6 of my favourite children’s books

We’ve come to the “Book Review” part of the blog challenge. Last night I realised it was a bit late for me to start reading a book to review (i.e. an actual fiction/non-fiction book written for adults). More so because I was falling asleep by like 7.30pm and that my brain could not get past the cover page.

So, instead, I’m going to share with you six of my favourite children’s books, as voted by Jacob who knows all the words.

1. There’s a House Inside My Mummy
Author: Giles Andreae
Illustrator: Vanessa Cabban
There's a House Inside My Mummy - Giles Andreae

When I first found out I was expecting again, I was really keen to get some books to explain the concept of a new baby to Jacob (who was just under 2 years old at the time). This book came highly recommended and it was really easy to read and used very simple comparisons, and I found it really helped Jacob relate to my pregnancy and to the baby in my tummy. There’s one page I found a bit unnecessary though (about Mummy’s door being rather “tight” – errr….) but other than that, a great book!

2. Peppa’s Car Ride
By Ladybird (doesn’t say the author’s names)
Peppa's Car Ride : Peppa Pig Series - Ladybird

I had to put a Peppa Pig one in, right? (Jacob is obsessed with Peppa Pig) I initially bought one for my nephew and then I found one in an op shop so I bought it for Jacob too. It actually has moving wheels which makes it all the more fun! Jacob loves reading the book and has put Peppa Pig stickers all over it as a sign of his approval. I also love that because the car was taken to Granddad Dog’s garage to be mended, Jacob now uses that word. If he breaks a toy, he says “Mummy, this toy needed to be mended.” Cuteee!

3. Toilet Time for Boys
By Dr Janet Hall
Toilet Time : A Training Kit for Boys - Dr Janet Hall

Okay, I had to add a toilet training book into the mix too! For the record, Jacob’s still not successfully toilet trained at the moment – we tried before Jared was born but he didn’t really take to the idea, or like he didn’t want it to be an ongoing thing (he told me “No more toilet, mum. Nappies please.”). But we do enjoy reading this book however – Jacob loves the whole idea of sitting on the toilet and it just presents the idea of toilet training in a simple and encouraging way. I only have the book but not the full activity pack, so I can’t comment on that, but fortunately we got a Huggies pull-ups pack which included a potty training resource and wall chart that has Lightning McQueen on it (and Jacob is absolutely SOLD! He loves Lightning McQueen) so we will start on that in due time!

4. I Love Mealtime
Author: Joy Berry
Illustrator: Dana Regan

My mum bought this book for Jacob, as well as another Joy Berry book called “I Love Bedtime”. He likes this one better – I’m not sure why, maybe because the main character is a boy and there’s a dog in it too? It’s also sorta ironic because he isn’t a fan of mealtime in real life haha! But this book is nice and clear – it explains why we have certain eating practices/etiquette and why (i.e. if you eat too many sweets, you get a tummy ache). I’m not sure that it has had any effect on Jacob’s table manners, but one can only hope!

5. Sunshine and Snowballs
Author: Margaret Wise Brown
Illustrator: Charlotte Cooke
19593965

I absolutely love this book! I’m not sure what it is but there was a certain emotion it evokes – the illustrations are just beautiful too. You might realise by now that I love books with rhymes/poetry because it just has a lovely ring to it (and I love to hear Jacob say the last word of each sentence).

The book starts out with “Summer, summer, in the sun” and it’s funny because there is a little girl at our church called Summer, and Jacob instantly thought the girl in the book was called Summer. It’s so hard to explain the concept of seasons to a little child! And he says that the boy in the book is Jared because Jared has a winter hat like the one the boy wears. So yes, it’s about Summer and Jared playing at different times of the year. I love that this book has helped Jacob make the connection with natural elements – he’ll talk to me about rain and thunderstorms, and the other day we had a foggy morning and he was so excited to experience the “grey, silent” fog. Definitely a favourite!

6. Pull-out “Jonah and the Big Fish”
Author: Josh Edwards
Illustrator: Chris Embleton-Hall

I love these pull-out books – some other stories in this series include David and Goliath, Noah’s Ark and the Christmas Story. Jacob loves David and Goliath the most because Goliath is huge and roars (Oh wait, no, that’s mummy roaring) but he also loves all the others too. I highly recommend these books because they’re interactive, easy to read and fun – and to prove that, here’s a video of Jacob actually reading this book with me (this was a good 4 months ago)!

