On this Friday of all Fridays – Good Friday – I thank God for:

1. Family

It’s easy to take for granted at times, but as I listened to the story of a new friend who lost her husband recently, how little family she had to begin with, and how much she has had to rely on friends even more now,  it reminds me of how much I have to be thankful for.

2. Parenthood

Over the past few years, I’ve glimpsed how much God loves me even as I love my child. I have also experienced how exasperating it can be when your child doesn’t listen and runs off in some unsafe direction and you are constantly repeating yourself like a broken record. Now, I can fathom in some sense what it must be like for God trying to communicate His wisdom to us His children.

3. Writing voice

For the first time in my life, 7 years back, I found my passion – and it’s in the written word. With God’s continued favour, I hope to continue to hone my writer’s voice and write in a way that is purposeful and honouring.

4. Singapore

As a Singaporean, I have lots to be grateful for, even as we celebrate Singapore’s 50th birthday next year.

5. The Cross

And on this Friday of Fridays, I thank God for Jesus who died on the cross for my sins, conquered death and rose again on Easter Sunday so that I can live today. As Jesus said: For the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. I came so that you may have life and have it to the full.

- John 10:10


Today, I am participating in Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday meme and my recommended read is A Home for Bird.

This book was first recommended by Darshana Khiani of Flowering Minds, whom I got to know as a fellow 12×12-er last year. We exchanged a few manuscript critiques and seeing my leaning towards certain themes and styles, she suggested that I check this book out. I first borrowed it from the library and now I own a copy too!


AHomeForBirdcoverA Home for Bird
By Philip C. Stead

A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press

ISBN: 978-1-59643-711-1

Theme: Friendship, Perseverance, Empathy

Age: 3-8 years

* Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Book of 2012

* Publisher’s Weekly Best Children’s Book of 2012

* Hornbook Fanfare Best Picture Book 2012

What the story is about:

Vernon was out foraging for interesting things when he found Bird.

“Are you okay?” asked Vernon.

Bird said nothing.

“Are you lost?”

Bird said nothing.

“You’re welcome to join me,” said Vernon.

And with those opening lines, Vernon extends a hand of friendship to his new quiet friend.


A Home for Bird is on my Top 10 list for this heartwarming story of an ernest frog who goes out of the way to help his lost friend Bird find home.

Right from the first page, the reader is privy to something Vernon doesn’t know. His friend Bird is no typical bird- he cannot talk or move on his own because he isn’t a real bird.

But Vernon, with his compassion, tries to make his new friend feel at home. And when he takes Bird’s silence as unhappiness, he sets off on a journey with Bird in search of Bird’s home.

Why I love this book:

Written and illustrated by the author of the 2011 Caldecott Medal, Philip Stead has created a classic style story of friendship with a contemporary feel in style, language and artwork. The illustrations are brilliant, with a hand-drawn style using crayon and gouache that is most unusual and distinctive with his colouring out of the lines.


I like how Vernon made the overture of friendship, had bags of sympathy for his new friend and did not simply give up on his friend’s problem. I like how Vernon helps without the expectation of getting something back. And how through the mystery of unusual friendships, he finds a home for Bird and finally hears his new friend talk in an unexpected yet “yes, it has to finish this way” way.

When Darshana recommended this book to me, I was in the midst of writing a new manuscript. I was amused to find that my opening lines was uncannily similar to the the opening page of A Home For Bird. But the similarity ends there.

I guess we authors can always do with Vernon’s determination and continue to get that “quiet manuscript” of ours to sing like what Vernon eventually did with Bird :). Incidentally, Philip Stead’s A Sick Day for Amos McGee, which is considered a “quiet book” (a negative term used by publishers when they reject your manuscript – I have a few of those) was the 2011 Caldecott Winner. So hooray for Quiet Books! Read more about Philip Stead’s books here and how he created A Home for Bird in his interview with Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast over here.


Recycled Craft

I’m not a fan of frogs but Philip’s illustration makes all that difference between a slimy frog and an endearing one that jumps at you.

