Category Archives: Book review

Book review: How Are You Feeling Today?

Emotions are tricky things to handle, even more so when you are a young child. For someone like C, who tends to internalize her emotions, it takes a fair bit of coaxing in order to get her to discuss how she feels and identify ways to cope. The phrase “I’m upset” could mean anything, ranging from jealousy, anger to just plain old grumpiness.  

We’ve read stories about dealing with emotions, and discussed how the character should react in the different scenarios, but somehow, I found this method somewhat lacking. I needed a quick go-to book about emotions, something that C could use as an aid to help her deal with all the feelings that were going on inside her.  

A few weeks ago, I was browsing through an online book sale when I came across How Are You Feeling Today? by Molly Potter.

I was drawn by the description of the contents:

Providing children aged 6 and above with straightforward, entertaining and (most importantly) appropriate ideas to help them deal with a selection of significant emotions that might not be so easy for them to decide what to do with, the book lets children choose a feeling that relates to them and offers child-friendly strategies for dealing with that emotion. 

This book sounded like just what I needed!  

There were no look-inside pages available online but I knew C would definitely be enticed by the illustrations (yes, the cover is so very important!) So I went ahead to buy the book!


How are you feeling today?

When the book arrived, I knew that I had made the right decision. Done in picture book format, the first few pages quickly summarized the range of feelings covered by the book. The first two pages worked like a quick index – the reader could simply refer to the correct page based on what they were feeling that day.
IMG_7581 IMG_7582 Age-appropriate strategies for dealing with each emotion were suggested. For example, if C was feeling worried, she could choose from the serious (confiding in a trusted person) to the not-so-serious (imagining a giant machine sucking worries away!) IMG_7583 IMG_7584     IMG_7585 C’s review 

Almost-8-year-old C really liked the illustrations, as expected. She started flipping through the book as soon as she saw it. I know that she appreciated some of the suggestions given because she was chuckling to herself and mumbling “a giant bubble, really?!” When I asked what she thought of the book, the immediate answer was “It’s really easy to read!” Well, I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t be in the mood to read a chunk of words when she was in a bad mood. 😉 

My review 

Most of the children’s books I’ve read dealt with emotion handling using a storyline. I appreciated that this book was presented as a self-help book, and went straight to the point to identify different emotions. By giving suggestions to the child to deal with each emotion, it empowers them to handle their emotions in a constructive manner. Using illustrations, the author also helped to provide pictorial clues to identifying more complex emotions, such as jealousy. At the end of the book, there were also tips for parents on how to improve emotional literacy. 

This book helped me deal with some difficult times when C was frustrated. I would point to the book, “Please read the book and try some of the suggestions!” – even if the suggestions didn’t work, it still bought me time and gave C a cooling off period! I would definitely recommend getting this book for 6 to 9 year olds. 

Do you have any recommendations for self-help books for kids? 

You can buy the book here: 



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Growing with the Tans

Book review: 布布爱上动物园 (Bubu loves going to the zoo)

In a previous post, I promised to introduce some books that piqued C’s interest in Chinese. Here is a recent series that she has read.

布布 series was introduced by C’s school as part of the recommended reading for Primary 1 students. Written by Singaporean author Lee Kow Fong, also known as Ah Guo (阿果), this series of books follow the life of a boy named Bubu (布布). In this review we will take a look at the first book in the series.

IMG_4187 Continue reading

Book review: Have You Filled A Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids

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Have you filled a bucket today?

I have been on the lookout for books that teach kindness and empathy. So when I came across this multiple award-winning book on Amazon, I did not hesitate to buy it. In the reviews, Have you filled a bucket today? is described as a “heartwarming book”. Once you open the pages, it’s easy to see the appeal of the simple prose and beautiful illustrations.

In the book, author Carol McCloud uses a simple analogy to describe our state of emotional well-being. We all carry invisible buckets!


