caught my eyes, but being a wise daddy I just borrow one from this series to test. If Angel love it, I could always borrow more of this series. I try with Harry hiding around the house because other title include Farm House which some of the objects we never see before in real life. Let’s start with the easy vocabulary first.

Don’t touch this book!
Oh man Evangeline really like this book. Partly because my wife spend a great deal of time preparing this. This book is about a purple monster’s journey. He will give you instruction in page one, and something will happen in page two. For example the purple guy ask you to put your finger and drag it on the book in page one. In page two, there’s a smudge of colour on the book (of course already pre-printed). But with my wife’s amazing story telling skills, it felt that the book is alive. When the purple guy is in a pinch, Angel will flap her hands up and down very rigorously, and on the next page magically the purple guy will grow wings and fly to safety. I don’t know whether this is the intention of the author Bill Cotter. But if it is, he’s a genius.

Jane Foster’s Stripy Tiger pattern book
Evangeline has been learning about many objects and shapes. So I guess it’s time to introduce pattern to her. Actually it’s tricky to teach someone about pattern. Because Stripes is essentially a group of lines, and Spots are essentially group of dots. But with a book dedicated to teach patterns, like this Jane Foster’s, it is easier to communicate this idea to the kid. Illustration is simple and not too overwhelming. If you have the money, buy this. I recommend.

Pattern-tastic treasure hunt : spot the odd one out with nature
Technicolor treasure hunt : learn to count with nature
Two books by same author Hvass & Hannibal. The book form factor is unique, long portrait type, made it easier to spot in the library shelves. These two are of the same series with different focus, one teaching pattern and one teaching colour. In every page there’s an odd one out (orange object in the middle of blue objects, stripy object in the middle of speckled objects) for the reader to spot. Evangeline use this book as an activity book, an together with my wife they create a totally new game called “Can we eat this?”. The game goes with the mother pointing at an object, asking what it is, and whether it is edible.

“What is this?”
“Can we eat this?”
“Yes. Yummy.” *pretending to eat the watermelon from the book*

Well, whatever works, mum. Whatever works.

Raising a Reader – 23 August 2017

I planned to go to Bishan Library early morning before I go to work. It’s a slow day at work and I told my colleague I will be clocking in late. What I didn’t expect is Bishan Library only open at 10 am. Well, it’s not like other libraries open earlier, I won’t know because I never went to library early in the morning. Another thing I didn’t expect is people actually queueing in front of the library gate waiting for it to open. What a nation.

I managed to get simple breakfast while waiting for the library to open and be the first customer to go to the front desk. Most of the queueing people are actually elders who just want to read newspaper in air-con room, I guess. Judging by the demography of the persons queueing, I mean. As expected, the registration was fuss free once I brought all the right documents. Within 5 minutes, Angel had obtained his own library card. Maybe it will take only 3 minutes for people, but Angel’s full name is pretty long. The librarian handed me the new card and asked me to activate it to the Self Help KiosK, it’s like an ATM. Upon activation I’m required to pay the membership fee (once in a lifetime) by NETS and the card can be used immediately. The following eight books are what I borrow using Angel’s membership. To test it out as well as to enlarge our reading quota.

Merry Christmas, Ollie!
Two more books from Olivier Dunrea. Merry Christmas, Ollie! has more than one character in one book, so it’s a good book to introduce the connection between these characters. Gideon is the small gosling who like to play and don’t want to take a nap. In every page Angel like to play spot the octopus. Gideon bring his octopus toy everywhere until he fell asleep at the end of the book.

Paddington Bear goes to market
Another book from same author of Paddington Bear all day (PBAD). I’ve reviewed the book by Michael Bond and I would say that the PBAD is better than this one. Despite penned by same author, Paddington Bear goes to market (PBGtM) didn’t have significant punch to our reading experience. It’s just a story of Paddington goes to market and meet certain people along the way. The first book we borrowed (PBAD) has some educational value on the vocabulary and sequence of the meal where Paddington had breakfast, lunch, and then dinner. But for PBGtM I didn’t get this value added incentives. Illustration is nice, done by same guy I believe. If you only have budget for one, buy PBAD, you can skip PBGtM.