So, I found a few frog crafts for our own Vernons!

The simple:

Make a Toilet Paper Roll Frog (from Busy Bee) or a Paper Bag Puppet Frog (DLTK’s Crafts for Kids)





The elaborate:

Treasure Keeper Frog (from Spoonful) is definitely a perfect Vernon since he collects interesting things in the opening sentence of the book! This is clevely made with the bottoms of two 2-litre plastic pet bottles.


Check out Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Fridays for more recommended reads!





corinneToday, Mummum has the pleasure of speaking with Corinne Robson of WaterBridge Outreach. I had the pleasure of hearing Corinne speak as associate editor of Paper Tigers at the 2013 Asian Festival of Children’s Content. I caught up with her recently to hear more about her new work with WaterBridge Outreach, which grew from the award-winning Paper Tigers, an internationally recognised non-profit website about books in English for young readers.

1.What are 3 things you would like everyone to know about WaterBridge Outreach (formerly known as Paper Tigers)?


1. WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water is a California 501(c)(3) organization that relies on public and private support, building a sustainable program of providing multicultural books to schools and libraries, while engaging with local communities to obtain and maintain access to clean water in areas of need around the world. We seek to promote multicultural literacy, education, and development that will makes a long term impact, one book and one water project at a time, while building effective partnerships with local communities. Our work is highlighted on our website www.waterbridgeoutreach.org and we can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/waterbridgeoutreach.

2. WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water grew out of PaperTigers.org, an internationally recognized website about books in English for young readers. This website and its blog worked to bridge cultures and open minds, promoting a greater understanding and empathy among young people from different backgrounds, countries, and ethnicities. Over a period of 11 years, PaperTigers embraced books with a multicultural focus from around the world, offering a wealth of book-related resources for everyone interested in the world of children’s and young adult books. The website, which closed in 2013, is still available as an archived resource at www.papertigers.org. (Former editor of PaperTigers, Marjorie Coughlan, will soon be launching her own blog MirrorsWindowsDoors.org which will focus on cultural diversity in children’s and young adult lit)

In 2009 PaperTigers.org added an outreach program called WaterBridge Outreach to its activities with two purposes: first, to put books in the hands of young readers in the hope that they would inspire and educate lifelong readers; second, to fund the development of water projects that would provide the children and communities where books were donated access to clean drinking water and sanitation. WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water is committed to pursuing and developing this program into the future.

3. To date we have been involved with book and water projects in Haiti, India, the Philippines, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Africa. Six of our most recent projects are highlighted on our website under the Projects Now tab and include information, photos, costs and feedback from participants. The projects include a bore well and hand pump installation, building of school latrines, rain catchment systems, and book donations.

We are currently in the midst of a fundraising campaign and are looking forward to continuing our work in 2014 and beyond. Plans for the upcoming year include continued support for previous projects as well as:

➢  working with Folk Arts Rajasthan, a nonprofit organization that works with an “untouchable” community in the Great Thar desert in the northwest state of Rajasthan, India, sending books and putting in an underground water tank, rain catchment system, and water purifier, as well as new W.C.s for their school;

➢  working in the southeast state of Tamil Nadu, India, with South Asian Villages Empowerment Int.l, a nonprofit organization, to establish a second Mobile Library there as well as continuing to develop water and sanitation projects in schools and villages;

➢  working with the nonprofit organization Friends of Matenwa to bring rain catchment systems to ten more families in La Gonave, Haiti, to gather water for their families and to help them develop their vegetable gardens for their own use and as a means of income;

➢beginning work in the Arusha region of northeast Tanzania with the The Foundation for Tomorrow to provide books for their Literacy Resource Centers as well as developing much-needed water and sanitation projects in the schools they serve.

WBO Logo full size w website 2. What’s the inspiration behind the name WaterBridge Outreach?

Corinne: The title WaterBridge Outreach was chosen to express the theme of bridging cultures and opening minds for children through literacy and reading; secondly and more indirectly, it suggests the water infrastructure projects that link us to those with whom we work and will be working in different countries.