Everyone carries an invisible bucket

The metaphors “bucket-filling” and “bucket-dipping” are used to describe the effects of our actions and words on others.


You never fill your own bucket when you dip into someone else’s

Examples of day-to-day bucket-filling actions are given: saying “I love you” to our parents, being nice to friends, writing thank-you notes to our teachers.


A smile is a good clue that you have filled a bucket

C’s review

It was a simple read for 8-year old C. I know she liked the book because I caught her flipping through the book by herself on a few occasions. It definitely made an impact on her because she started referring to her friends as “bucket-fillers” 😉

G’s review

The simple text and vivid illustrations helped to keep his interest. While G understood the literal meaning of “bucket-filling” and “bucket-dipping” (or bucket-emptying in his words),  I had to explain that a full bucket means that the person was happy, and an empty bucket meant that the person was sad. He was also able to describe how he could “fill buckets” – by helping his friends and sharing his toys.

My review

I loved the fact that a bucket was used as an analogy instead of an emotional tank so that the kids could easily relate to it. The examples of “bucket-filling” actions were also easy for kids to follow. I really appreciated the fact that they made an effort to include different nationalities in the illustrations 🙂

The language used is simple and it makes for a great read-aloud (helpful when you have to read the book over and over again!) I enjoyed reading the book with the kids, and it was a good starting point for a discussion on positive and negative behaviors and their impact on others.

I would definitely recommend this lovely book to kids as young as 2, to 9. There are also follow up activities available on the web.

You can get the book here:

Do you have any book recommendations to teach empathy to kids?


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Growing with the Tans

Book review: 可爱的鼠小弟

In a previous post(eons ago :p), I mentioned that I would be introducing some books and tools that helped C gain interest in Chinese. Here’s the first of a series of posts on this topic.

One of the first Chinese books that C really enjoyed was the 可爱的鼠小弟 series. shuxiaodi This series is translated from a Japanese picture book collection by Yoshio Nakae, first published in the 1970s. The stories follow the exploits of Little Mouse (鼠小弟) and his animal friends. The story lines are easy to follow, and the charming illustrations hold their attention. Language used is simple and repetitive, like most early readers are.

Here’s a sneak peek into the contents. In the first book, Little Mouse shows off a new vest that his mother made for him.


Little Mouse’s Vest


This is the vest that my mum made for me, doesn’t it look good?

As the story progresses, each of his friends admire and compliment him on his beautiful new garment, and asks to try it on.


Your vest is so beautiful! May I try it on?

The problem is… his friends are all bigger than Little Mouse!


It’s a little tight, but doesn’t it look good on me?

I’ll leave you to guess the ending 😉

C’s review
C enjoyed the simple text and repetitive phrases in the book. She found the mouse really cute, and laughed along with Little Mouse’s experiences.

G’s review
I introduced this book to G recently. Like C, he was able to appreciate the humour in the book. Since C was already familiar with the book, she played the part of a big sister to read it to G. Win-win situation 🙂

My review
I enjoyed reading this picture book with the kids. The text was repetitive but not boring. The illustrations, while simple, did a lot to bring out the humour in the situation without being distracting. As I’ve mentioned earlier, C was really resistant to learning and speaking in Chinese, but she was willing to repeat the phrases after me, and learning to recognize some of the characters.

This is definitely a good book to start with young toddlers or even older reluctant readers like C 😉 Do try it!

For those who are residing in Singapore, this series is available at the National Library.

For those who are interested in the English version of the book, it can be found on Amazon.

Do you have any recommendations for Chinese books for kids?

Learning Chinese – the journey


Chinese? Difficult!

Chinese has always been a tough subject for C. When she was much younger, around 2 or 3, she used to ignore anyone who spoke to her in her mother tongue.

Who could blame her? To her, it was a totally foreign language.

Although we are ethnic Chinese, 99% of our conversations with her were held in English. We read English books, she watched cartoons and DVDs in English, even the punishments were meted out in English.