Happy reading! 🙂

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Children’s Book Review – “Mr Pete, Where are your feet?”

Reading is one of my hobbies, or at least it used to be until I got too busy to do it. Even before I started going to school, I used to churn through 12 books a week. But over the years, I’ve had to put that hobby in the background to try and juggle all the other things I need/want to do (being the social being that I am). And now with a baby, this is proving even harder – I borrowed a book from the local library in March and have renewed it twice but still haven’t gotten halfway through it yet.

However, something I indulge in lately is children’s books! Of course, I try to read them to Jacob who is either completely uninterested or tries to eat my book (and cries when I try to take it away from him). But really, children’s books help me remember my love for reading and spur me on to pick up that bigger “adult” book that I have to try and read a chapter (only to be interrupted by a baby trying to climb the TV cabinet). 

I agreed to review a new children’s book written by Katherine Bartlett, a talented lady with a love for winged creatures (i.e. birds, not bats or flying foxes). Her book has a catchy title – “Mr Pete, Where are your feet?”. With Jacob sitting in his cot at full attention, I opened it up full screen and read it to Jacob (in hopes to get his opinions too).

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The book introduces us to Mr Pete and his family – his winged brothers and sisters, and his non-winged mummy (whom he obviously loves to bits despite her not having wings like him). Anyway, mummy asks him a rhetorical question, “Mr Pete, where are your feet?” and it gets Mr Pete thinking. He looks at his feet and to his dismay, they’re “missing” – he had shorter feet and fewer claws compared to the other birds.

So, he sets off to look for his feet. Along with his birdy sisters and brothers, they search all over the place for Mr Pete’s feet but to no avail. Mr Pete is disheartened and is worried that his mummy will no longer accept him for his flaws, but mummy proves him wrong with loving affirmation.

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While this book addresses the issue of disability and acceptance in society, I think that it also addresses another much more common issue – accepting our flaws. Our world today pressures people so much to groom themselves to perfection that people are increasingly insecure about their shortcomings. However, all we need is a gentle reassurance that we are accepted for who we are.

I enjoyed this book – the illustrations were simple but effective. Repetition is always a great feature of children’s books and I really liked the values the book teaches. Probably a more suitable read for kindy or early primary readers, though I must say it did keep Jacob’s attention for a little while (before he started chewing on the cot railing, le sigh).

An extra bonus at the end was the fact that it was a true story (and we were introduced to all the real-life bird characters!). I think it’s really great to bring the story to life (and perhaps pave the way for a sequel?). Awesome story, Katherine, and I look forward to future books!

You can purchase her book on Amazon here.

I apologise for a bit of self-promotion along with this post, but this brings something to mind that I haven’t thought of for AGES! Back in 2007, I joined a writing competition which won me a trip to Dublin. We were meant to write a 1500 word piece on the title “Helping Hands” – and as I read the piece I wrote, I think “Damn, I was a pretty good writer!” 🙂 

I found the archive of it – read my story here.

And just to prove to you that yes, I have been in the paper before, here is one of the archived articles about my prize-winning experience. Please ignore the terribly ugly picture of myself trying to look as though I’m excited.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!!! 🙂

Gender grievance and language lament…

Jacob and I haven’t really been up to much the last few days – gone out shopping a bit, visited a friend, etc. I’ve had some writing work to do and can’t wait to share my articles (as I’m playing love guru). Aside from that, two things have been resonating in my mind lately that I’d love to discuss.

When I was out shopping yesterday, I bought a few children’s books yesterday for some of my friends’ baby showers (as I love giving books as presents). They seemed like pretty neutral books when I bought them, but one of them has a page that says “Messy lipstick, messy floor” and shows the little bear playing with mummy bear’s makeup, shoes and jewellery. And I was thinking, hmm… perhaps I should give that one to my friend that’s having a baby girl. And then another book has a page which says “Feel the flowers on my dress. I try hard not to make a mess! Just like mummy!” – and I thought, no, definitely I should give THIS one to the friend with a baby girl.