Big or small?
A book by Agnese Baruzzi. When I borrow I don’t expect Angel will like it this much. But apparently there’s something in the drawing style that capture the interest of kids. In one page, the book will show some object and ask whether this big object is A, and in next page, it will show that the object (that looks like A) is an zoomed part of small object B. One thing interesting to note is Angel is learning a new word “actually”. She can form more complex sentence like “It is not elephant. Actually, it is a mouse.”

Things that go vrooom
Okay I must admit I’m a bit disappointed. When I borrow this book I have imagination of how I will have fun with Angel spotting differences and identifying objects in this book. The book is an activity book. But instead of cartoon or drawings, it pasted photos of real vehicles. There are finding ten differences (it’s not difficult, it’s super obvious). e.g. in the right picture there’s a motorcycle and on the left picture there’s a watermelon instead on top of the motorcycle. You will sense something is really off when you are doing this activity. But Angel is more interested in cartoon type so this photo picture does not hit success. She also question us a lot on why the watermelon is there. This is just absurd. I’m sorry Violet Peto, I’m sure you are a nice guy and a decent author, but my daughter just don’t like your book.

Find the line
Similar to Find the Circle (FtC) book we borrowed earlier by the same author Britta Teckentrup. Find the Line (FtL) also engage similar concept approach. But since there’s not many objects can be formed by line, I find FtC is more suitable for kids. If you only have budget for one, buy FtC, skip FtL. Or maybe just don’t buy both. Angel read it once or twice and move on to other books and left these untouched.

Cocoretto, the author, managed to draw a simple illustration of emergency vehicles in a flap book form. For example, in the first page there is an ambulance, if you open the flap (the back of the car), it will show a patient whelled in to the ambulance. For police car, the flap will show the police with K-9 units. I think this is a good book for a young reader, but the age will catch up very fast and I don’t think this book can last long. Once the kid knows all the vocabulary, the kid will move on to next book. At least that’s what happen to my daughter.

Little Rabbit couldn’t sleep
A book from Beth Shoshan that we use as a bedtime story. It is a generic story about a small fluffy animal that could not sleep throughout the pages and at the end of the page, guess what, it sleeps. Good colour representations, simple story line, overall a decent bedtime story book. It didn’t leave a strong impression as neither good or bad. It’s just a generic bedtime story book. Which means it could work for everyone. Which is good if you don’t know which book to choose.

Raising a Reader – 21 August 2017

On 21 August 2017 Evangeline went to school so I and my wife go visit Bugis Library. This is the biggest branch of the library, there are 7 storeys total of book collections. Some are so rare and can be considered antique collection. This fact I know from my friend Pat who worked for National Library as a librarian. We wanted to register Evangeline as a library member.

From the counter on the first floor, we were directed to go to Basement 1. “Find anyone in blue”, that’s what the officer in the counter said. What’s good? Colour coding your employee so customer can pinpoint them. What’s not good? Everyone was wearing blue including janitors. It also doesn’t help that the Basement 1 do not have table counter where we can find librarian. So their staff is practically roaming around.

So I proceed to the Basement 1 and we saw a small cave with cartoonish jungle decoration at one corner. It’s the children’s book section. My wife proceed there to browse some book while I split to find the librarian to register Evangeline’s library membership.

After being ping-pong-ed by three staffs, I manage to find someone who does NOT wear blue, who is willing to attend to my inquiries for registration. Alas, she asked for proof that my daughter is a Permanent Resident to enjoy the PR rate. Because she’s yet come of age, she doesn’t have the Blue IC yet, so the librarian requires the Re-Entry Permit to register her. At that point of time I know I will flunk this opportunity, because who bring around Re-Entry Permit on daily basis? But to make this trip fruitful I get the detail from her the required documents for registration. It’s super simple. Any form of identification to register and the proof of Permanent Residency to enjoy PR rate. So basically I only need birth certificate and REP.

I returned to the small cave where my wife browse the book to borrow. She already shortlisted these following book. I told her about the registration hiccups and she said it’s alright since we also can use her library membership quota. One thing that we notice is the book in this library is significantly more tattered. I believe because the library is one of the more central with higher traffic, so the wear and tear is understood.