Our initial attempts at introducing Chinese were half-hearted at most. Truth be told, I had assumed (or maybe, hoped) that she would be able to pick up the language sooner or later. After all, she was Chinese, wasn’t she? Her grandmother watched Chinese shows, and she was exposed to the language at school. We had also enrolled her in a weekly 2-hour Chinese enrichment class. I never remembered any difficulty picking up the language myself, so I thought it would be the same for her.

How wrong (and deluded) I was. At 5 years old, she was barely able to conduct a conversation in Chinese. She could read some Chinese sentences, but understood little.

Alarm bells started ringing for us when we attended the Primary One Preparation Seminar conducted by the enrichment centre in May last year. In the seminar, the speaker covered the syllabus for primary school Chinese, in which the oral component played a major part (gasp!). We were shown sample test papers, and I found myself shaking my head… C had a loooong way to go, and it was all uphill.

We set to work trying to get her interested in Chinese. In a previous post, I posted about doing a lapbook on China. I had a reward chart marking each day that we managed a short conversation in Chinese. It was difficult to stay consistent, and I lapsed back to speaking in English from time to time. I started reading more Chinese books to her.

Fast forward one year later. I’m pleased to report that some progress has been made, and in her first term show and tell, she scored 19 out of 20 points. She is now able to conduct a fairly decent conversation, and picking up more vocabulary from reading Chinese books.

Although the push to start picking up Chinese was academic, I hope that in time, she will be able to appreciate the beauty of the language, and not treat it as another subject to study for.

The journey has just begun.

Do you face difficulties introducing a second language to your child?

p/s: I’ll be introducing some books and tools that helped C learn Chinese. Do stay tuned!

Book review: The Hueys in The New Jumper by Oliver Jeffers

I first saw The Hueys in the New Jumper at a book fair. The illustrations on the cover caught my attention immediately! Flipping through the book, I fell in love with the adorable oval-shaped Hueys, and the deceptively simple story-line. I didn’t buy the book as I wasn’t sure if C would enjoy the illustrations as much as I did, but I took note of the title and borrowed it from the library later.

Meet the Hueys!

Meet the Hueys!

As the title suggests, this picture book is about the Hueys and a new orange jumper. What made the jumper so special? Well, the thing about the Hueys is that they were all the same. They all looked the same, thought the same and did the same things. And no one wore jumpers.

The things about the Hueys... was that they were all the same

The things about the Hueys… was that they were all the same

So when Rupert, one of Hueys, decided to knit himself a new jumper (in bright orange, no less), he was ridiculed and gossiped about for standing out from the crowd. Didn’t he know that the Hueys were all about being the same?


Happily, another Huey, Gillespie, decided that being different was nice, and decided to get himself a new orange jumper too.


Another Huey who dared to be different

Guess what happens in the end? All the Hueys decided to get their own orange jumpers to be different! 😀

C’s review
Contrary to what I thought, C loved the Hueys! The first question she asked about the Hueys was “Are they Chinese?” LOL. Yes, I did think that “Huey” sounded like a Chinese name. She thought the Hueys were really cute, and easy to draw. She actually laughed out at the end of the book when all the Hueys decided to be “different”.

We also found a site to create our very own Huey here!

Our very own Huey!

Our very own Huey!

G’s review
He was too young to appreciate the message in the book, but he enjoyed looking at the “eggs with hands” characters. I think it might have given him some inspiration because he has been adding lines to his circles recently 🙂

My review
Although The Hueys in the New Jumper is a picture book meant for children, I thought that the message on individuality versus conformity was brought across very well. This book gave me an opportunity to discuss with C the importance of daring to be different, and standing up for her own opinions. This was especially important, as I foresee that peer pressure will be an issue when she starts attending primary school next year.

Highly recommended for both young and old!

Have you read any books by Oliver Jeffers?

P/s: I found this really cute introduction to the book on youtube. Do check it out!

