If the extreme weather conditions that everyone has been experiencing around the world, especially in the last few months — unusually snowy and super-cold winter in the northern hemisphere; excessively hot and dry summer in the southern hemisphere — are anything to go by, it’s no longer possible to deny that climate change is well underway, and unfortunately, not for the better. Even here in equatorial Singapore, we are not spared: where we used to experience frequent showers and thunderstorms, in the last two months, we haven’t so much as seen a drop of rain, and as a result, all the poor plants are turning brown and wilting from the dry heat — in fact, February 2014 was the driest month here since 1869! Thus, the arrival of the milder conditions of spring (or autumn, as the case may be), is a harbinger of hope that maybe, just maybe, this crazy weather is temporary and that, fingers crossed, things will soon go back to normal.
For many little children, especially girls, even before they start to make friends or play together with other kids, they may already have a vague concept of what friendship means, through their interactions with their toys — particularly stuffed toys that easily lend themselves to make-believe conversations and physical expressions of affection, i.e. hugs and kisses. And while adults tend to dismiss such one-sided pretend-play as ‘cute, harmless fun’, in the minds of children, these ‘pretend-friends’ are probably as real to them as anybody else in their lives — and the bond between them and their toys actually serves as good practice for when they actually do get out there and attempt to make real-life friends.
It’s a rare children’s book that not only manages to put a trying situation into perspective for both children as well as parents, leaving everyone nodding in recognition and giving them something to take away from it, but that is also written so well that both camps enjoy reading it. But that’s exactly what you’ll get from the Llama Llama series by Anna Dewdney.
One of the marks of a classic book is that it seems to be as fresh and relevant today as the day it was published — even if it’s a few decades old. Naturally, it also helps if the subject matter is timeless.
First published in 1963, The Snowy Day is a true classic that tells the story of a little boy, Peter, who wakes up one morning to see a snow-covered landscape outside his window.
There’s something inexplicably cozy and friendly about sheep — which is probably one of the reasons people choose to visualise counting them instead of, say, teddy bears, when they need to lull themselves to sleep. Hence, it’s no surprise a book starring cute anthropomorphic sheep would be equally appealing.
Whether people abide by the laws and rules of society and/or religion says more about their ability to obey than their integrity since they are probably compelled to do so because, a) they are afraid of being caught; and b) they don’t want to face the (perceived or real) consequences. Often, it’s through what people choose to do when there are no laws or rules, and little to no possibility of them being discovered, that you can see their true colours. Thus, while children generally have an innate sense of right and wrong, it’s also important for the adults around them to cultivate and reinforce their moral values so that they will hopefully grow up choosing to do what’s right even when — as is often the case — it’s difficult or less convenient, and no one is around to tell them to do so.
Most children have their own funny little quirks and preferences for how things ‘should be’, and most of the time, this is both amusing and endearing to witness, since it’s their way of asserting their individuality. Alas, sometimes, these seemingly trivial details can turn into hair-pulling nightmares for parents when kids refuse to fulfil various tasks because of these same not-so-funny-anymore idiosyncrasies.
Case in point: the little girl Alice in In a Blue Room, who attempts to use her inordinate love for the colour blue to try to delay her bedtime, by insisting on all things blue.
When I was little, I had a white teddy bear. It wasn’t particularly special, but I liked to bring it with me everywhere around the house. Over time, the fur turned brown and it probably smelled, uh, ‘special’, but oddly, I just became more attached to it.
Now that I’m a parent, though, while I find it sweet that my daughter is very affectionate towards her motley collection of stuffed creatures, it’s hard not to wince when she grabs them with less-than-clean hands and plants kisses on them with food-smeared lips; or, worse, when she’s in a toy shop and attempts to hug and/or kiss various stuffed animals, all of which have probably been manhandled by countless other kids and have remnants of their DNA to show for it. But that’s the difference between kids and grown-ups: kids don’t think about practical things like dust, germs and stains — they just go with their heart.
The cover of Who’s Looking at You? kind of sums up what it is all about. Featuring intriguing macrophotography and a clever lift-the-flap concept, this is a book that will literally get kids to see eye to eye with a wide variety of animals.