Saturday, February 27, 2016

Read: Epigram Books

We've not had any homeschool lessons for the past few weeks, however, we've still been doing lots of reading at home! These days, Junior J loves rummaging through our shelves, and picking up a few titles a day to read. He's still very much into picture books, and hasn't really transitioned into chapter books. However, I'm glad that he's enjoying reading so much. 

Lil J used to be so fidgety that he couldn't sit through a book at all! However, these days, he's also turning into a bookworm. He can't actually read independently, but he frequently asks us to read to him, and likes flipping through books on his own. Small J loves being read to, so I think we're headed to becoming a family of bookworms. 

These days, I've been trying to include more local publications in our children's book collection. I think that our local kid lit scene has some way to go with regards to quality, however, I've observed more new authors and interesting reads coming up these days. Whatever the case, we do hope to support our home-grown authors, as well as introduce the kids to our local culture through books. Here are some titles from Epigram Books that we've been enjoying these days:

This series of stories (of currently six titles) feature a pair of pandas (BoBo and ChaCha), and their adventures around Singapore. I love how their adventures allow us to explore Singapore, from eating rojak in Toa Payoh to celebrating Chinese New Year, and the boys enjoy and identify with the pandas' experiences. . The stories also try to teach certain values, such as the importance of caring for and helping friends. I do appreciate how the author tries very hard to give the books a local flavour, to the extent of including a certain amount of Singlish in the conversations, however, I find it's use a little stilted and odd at times. However, the amount of Singlish used is rather minimal, and the kids certainly love the stories. Small J is a huge fan, because he is just crazy about pandas! 

:: Jack and Jill at Bukit Timah Hill, by Gwen Lee
This was quite a refreshing read, since it is a collection of nursery rhymes with a local twist! The boys were able to relate better to these rhymes, since they have familiar local elements in it, such as various food and landmarks. I loved how it introduced bits of our culture within the rhymes, such as traditional games like capteh and five stones.

:: Hurry Up, Slow Down, by Isabel Minhós Martins
This isn't a local book per se, and is translated from the original Portugese version as part of Epigram's "Stories from Around the World" series. While not written by a local, this was the book that I identified with the most, with it's focus on the mixed messages children receive about time:

"Outside, time passes through a machine that counts the seconds and marks the days without mistakes. Inside, clocks do not bother to count. They slow down, distracted, when there is too much to do. They hurry up when there is no time to waste."

Simple, doodle-like illustrations enhance the running monologue of questions and instructions that run through the book. I found myself smiling as I flipped through the pages, since these were things I have been guilty of barking at my kids as we rushed through our day!

Yet the book has a lovely ending (I won't spoil it for you!), and I think the boys could relate to this book. The cursive penmanship that meanders through the book is a perfect match for the bold pictures, however, emerging readers may find it hard to decipher the text, so this book is best enjoyed as a read-aloud.

I've noticed that Epigram has recently added a few more titles to this series of books from around the world, and I'm hoping to check out more of them (along with other new local titles) since they look pretty promising. Here's to more local publications on our shelves!

PS: We were given some of the aforementioned titles for purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.

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