3. Share 2 best moments from your involvement in the world of kidlit and Paper Tigers/WaterBridge Outreach

Corinne: One of the things that makes WaterBridge Outreach unique is that participants in our book donation projects send us feedback which is then featured on our website. The feedback perpetuates our goals of bridging cultures because participants can see how other children, in different parts of the world have reacted to the same stories and it also provides participants with a public, global voice. Reading this feedback is always a highlight and I think one of my best moments with WaterBridge Outreach was when I read the feedback from the Merasi School in Rajasthan, India. Although I knew that the work we did was important, these sentences completely validated it for me.

The children of the Merasi School are considered to be untouchable. As such they are denied access to most education. To be given permission to hold such lovely books because they are special, is in itself a joyful experience. Watching the children explore a world beyond the harsh desert one they know is thrilling. Images of grass and green draw Merasi kid clustersor images or stories with animals are favourites. These reading times are happy periods where even children with lesser skills are willing to stand up and call out the letters one by one. Our small library and PaperTigers (Waterbridge Outreach) books are building a self-esteem; there often is clapping in appreciation.

A second highlight for me was attending the Asian Festival of Children’s Content in 2011 and in 2013. I had joined PaperTigers.org in 2006 and loved being immersed in the world of children’s literature via our website and our blog. Being able to work from the comfort of my own home yet through the wonders of computers and the worldwide web and to be able to highlight the world of multicultural children’s literature was amazing. I made many contacts with authors, illustrators, publishers etc but it was not until I attended that AFCC that I met many of these contacts in person. As wonderful as technology is, there is nothing like meeting people face to face, especially those that share the same passion for multicultural children’s and young adult literature. So many of these people were so supportive of PaperTigers and particularly our Outreach program. They provided us with lists for potential book donation recipients and in several instances physically delivered books to schools. They helped spread the word about PaperTigers Outreach and continue to help us as we move forward with http://www.waterbridgeoutreach.org.

4. Name 3 favourite children’s picture books which best sum up what WaterBridge Outreach represents.

Biblio coverBiblioburro, written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter

 We have all met children with a never-ending hunger for books. Some of them have shelves full of them, but it seems there can never be too many: the prospect of a new story always whets their appetite for more.

 There are other children whose hunger for books goes much deeper. These are the children who may read a single book over and over because it is the only book they have, children who dream about that book when they are not reading it and wish they had others. Deep in the jungles of Colombia, some of these childrens dreams have come true thanks to the ingenuity and determination of Luis Soriano, a schoolteacher and avid reader who has devised a way to bring books to these isolated communities: The Biblioburro, a mobile lending library carried on the backs of two donkeys.

 Each week Luis loads up books from his private collection and carries them from his remote village of La Gloria to even more remote villages in the Colombian jungle. Luis and his burros, Alfa and Beto, endure heat, tiredness, and even bandits as they carry their precious cargo to people hungry for books. When Luis arrives, he reads to the children before allowing each of them to select a new book and return their books from the previous week. Then Luis returns home and reads his own book late into the night.

 With characteristic simplicity and her signature bold, bright colors, Jeanette Winter tells the beautiful story of this man who has enriched the lives of hundreds through his efforts. Children with an insatiable appetite for reading despite full shelves and access to local libraries will appreciate the tale of the Biblioburro that brings books to children who would not have them otherwise. The fact that Luis himself lives a simple life and is willing to endure inconvenience and even danger to bring books where there are none underscores the value and power of reading to those of us who have come to take it for granted. Biblioburro is a heartwarming profile of one man who is making the world better in a simple yet profound way.


FirstComeZebra coverFirst Come the Zebra, written and illustrated by Lynne Barasch

An annual migration of African animals provides foundation and metaphor for First Come the Zebra, a book that has rural Kenya as its setting. While in the animal world there is peace among the grazers, who share the land, the reality is quite different among the people, who inhabit it. Tension persists between the farmers, the Kikuyu, and the cattle growers, the Maasai, as farms encroach on cattle grazing lands.