Get The Hueys in the New Jumper from Amazon or bookdepository

Book review: Give Me a Hug – 8 Life lessons from Nick your kids cannot miss

A week ago, I was browsing at the bookstore when “Give Me a Hug” caught my eye. It was the charming illustration on the cover that first drew me in. Taking a closer look, I recognized the man on the cover as Nick Vujicic, the motivational speaker who visited Singapore at the beginning of September.

For those who are not familiar with the name, Nick Vujicic is a man with an amazing personality who lives his life to the fullest. He swims, golfs, plays soccer, and sky-dives. Nothing special, you might think. But Nick was born with tetra-amelia syndrome, a condition characterised by the absence of all four limbs (yes, you read it correctly, all four limbs are missing)

Give Nick a hug

Give me a hug – 8 life lessons from Nick your kids cannot miss

As the title suggests, the book is based on Nick’s life. In each of the 8 chapters, Nick starts by recounting an episode in his life, followed by a summary of the life lesson to be learnt at the end of each chapter. Since the book is targeted at children, the language used is simple, with plenty of illustrations scattered throughout the pages. Love is a recurring theme throughout the book, and positivity radiates from the pages. The lessons learnt include the importance of empathy, perseverance in the face of failure, dealing with bullies in school, and making the correct choices in life.

My favourite page in the book

My favourite page in the book

C’s review
C found it an easy and enjoyable read. When we discussed the story, I realized that she didn’t know Nick was a real person. She couldn’t imagine someone living with no arms or legs. After showing a Youtube video of Nick swimming and playing soccer, she was first fascinated, then in awe. Days after we read the book, C has forgotten Nick’s name, but she still remembers “the man with no arms and no legs”.

My review
I bought this book with C in mind. I found that the incidents highlighted in the book were age appropriate and easy for C to relate to. Although the book was meant for children, I found it to be an inspiring read even for adults. As a parent, there were important lessons to be learnt too! Nick’s example showed me how important the parents’ love is – it is the foundation upon which the child builds his confidence to surmount the difficulties in life.

It is definitely a book worth reading. I’m sure you’ll be as inspired by Nick as much as both of us were.

Were there any books that inspired you recently?

Note: Various translations of this book are available in Asia (Hong Kong, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore). In Singapore, the Chinese version 拥抱力克 is also available at Popular and Kinokuniya bookstores. Kinokuniya offers international shipping.

Book review: White is for Blueberry by George Shannon

While searching for David Shannon’s book “No, David!” at the library, I chanced upon this book by George Shannon. The title, White is for Blueberry, immediately caught my attention. White is for blueberry? Hmm….white_isfor_blueberry Flipping to the first page, I was struck by the first statement. Pink is for crow? Well, obviously the crow was black…

Pink is for Crow

Pink is for Crow

… until I turned the page to reveal newly-hatched crow chicks. white_is_for_blueberries2.jpg George Shannon continued to challenge our preconceptions of what colours each item should be. When are blueberries white?

White is for blueberries

White is for blueberries

When they are still blossoms of course! white_is_for_blueberries4.jpg C’s review
When we read the book together, she was first amused by the title, then intrigued as we turned the pages. “Whoever thought that there were pink crows?!” We had fun thinking about how sweet potatoes could be brown and when the leaves were red.

G’s review
He was too young to know about the associations of colours to various objects, but he enjoyed pointing out the colours and naming the objects in the pictures nonetheless.

My review
I loved the simplicity of this picture book, with the words in simple black print, except for the colour-coordinated word in large capital letters. Illustrations were simple but vibrantly coloured, framed in the corresponding colour. It certainly encouraged me to view things from a different perspective!

An interesting and creative book. Highly recommended!

So… when is firelight blue?

Guess when the flame is blue?

Guess when the flame is blue?

Book review: Peek-a-Poo What’s in your diaper? by Guido Van Genechten

Peek-a-Poo What;s in your diaper?

