Katie and the Starry Night by James Mayhew

By Maureen Tai, 13 May 2019

IMG_5351A visit to a multi-sensory exhibition of Van Gogh’s works prompted a fond recollection. My oldest child, then 5 or 6, had spotted a print of The Starry Night at a shop and exclaimed excitedly that it looked just like the picture in our Katie book. Upon returning home, she insisted that we read Katie and the Starry Night again – for the umpteenth time. On a re-visit of the picture book today after several years’ hiatus, I am struck anew by the artistry of the illustrations and the marvellously imaginative story of Katie, an adventurous little girl in a red coat, bright red ribbons in her hair. Katie has an unusual and dare I say, enviable, way of interacting with the artwork she encounters …  Continue reading

BE STILL, life by Ohara Hale

By Maureen Tai, 4 May 2019

Be still, life, be still
Like fruit in a bowl.
And you might hear the hum
Of a crisp summer’s apple,
Or a pear joining in with a
     Pear kind of babble!
– Ohara Hale

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BE STILL, life 
is a jolt of joyful exuberance.  Seemingly random text, sometimes rhyming, sometimes not. Alphabets of different sizes, sometimes block, sometimes cursive. What unifies the playful and carefree words and the bold and whimsical drawings is the celebration of the simple pleasures of life. Isn’t it fun to look around, to really listen, to really feel, and to just be? Why, now that you mention it, it is!
Continue reading

My Milk Toof – The Adventures of ickle and Lardee by Inhae Lee

By Maureen Tai, 25 April 2019

“Milk Toof: n. One of two adventurous little baby teeth belonging to the author, named ickle and Lardee.”

IMG_1966My Milk Toof is not a traditional, or even contemporary, children’s picture book. It’s not really a novelty book either, because it isn’t cheesy or offensive or twee, neither does it pop out or unfold in an unusual way.

What it is, is a brilliantly conceived, adorably charming and ingeniously funny, photographic journal of the adventures of two milk teef who return to their owner’s home to stay.   Continue reading

Grandma and the Things that Stay the Same by Eve Aw & illustrated by Yunroo

By Maureen Tai, 18 March 2019

“… you can count on some things like love, family and tradition to stay the same.” – Mum

IMG_2598Most picture books about the Lunar New Year focus on explaining the cultural traditions and practices of the biggest celebration in the Chinese calendar – the red lai see packets, the new year’s eve family reunion dinner, the auspicious dishes, the exploding firecrackers and the deafening lion dances. Grandma and the Things that Stay the Same chooses instead to focus on what is central not only the Chinese during the Lunar New Year, but to people all over the world during their major festivals.

And that core is Family.   Continue reading

Still Stuck by Shinsuke Yoshitake

By Maureen Tai, 14 February 2019

“It all started when Mom said it was time for a bath.”

IMG_1843Some picture books are little doses of “pick-me-up,” enchantment and whimsy in less than 1000 words, skilfully packaged within 32 pages of illustrations.  Still Stuck is such a book.

An endearing, yet mildly infuriating little boy is commanded to the bath by his no-nonsense mother.  You can just tell she means business by the way she stands with arms akimbo, her clenched fists on her hips. Mom pulls her child’s t-shirt over his head, literally lifting the little boy off the ground. His short legs thrash furiously as she struggles to get the garment off.

Uh oh. He’s stuck. Continue reading

The Christmas Truce: The Place Where Peace Was Found by Hilary Robinson & Martin Impey

By Maureen Tai, 20 December 2018

“These are the bells that started to chime
When friends were made at Christmas time,
When enemy soldiers held out a hand,
A sign of peace in No Man’s Land,”

IMG_1039.jpegSome years ago, I chanced upon a Sainsbury’s TV advert that turned me into a blubbering mess (you can see it here once you’ve armed yourself with a box of tissues). It told the almost unbelievable true story story of the Christmas Truce of 1914, when soldiers on either side of an unoccupied piece of land lay down their arms on Christmas Eve. Continue reading

A Stone for Sascha by Aaron Becker

By Maureen Tai, 19 December 2018

IMG_7542How does the loss of a beloved family pet tie in with the story of a cosmic rock that has been in existence since the world began?  You will have to savour Aaron Becker’s stunning wordless picture book, A Stone for Sascha, to find out, and I promise, you will be all the richer for it. Continue reading