When Abaani, a young Maasai, sees a Kikuyu boy tending a vegetable stall, he impulsively accuses him of “what he has heard others say,” of destroying the land. After working together to rescue a baby who has wandered off from his mother into the territory of dangerous warthogs, the boys slowly make friends with each other and eventually initiate some trading, milk for vegetables, with the hope that their families, too, may one day become friends.

In Abaani and Haki, Barasch offers children inspiring role models for making peace with neighbors and protecting their environment in the process.


LongWalktowater coverA Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park (not a picture book though, it is aimed at ages 8 – 12)

Newbery Award winner (A Single Shard, 2002) Linda Sue Park bases A Long Walk to Water on the life of a family friend, Sudan native Salva Dut. His travails bring alive the plight of those forced to flee war in Africas largest country (also tenth largest in the world).

In 1985, Dut, son of a prosperous village family, was sent scurrying into the bush when conflict between southern rebels and the northern Muslim government reached his school in southern Sudan. Over ten years, the boy walked many hundreds of miles seeking safety. He saw his uncle assassinated and believed himself the only survivor of his family. Along with the many other Lost Boys of Sudan,Dut spent years in desperately overcrowded Ethiopian and Kenyan refugee camps. In 1996, when a Rochester, N.Y., family took him in, he resumed his education. Park, who also lives in Rochester, met him there.

In tandem with Duts horrific story, Park introduces Nya, a fictional young girl from another southern Sudan tribe who makes two long trips every day to get water for her family. By 2008, when Park begins Nyas story, the pond water is drying up and making people sick. Then some strangers come to her village to help them dig a well right in her own village, halfway between the two largest trees.Once fresh water is available, villagers build a school and Nya begins her education.

The two stories converge when the tall, kind man heading the well-building team introduces himself to Nya as Salva Dut, founder of the Water For Sudan project. Dut now spends half the year drilling wells in southern Sudan and half fundraising in the U.S.

A Long Walk to Water is a deeply moving book that will inform and inspire young readers.

Note: Several years ago we interviewed Linda Sue Park and asked how her writing of this book has affected her own attitudes to water. In her reply she said:

Although of course I always knew on a intellectuallevel that water is vital to life, I was surprised and moved to learn how access to clean water affects those who have never had it before. When [a well is installed] the knock-on effect is staggering. Villagers have opened marketplaces, started small businesses, built clinics. Most important of all, nearly every village that has received a well has started a school for the local children, who no longer have to spend their days fetching water. Clean water directly linked to education – that was a real eye-opener for me!

And in a sense that also encapsulates what we are WaterBridge Outreach are trying to accomplish as well.

{Note: The above books were first reviewed on PaperTigers’s website and have been included with permission.}

6. You have a group of writers who partner with WaterBridge Outreach. Share briefly with us how that works. Are you looking for more writers to volunteer their time?

Corinne: Writers for Waterbridge Outreach is an initiative led by award-winning author Gail Tsukiyama. She has assembled an amazing group of authors who have joined us in our mission to give children in developing communities hope for the future through nourishing their minds and bodies with books and water. The writers on the site bring awareness to WBO through their presence, their voices, and their care and commitment to the future of WBO and our ongoing books + water projects. They’ll participate in various ways: social media outreach, future fundraising events, web site interviews, Q&A conversations, and other projects which will help to give WBO more exposure.

If anyone would like more information about Writers for WaterBridge Outreach do email us at info@waterbridgeoutreach.org

 7. What are the first words that come to mind on what you hope to achieve for children through Waterbridge Outreach?

Corinne: Hope for the future by providing them with the basics of life: books and water.


Caleb in his favourite portable highchair (ie Papa) surrounded by the wonders of Underwater World (2nd birthday outing)

Caleb in his favourite portable highchair (ie Papa) surrounded by the wonders of Underwater World (2nd birthday outing)

Mummum: Corinne, thank you for sharing about your team’s outreach efforts through Waterbridge Outreach through your most inspiring and informative interview and reminding us of how books and water, which is easily available to most of us, is a lifeline to many communities out there. As you say – one book and one water project at a time – and that can change lives and build communities beyond measure.