Peek-a-Poo What’s in your diaper?

We brought G to the library last weekend. I asked him to choose a book, and he happily came back with Peek-a-Poo What’s in your nappy? by Guido Van Genechten.

I flipped through the book and it turned out to be a really interesting choice by G. The story starts with curious Mouse, who loves to investigate everything – taking things apart, poking sticks into holes and exploring every rock (does this sound familiar to anyone?)

Curious mouse

Curious mouse

This time he has decided to explore what’s inside everyone’s nappy! He starts by asking Rabbit:


Opening the flap reveals Rabbit’s poo (ok, if you are easily offended you might not find this amusing)!

Seven rabbit pellets!

Seven rabbit pellets!

He goes on to ask each of his animal friends in turn, noting the difference in shape and quantity each time he examines their diapers.

Pointy dog poo

Pointy dog poo

However, when it comes to Mouse’s turn, he reveals that his diaper is…. empty! He tells his friends that he uses a potty instead of his nappy.

Potty-trained Mouse

Potty-trained Mouse

Of course, the story ends happily with all his friends trying out their potties.

Happy ending

Happy ending

G’s review
He loved opening the flaps, going “poo” then “ewwwww”. LOL!

My review
It’s different from the usual potty-training books, and I think this was appropriate for G’s age right now. The lift-the-flap concept appeals to young kids and the cute illustrations of familiar animals kept G interested through to the end. The only risk is that your child might go examining everyone else’s diaper 😛

Do you have any interesting books on potty training for kids?

Book review: The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett

the-girl-who-never-made-mistakesI chanced upon this book while searching for another title by Mark Pett (I was in fact looking for The Boy and the Airplane, but that’s a review for another day).

I was immediately drawn to the title. The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes sounded like the perfect book to read with C.

Nine year-old Beatrice Bottomwell was the perfect little girl – she never forgot her math homework, never wore mismatched socks, and always remembered to feed her pet hamster. She has NEVER made a mistake. In fact, with this record of perfection, Beatrice was known as “The Girl Who Never Makes Mistakes” in her hometown.


In contrast, she has a little brother Carl, who seemed to relish making mistakes (and having fun at the same time!)


We meet Beatrice on the day before the annual talent show in school (which she has won with her juggling act three years in a row).

As we follow her through the day, we are given subtle hints that Beatrice has maintained her record of perfection by following the same routine each time, and avoided activities like skating where there was a risk of making a mistake. Life has been smooth for her.

However, on this day, things go a little differently. She slips during a cooking class, and narrowly avoids dropping her eggs.

This almost-mistake causes Beatrice to worry for rest of the day. What if she blunders during the talent show?

On the night of the talent show, her worst fears are realized, and she makes her first mistake, a BIG mistake, in front of a large audience who expected perfection from The Girl Who Never Makes Mistakes.


So how did Beatrice react? Did she cry? No. She laughed, and the audience laughed along. Mistakes were not bad afterall.

At the end of the story, we see Beatrice enjoying her freedom after shedding the label “The Girl Who Never Makes Mistakes” – wearing mismatched socks, having inside-out PB&J sandwiches, going skating with her friends, having fun 🙂

C’s review
I had a feeling that C would be able to relate to Beatrice. I was right. C was engrossed in the story. When Beatrice stood drenched in front of the audience, C was near tears. When Beatrice laughed, C laughed along. At the end of the story, C told me, “Everyone makes mistakes, it’s ok not to do it right all the time.”
C requested to keep the book for a longer period of time because she wanted to re-read it (I had borrowed it from the library). I’m happy to note that she did read it again by herself.

My review
I had initial concerns that the illustrations might not appeal to C, but they proved to be unfounded. The storyline is simple, but got the message across very effectively. After reading the book with C, we got to discuss the fear of failure, risk-tasking and perfectionism.

Recommended for all little perfectionists!

Do you have a little perfectionist at home?