The following books were borrowed from Bugis Library.

Where’s Bear?
The book by Emily Gravett have nice illustration on clean white background. It tells the story of Bear and Hare taking turn playing hide and seek. While hare (Angel refers this animal as Bunny) is adept in hiding, bear is having difficulties to hide its large body. Bear did hide in the same place as bunny, but the funny part is when the bear hide behind something, the foreground object can’t even cover half of his body.

Sweet Snout by Liesbet Slegers
This translated foreign book by Liesbet Slegers is a flap book. The unique concept is that two animals with the same snout/ mouth/ beak are presented in the same page. When you flip to side A, one animal will appear, and when you flip the flap, it will turn into animal B. The illustration is not the best you can find, but this book promote curiosity in Angel and she likes flap book in general.

Bye bye bottles Zebra
I’ve previously mentioned that the books we borrowed are for various purpose. Some are for activity-driven purpose (counting, spot the difference), some are for extending vocabulary (list of objects with pictures), and also some for behaviour building. One of the example for behaviour building is when we borrow the book about baby or becoming a big sis to prepare her for our second daughter. This book is one of the behaviour building book. Or specifically, our attempt to let Angel sleep without bottle. Simple story by Michael Dahl that the little Zebra one day decided don’t want to drink milk from bottle any more simply because Zebra think he’s already grown up.

Gossie and Gertie
Another book by Gossie series. When borrowing the book by Olivier Dunrea, engineering approach prevails. If it works, don’t fix it. We’ve started by buying the Gossie book first, and subsequently Angel is hooked with all the characters presented at the back cover of the book. I made a mental note to review all of this character in one dedicated post for the benefit of the parents of young readers who read my reviews.

And for the next post in Raising a Reader series, we will cover how I register Evangeline’s library membership.


Raising a Reader – 17 August 2017

I still have not find the time to take care of the library quota. But from recent whatsapp conversation with Dina in our whatsapp group (yes, we have a whatsapp group), Dina told us that the quota was bumped up to 16 in view of school holiday. Now that school holiday has ended, the quota is returned to 8. So apparently my library membership falls into the same category with all these schoolers. One thing I don’t know is their holiday schedule. That’s where having primary school teacher as a friend comes in handy.

Due to time constraint, I finally just returned four books in order to borrow four more books. Next visit I will make a point to register library membership for Evangeline. This way we will have extra 8 books quota. For now, let’s move on with the book review.

Paddington Bear all day
We had a paddington bear book at home in the shape of double decker bus. We planned to let her watch Paddington the movie when she’s older. It’s a nice kid movie with fluffy bear as the protagonist. She has a teddy bear plush she’s familiar since she was baby. On the first few days of school, she can’t be separated from the teddy bear. There was an incident too where she fought her classmate because the bear was taken from hear. So any book with bear as a protagonist will surely click well with Evangeline. This book by Michael Bond tells the story of a day with Paddington the bear since he wake up, eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, and then sleep again. We use this as a bedtime story book where Evangeline will tell Papa what has she done all day, and end the story by saying “Now Angel sleep.”

A birthday for Cow!
Not in the mood to risk whether Evangeline will like new book, I go with known author. This book by Jan Thomas is a safe bet considering she likes the previous book we borrow, The Dog House. This time, the group of animal is celebrating the birthday of Cow. Mouse, Pig, and Duck are preparing the birthday cake, and for the love of turnip, prepares a turnip to go with the cake. Evangeline read this joyfully and sing Happy Birthday song for cow everytime we read this book. Yes, 5 times reading, 5 times singing. 10 times reading, 10 times singing. While this may sound idiotic to you non-parents, this is a joy for parenting as when child is singing we have half minute break from reading the book non-stop.