Related posts:

Conversations on the High Chair #2- Gathering Thoughts from Dr Myra Garces-Bacsal

Conversations on the High Chair #15-Sneaking a Peek into Reviewer Darshana Khiani’s Flowering Mind

Conversations on the High Chair #1- R Ramachandran at the Head Table


Today, I am participating in Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Fridays meme.

My recommended read is Threadbear, a lovely picture book I came across recently. I chanced upon a threadbare copy of this book in Caleb’s classroom bookshelf when picking him up from school a few weeks ago.

The moment I opened page 1, I knew I had to have my own copy so I told my good friend and bookworm Hwee (now unofficial book procurement agent) who ordered it for me along with her own books from The Book Depository.

Threadbear arrived in good shape last week and I decided to keep it that way so I told Caleb it was my book, not his. To which, he told my dad (his Kong Kong), “This is Mummy’s book. Not mine yet!”


Threadbear coverThreadbear

by Mick Inkpen

Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books

First published in 1990

ISBN: 9780340931097

* Winner of the Children’s Book Award

Age group:

3- 8 years old
What this book is about:

Perseverance, How wishes can come true in unexpected ways



“Ben’s bear was called Threadbear. He was old. Bits of him had worn out. Or worked loose. Or dropped out.

He had a paw which didn’t match and a button for an eye. When he looked through the button, he saw four pictures instead of one. It was like looking in a television shop window.

But there was one thing that had always been wrong with Threadbear. The silly man who had made him had put too much stuffing inside him. His arms were too hard. His legs were too hard. And there was too much stuffing inside his tummy that his squeaker had been squashed. It had never squeaked. Not even once.”

And with that opening page spread, everyone, from Ben’s entire family, friends and doctor try to solve Threadbear’s squeaker problem. Finally, one of the toys tells Threadbear to ask Father Christmas for help because he knows a lot about toys.

“But where does Father Christmas live?” asked Threadbear.

“At a place called the North Pole,” said Grey Thing. “You can get to it up the chimney, I think.”

Threadbear does finally squeak, not through the wave of a magic wand, but because he got dirty falling off Santa’s sleigh and ended up in Ben’s washing machine to wash clean. The journey he took to get there had me sighing and chuckling aloud that Caleb turned to me from his dinner and asked, “Mummy, what are you doing? What’s happening? “
What I love about this book:

This is a charming story that is excellently written and does not meet any of the current picture book rules like the manuscript having to be between 300-500 words, no descriptive language to leave room for illustrations etc. Threadbear‘s opening page alone is already more than 100 words and the story has barely started! I was surprised to find that Mick Inkpen first wrote this story in 1990 because it has a very contemporary feel and this version could very well have been published in today’s market without feeling outdated.

I love many things about this story, including the underlying  message that if life deals you too much stuff for you to handle (including a faulty squeaker), take heart. It’s not the end of the world and you can always find ways to deal with the problem, including talking it over with good friends. It’s also a message of hope – that hope does not disappoint, and as Threadbear takes the first step towards finding a way to be floppy, things start to happen for him in ways beyond his understanding and expectations. There is magic in hope!

Funnily enough, the first page of this book has two elements similar to two picture books I wrote.


In Prince Bear & Pauper Bear, Pauper Bear is a teddy with mismatched eyes and a worn out coat.

Opening page of Prince Bear & Pauper Bear

Opening page of Prince Bear & Pauper Bear

In Bunny Finds The Right Stuff, Bunny thinks he is too floppy because the toymaker had forgotten to stuff him up and goes in search of stuffing to be filled up – the opposite journey for Threadbear who is overly stuffed and wants to be floppy.

Opening page of Bunny Finds The Right Stuff

Opening page of Bunny Finds The Right Stuff


Threadbear’s belief that the North Pole is at the top of the chimney is reminiscent of Don Freeman’s classic picture book Corduroy in terms of his innocence and ignorance.