And then I just thought to myself, what am I doing? Why am I so concerned? Perhaps my worry was that I would insult my friend by giving them a book that may influence their son to act in a girly fashion. In retrospect, if someone gave me those books, I’d still be more than happy to read them to Jacob (and let him read them when he’s older). And I don’t expect it to cause him to want to wear makeup or a dress. 

I think that too often, we’re so focused on giving girls girly things and giving boys boyish things that it more or less defines their roles even before they’re given a chance to decide for themselves. For example, is it so bad for a boy to wear pink? A friend of mine actually bought a pink t-shirt for Jacob as a joke (she didn’t know the gender back then) and I found it really adorable – of course, it did say “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” on the front.

ImageMy belief is that “Girls can wear boys clothes, but boys can’t wear girls clothes” – but I think that pink shirt suits him fine. Since we didn’t choose to announce the gender of our baby, we also have quite a few neutral things – even with clothes alone, we have green, red, yellow, orange, etc. which is just really nice to have! 

Another example is kids toys as well. Some people are under the impression that boys should play with cars and girls should play with dolls. My mum brought over quite a few of my toys from when I was a child, and I must say that Jacob prefers the soft toys over cars and blocks (though he’s only 5 months old so I don’t blame him – fuzzy things are cool!). Around Christmastime, I had some kids coming along to my Christmas party so I thought I’d pick up a few toys – one of the things I bought was a shopping basket, which my niece loved. And it got me thinking – boys should be exposed to grocery shopping anyway!

So, I guess what I really mean here is that I don’t want to be assigning roles to my little man, or at least I’m going to give him a choice. That being said, I do dress him up pretty boyishly but I think that’s because I like that look myself – if I have a girl next, I’d be more than happy for her to wear all Jacob’s clothes as she’ll look cool!

This topic was brought up quite a bit around Christmastime (which initially sparked my interest) and here’s one article that mirrors my sentiments: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/10498316/Nows-the-time-to-end-the-boys-and-girls-toys-gender-divide.html

And obviously, before I move on to the next thing I’ve been pondering about, a picture of Jacob asleep like a baby. I think those are girl pants he’s wearing, but it looks nice so who cares… 🙂

ImageAnother thing that’s been playing out on my mind is what language to teach Jacob. Yes, of course I’ll teach him English, but I mean what second language. So, here are some options:
Malay: I grew up learning Malay so I do know it pretty well, but I don’t really think I want to teach Jacob this language. I can teach him random words and how to string sentences together, but I’d rather he learned a more universal language.
Mandarin: Good language to know and probably good to learn the characters from young. But I don’t know too much Mandarin myself so I can’t teach him. I could learn it but I guess it’s not my top priority either.
Japanese: I LOVE this language. I only studied it for a year (and lost most of it because I didn’t speak it) but I’d be keen to pick it up again and have it like our special language. 
German: This is Dan’s preference, and he did a bit of it at school so he knows some children’s songs, etc. My issue is that I don’t think I can teach Jacob it at all, because I am terrible at European languages. I can’t even pronounce simple greetings! I think I’ve just got an Asiatic tongue…

What do you think? Frankly I’d like to do both Japanese and German, though I don’t think it’s a very politically correct combination. XD

I know this whole language thing screams “Asian mum”, but really – being bilingual from a really young age is really good. Kids pick up languages really quickly in the first 5 years of their lives, so I might as well make the most of it. It’s up to him whether he wants to go further with the language, but it couldn’t hurt to activate certain parts of his brain…

Here’s another really good article about brain benefits of being bilingual: http://voxxi.com/2013/05/11/bilingual-children-health-benefits/

For now, I’m just enjoying singing Kira Kira Boshi with Jacob (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in Japanese). It goes like this:

きらきらひか (kira kira hikaru)
お空の星 (osora no hoshiyo)
まばたきして (mabataki shitewa)
みんなを見てる (minna o miteru)
きらきらひか (kira kira hikaru)
お空の星 (osora no hoshiyo)

Anyway, I’d better go because Jacob’s trying to eat my Council Rates bill. He’s much more inquisitive and grabs anything and everything to put in his mouth. He’s been doing lots of push ups now, oh no… 🙂