Jasper & Joop : a perfect pair: one tidy, one messy 
Gus explores his world
These two books are from the Oliver Dunrea series of Gossie the Goslings. We purchased the Gossie the Goslings on the go before we are exposed to this library world. Well, at that time, we don’t really have the time nor courage to go to library with our mythical beast. She’s too young and will rampage there, I presume. So we bought a book, yay! Knowing the style of Oliver Dunrea’s series, we just go ahead and snap these two and true enough, it’s consistent with the other Gosling books. Good writing, concise, and nice illustration. There’s an option for downloadable audios which we didn’t use because for us reading with the kid serves as a bonding time and playing audio on laptop or smartphone means she will snatch it and ask to watch youtube instead. Yes, I wrote all those bonding stuffs to make other parents feel bad. We are just equally tortured to read the same book for forty times. Anything for raising a reader. Consider this time spent as an investment. Once the kid develops the love for reading, you can drop them in the library and go to Maldive. The library has enough books for her.


Raising a Reader – 11 Aug 2017

Sticking to our reward programme, we need to borrow more books for Evangeline. So I made another trip to Ang Mo Kio Public Library next to where I work during my lunchtime. Due to the limited time constraint I have, I couldn’t really select books. I chose the books based on the looks. Yes, I’m judging the book by its cover.

I remembered that I had borrowed five books the previous day, and I had 11 more quota. To my surprise, when I bring 10 books to the station, it prompted me that I only have 3 more left. Hey, something is amiss. I remember I had 16 books to borrow, and I only had 5 at home. In any case, I proceed with checking out with only three books because my lunch time is running out and I need to go back to office.

I had time to sort out this thing later by asking my friend Dina about this. She’s the one who coaxed me to sign up for the library membership. Having primary school teacher as her occupation made her more knowledgeable about this little people’s world. She told me that the library has bumped up our quota for the school holiday period. It’s normally 8 books and bumped upto 16 because of the holiday. What a bummer, I thought 16 is the normal and I now need to get used to measly 8 books quota.

Dina did suggest a way out to solve this meager quota issue. By registering Evangeline’s own library card, we can get another 8 books under her name. That’s what she did with her daughter Kirana. Kirana already had her library membership card way before she could walk. So that’s on my next to do list. Get Evangeline her own Library membership. For now, let’s stick to the book review.

Peekaboo baby! 
It’s another flap book. What can I say, Evangeline love to flip the flap. I love the colour of the illustrations. It’s very soft and really expressing the demure stature I wish my daughter has. I need more of this kind of book to suppress her brawling nature. In every page you will find the flap revealing different type of animals, and on the last page is a huge twist, because when you flip up the flap, you will see the mirror. i.e. your kid will see her or his face. I do appreciate little gesture made by author to make their book unique. So, I give thumbs up for this book by Sarah Ward.

I wish I were a princess 
I don’t know what to call this book. It’s interactive, but there’s no electronics involved. It’s completely mechanical papercraft. I know there are several books like that, having pop up folded paper when you open the pages, but it’s generally for older kids. This book by Smriti Prasadam-Halls is practically a board book, tough enough to handle young audience, and have some basic movement for kid’s interactive movement. Some of the pages interaction I can remember is vertical sliding (reader slide open to see who is inside the castle), curved sliding (reader move a handle to make horse’s leg move up and down), and rotational sliding (reader turn the wheel to make princess change outfit).

When I borrow this I assume Evangeline will like it because she likes flap book. So this is another type of interactive book. True enough, she told me what will appear or happen when she slide up the castle window, showing all the people inside. But because this is a board book, this can be quite heavy hence the number of pages are limited too. But it gives the reader sensory and motoric training too.

The doghouse
Growing up to Hanna-Barbera cartoon Wacky races, I immediately associate the dog in this carton to Muttley. The illustration style is bold and cartoony at the same time. There is a group of animal, consists of Mouse, Cow, Pig, and Duck, playing ball. The ball was accidentally thrown inside the dog house. They are taking turn to decide who should go inside the dog house to retrieve the ball. Alas, whoever went inside never came out, requiring next animal to go in to retrieve ball and previous animal/s.

I don’t know whether this is the author Jan Thomas original intention, but we use this story as our memory training too. As we flip the page reading the story, we ask Evangeline, at this point of time in the storyline, who is inside the dog house? You can be surprised how young readers memorize all the seemingly unimportant details of the book. Evangeline can recite the whole story to me. She also learned a new adverb “actually”. She used it in daily life too, now, albeit sometime it make her sounds like a snobbish knowitall.

That’s all for this episode while I’m sorting for the quota of my library membership.