It goes on to show that whatever original idea you think you have, someone else has already thought about it and no idea is ever truly new anymore. But the difference instead lies in the “writer’s voice” (and there’s lots of articles just devoted to that).

Mick Inkpen’s voice has undoubtedly spoken to the hearts of readers, having sold millions of books as one of the top-selling picture book artists and authors in the world and winning a slew of awards including the British Book Award, shortlisted thrice for the Kate Greenaway Medal and the Smarties Award amongst others. Read more about his books here.


Recycled crafts and activities

Make a recyled teddy bear from your old tee shirts, sweaters and other clothing, with free templates from So Crafty and Pearltrees.

Cutting up your old tee to make your Threadbear (Source: so Crafty)

Cutting up your old tee to make your Threadbear (Source: So Crafty)



Completed bear but remember to give it Threadbear's mismatched eyes! (Source: So Crafty)

Completed bear but remember to give it Threadbear’s mismatched eyes!     (Source: So Crafty)


Other Perfect Picture Book Fridays posts:

Lost & Found by Oliver Jeffers

Duck by Randy Cecil

Someday by Alison McGhee and Pete H. Reynolds




Mastercard had a very catchy ad on a credit card for women which ended with the tagline – the men don’t get it. I really did get that tagline this weekend.

Caleb-haircuttingYesterday, Caleb had his first professional haircut at a kiddy hair salon since he was born. A master cut. And I was completely unprepared for it.

It started innocuously enough when Ben said, “Shall we try to see if he will sit still for his first professional haircut? I saw a kiddy hair salon at West Coast Mall.”

“Well, okay,” I said, without much expectation. I didn’t think he would sit through anyway.

We went in, explained to the hairdresser that it was Caleb’s first time and he might not cooperate.

She seemed prepared enough. She popped in the Despicable Me DVD and switched on the little TV screen positioned right in front of the barber highchair, sat Caleb in it and put the barber sheet around him.

No protest or resistance. Hmm. I wondered.

She offered Caleb some sweets – coincidentally the same ones he likes. He took it and held onto it.

“Would you like to have a sweet now?”

“Not yet,” he said, holding on to it like treasure.

“Not too short,” I told the hairdresser Auntie.

“Yes, yes. Layered, okay?” She took out a kiddy razor and started to raze inches off the hair on Caleb’s neck.

The next thing I knew, chunks of hair fell to the ground.

“Too short,” I exclaimed as I started to panic.

“It’s okay,” Ben told the hairdresser.

Next thing I knew, it was too short and too late. With strangely no protest from Caleb, obvious delight from Ben, and the razor going zzzng zznng, my heart sank lower and lower.

“He looks like G.I. Joe,” I cried. “I prefer the mushroom hair, like Rain’s!” (the Korean pop star, not wet weather).

Ben chuckled. “It’s nice. Anyway, it will grow out in a month.”

I can barely recognise my baby that evening after his haircut

I can barely recognise my baby that evening after his haircut

“But he looks like a different kid. Not mine,” I protested weakly. After 3 years of cutting Caleb’s hair myself, this was too much for me to take in one afternoon.

“Do you like your new haircut?” Ben asked.

“Yes,” Caleb answered. “But like it a bit longer.”

“My baby!” I cried.

“I’m a big boy,” Caleb replied.

“Now you look just like Daddy!” my overly delighted husband enthused.

Caleb looked at my glum face, then chimed in,”Look like mummy too.”

When we got into the car, I stared at Caleb and said,” I’m so sad.”

“It’s all right,” Caleb replied, as though he was the adult.

Today’s haircut wasn’t just a haircut. It was a rite of passage.

The same rite of passage as when:
- I permed my hair Maggie Mee style in Sec 1. when tight curls were all the rage (think Kelly McGillis in Top Gun, Maggie Cheung and Cherie Chung in the 1980s Hong Kong movies). And I did it because the school rules finally permitted us to.

- I snipped it all off in college, page boy style (like a J-Pop star and the drummer girl in The Breakfast Club)

- as when I grew it out into a shaggy bob in University

- snipped it off after I broke up with my first boyfriend, grew it back for my first job, snipped it short and sharp when I started work at a male-dominated environment, doing acquisitions at Raffles Hotels & Resorts

- and finally went to a short girly bob ala Mary Poppins style to go with my new chapter as a children’s books author

And those moments were planned, agonized over with time spent poring over photos in magazines. Each major hairstyle change signified a new season in my life.

And then there was this weekend, snipped off without any preparation or warning. Caught offguard.

Caleb with his Rain hairstyle, by Mummy

Caleb with his Rain hairstyle, by Mummy

Caleb’s first master cut wasn’t just a professional hair job. It was a rite of passage for me as a first-time mum. With that big snip, my baby looks twice his age now. A big boy. Minus baby cuteness. Unrecognisable from the back.

One day, Caleb will grow up. In time to come, he will decide his own hairstyle. He will want to look older.

But for now, he’s still three. He’s still my baby. And I can’t wait for the next two months when his hair will grow back out again to his mushroom Rain hairstyle.

Men don’t get it.

Sniff sob.

ED CHEN EMILYToday, Mummum has the pleasure of speaking with Actor, Author and Artist Edmund Chen Zhi Cai.

Yes, on top of his Acting chops as an international Artiste (with a 25-year span career comprising 90 television appearances, 15 international and local movies and 4 solo music albums), this celebrity heartthrob and Auntie Killer has many other aces up his sleeve.

As Artist, Edmund set the Guinness World Record for the Longest Drawing by an Individual of over 601m in 2013 when he spent 13 days filling up the canvass with drawing and colours. Several attempts were made by others since 2005 but Edmund is the only one to have succeeded by far.

As Author, Edmund has recently been voted by readers of the National Critics Choice as the Best New Children’s Author of the Year in South East Asia. He was also appointed the READ Singapore Bridges Ambassador on top of also being Singpost’s Stamp Ambassador.

I shan’t go into his other roles as Producer (where his feature film Echoing Love won the Silver Screen Special Achievement Award after its exclusive premiere at the 24th Singapore International Film Festival in September 2011) and Social-Entrepreneur (through endorsements and ambassadorships with selected organisations like the Red Cross Society and National Environment Agency etc in advocating and advancing social goals) otherwise this interview will never begin!

I had the privilege of meeting Edmund when he launched his 8th children’s book Rainbow Island at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content last year and was inspired by what brought about his venture into the world of writing for children. So, I simply had to catch up with him again for this Conversation:

Giant Pandas FDC (3)1. Was there ever a moment in childhood where you aspired to write and illustrate children’s books?

Edmund: When I was a boy, both my parents had to work and I was sent to live with my maternal grandmother. Back then, we did not have the modern luxuries we take for granted now. And when grown-ups had to work, the little ones had to entertain themselves. I was given a simple box of colour pencils which was my first encounter with art. I started to draw anything I saw.

But that one moment in childhood where I aspired to illustrate came in Primary 5 when I visited a classmate’s house and saw his beautiful aquarium. That aquarium was like a glittering ocean, full of promises and adventures. Mesmerised, I urged my parents to buy me one but we did not have that sort of money to spare. Undaunted, I decided to have my own aquarium – on paper!

For two whole weeks, I faithfully visited my friend’s house every day after school, staring at the fishes and memorising each and every single detail. I would then run home and transfer everything I remembered onto paper. Finally, I had my own aquarium in my own living room!

Oriental Small Clawed Otters (latest)2. You come from a high-profile television and entertainment industry. Tell us what got you into the world of children’s books.

Edmund: I still kept my love of drawing animals over the years. Each animal I drew would start out with a little more than a pencil outline, after which I would spend immense amount of time detailing them with colours and textures. I would also pay attention to the special characteristics and traits of each animal. I wanted to capture their temperaments on paper.

Years later, I learnt from being a father that this was the best way to allow my children to connect with animals as they saw how much time and love I had dedicated to the “creation” of each animal.

One occasion, I showed a friend my drawings of a series of 10 endangered animals. Impressed, she introduced me to a friend who works at Singapore Post and that started my journey of writing and illustrating children’s books.

Latest title Rainbow Island was launched at AFCC 2013

Latest title Rainbow Island was launched at AFCC 2013

3. You have been a prolific writer and your books have done very well. How long did it take you to write your first book?

Edmund: 1 week for the first book…then it started taking longer and longer to write the next one. My latest and 9th title is still in progess, and I have been jammed up by it for 6 months and counting.

Where did you get your inspiration for that book?

Edmund: From everywhere – children, parents, news, TV and real life.

4. How much have you involved your children in your writing and drawing journey?

Edmund's daughter's Otter drawing

Edmund’s daughter’s Otter drawing

Edmund: My daughter Yi Xin, 13 years old, drew otters for one of the stamps and my son Yi Xi, now 23 years old, drew a panda stamp. We have used drawing as one of our bonding platforms, and my children are both my consultants as well as story contributors.

Edmund's son's Panda drawing

Edmund’s son’s Panda drawing

5. What did your family think about you initially venturing out as an author and illustrator?

Edmund: Probably insanity! They must have thought that I had nothing better to do. :)

6. I simply have to ask this last question. How do you manage to stay so youthful? What’s your secret?

Edmund: By being a child at heart. :)


Caleb aces it with his Aunty Killer smile (at 6 months old)

Caleb aces it with his Aunty Killer smile (at 6 months old)

Mummum: Edmund, congratulations on all your many achievements and thanks for sharing with us all the amazing things you have been doing in the world of children’s books and beyond. It’s a blessing to be able to involve your children in what you are doing and I can’t wait to hear about what other aces you pull out from your many creative hats!

Related Posts:

My Little Slice of One Big Story at Asia’s Biggest Book Festival

Conversations on the High Chair #5- Kenneth Quek, Affable Architect of Children’s Content

Conversations on the High Chair #3-Patrick Yee illustrates…100 times over



On 1st March, I posted about a free giveaway of an autographed copy of Tibby The Tiger Bunny over at top parenting blog A Happy Mum. That contest in now closed, but not before receiving a whooping 577 entries! Wow!

Wah! Free giveway means no need to pay for the book!

Wah! Free giveway means no need to pay for the book!

Since I have not been able to celebrate the recent launch of the Indonesian Edition of my memoir Finding My Voice with kecap manis or anything sambal and sedap, owing my continued hazed-filled bad throat, I have decided to do a free giveaway of a copy of Tibby The Tiger Bunny instead!

This is my first giveaway on my own blog so my contest setup is nothing as sophisticated as A Happy Mum who used the Rafflescopter draw although I will get there at some point.

Tibby Cover (final)

Instead, simply leave a comment on this blogpost + your email address by 26th March*, and I will randomly draw 1 winner to receive a free autographed giveway of the book from Tibby’s mummy ie. me! So, comment away!

* Note: This free giveaway is only open to those living in Singapore and Malaysia due to postage costs.

Top Blog reviews of Tibby The Tiger Bunny:

A Happy Mum

Simply Mommie

The free giveaway draw is closed.

I am pleased to announce that the random winner to receive a free autographed copy of Tibby is:

                                                                Joeanne Shim

Congratulations and also a happy belated double birthday to you and your daughter!



Picture Book Month

International Literacy Initiative Celebrating the Print Picture Book in November

Picture This Book

In search of the best children's books

Flowering Minds

Children's Book Review Site


Author, Freelance Writer

The Official Blog of Gathering Books

Hearts of Moms Blog

Inspiring Mothers, Building Homes


Children's Book Reviews

By Pauline Loh

We write first in blood and tears, then go over in ink.

Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)

The blog of children's author Tara Lazar

Picture Books Help Kids Soar

No Batteries Required: Powered By a Child's Imagination and a Parent's Participation

Singapore Book Council

The Book Council is a non-profit, charitable organisation committed to addressing the needs of writers, publishers, book suppliers, libraries as well as the reading and literary communities.

Written Words Never Die

Afterlife, Fiction, Non-fiction, etc


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