I had my first mass reading experience over the weekend when I was invited to lead over 200 children in the reading of my books at the Hong Kah North CC. Racial Harmony Day and Reading Festival. It was to be the highlight of a full day of activities, as the Community Centre was looking to make the Singapore Book of Records for “Most Children reading with an Adult.”

Photo Credit: Sunday Times 20 July 2014

Photo Credit: Sunday Times 20 July 2014

When I first arrived, I wondered how I was going get the attention of the crowd in the open hall to read together. It turned out that I needn’t have worried too much.

Start of mass reading

Start of mass reading

Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Manpower arrived shortly after. Without any fanfare or entourage, she rallied the children and joined in the mass reading off-stage.

Dr Amy Khor reading with children offstage

Dr Amy Khor reading with children offstage

There were also a few teachers right at the front to read along with the children and me.

Teachers in front reading along

Teachers in front reading along

Book pdf on screen for read-along

Book pdf on screen for read-along

I was to read a page and the children would then follow. And we were to read continuously for at least half an hour. We started with Prince Bear & Pauper Bear and got through three-quarters of The Tale of Rusty Horse when the timekeeper signalled that we had made the time!

With Dr Amy Khor (L) and the President for the Singapore Book of Records (R)

With Dr Amy Khor (L) and the President for the Singapore Book of Records (R)

Although I have done book readings on many occasions, I went home with aches all over. Mass reading on this scale sure came with some muscle tension! I hope the children enjoyed making this record. :)

(Photo and Event Credits to my marketing partner JLB Technology for all the photos and also organising my involvement with the Festival)

Today, I’m excited to speak to Ruth Wan, previously Managing Editor of Epigram Books and now Managing Editor of Armour Publishing. Ruth has been instrumental in the editing and also conceptualizing Singapore’s most successful Middle Grade Series.

Managing Editor, Armour Publishing

Managing Editor, Armour Publishing

1. How long have been working as an editor? Tell us briefly what led to this career?

Ruth: I have been working as an editor for just under a decade. Honestly, my ‘career’ started by accident. I was taking a break from a Civil Service job to focus on raising my kids. During that time, my friend in one of the big publishing houses looked at me and said, “Hey, I think you can freelance edit, right?” And that was the beginning of my ‘career’. After freelancing for a while, I eventually moved into a publishing house.

2. Name us a couple children’s books which you have edited. What did those books mean to you?

Ruth: I was the editor for Adeline Foo’s “The Diary of Amos Lee” books one to three. I was also the editor for A.J. Low’s “Sherlock Sam” books one to three, and I edited all of Monica Lim and Lesley-Anne Tan’s Danger Dan books.


Sherlock Sam Middle Grade Series

Sherlock Sam Middle Grade Series

I loved “The Diary of Amos Lee” series because it was my first exposure to local children’s book writing. It was an eye-opening experience working with Adeline Foo and I learnt so much about the children’s book market through that.

With “Sherlock Sam”, the books are very dear to me because I came up with the concept for Sherlock Sam and even gave the character his name! My nephew is Samuel, and I thought the alliteration was cool—I presented the idea of “Sherlock Sam” to my boss, he loved it, and the name stuck! Of course, A.J. Low have made “Sherlock Sam” very much their own.

The same thing happened with “Danger Dan”. The idea also came from me, but it was Monica and Lesley-Anne who really fleshed out the concept. I feel a real sense of pride when my Primary One son asks me to buy all the books in the series, and laughs out loud at all the jokes. I think my “coolness” factor has also gone up several notches in the eyes of my two boys when they found out that I get to read all these cool books that they love way before anyone else does, before it gets printed! That’s way cool, to them.


Danger Dan Middle Grade Series

Danger Dan Middle Grade Series (source: Hedgehog Comms)


3. What’s your favourite book from childhood? Why?

 Ruth: I really liked The Phantom Tollbooth, The Twits, and Haroun’s Sea of Stories. They were just fantastic stories. So bizarre and magical!

4. What are your first words of advice for aspiring children’s book writers in our Asia region?

Ruth: Write something saleable, please. It does no one any favours if you pour your heart and soul into something that people don’t want to read. No matter how well-written, it won’t sell if it won’t sell.

5. Is Armour Publishing actively open to children’s book manuscripts at this stage?

Ruth: Armour is launching a series of readers for the preschool and lower-primary school market. These would be books for 3-6 year olds, or 6-9 year olds.

Any particular genres/requirements you are looking for?

I’m always on the lookout for stories that are about Singapore. My children went through preschool reading something called the Oxford Reading Tree. It was a series of books developed in the UK and the main characters were Biff, Chip and Kipper! What totally foreign-sounding names. The books showed kids with blond hair and so on. I just think that our kids should be reading local stories with illustrations showing local landscapes. After all, Singapore is a great place to raise kids—there’s so much to do and it’s all so fun! If our preschool and primary school books can reflect that spirit more, that would be great!

Caleb edits the menu (at 2 years)

Caleb edits the menu (at 2 years)

Mummum: Ruth, thanks for your no-holds-barred editorial armoury of truth and words of advice for us writers! Always good to hear it straight from the Editor’s mouth. Look forward to more exciting books benefiting from your editorial eye. After all, the pen is mightier than the sword. :)



Today, I am taking part in It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? hosted by Book Journey and Unleashing Readers.


Monday Reading2

The past 2 weeks has seen much debate about books in Singapore, in an issue that has gone from the role of the National Library Board and a pair of penguins to a whole myriad of other issues. Just about every view has been expressed on this so I have no wish to add to all the ink already spilled on this.

I grew up with fond memories of our National Library (its iconic red brick building now a distant memory), where I spent many happy afternoons picking out books which I then immersed myself in the week ahead. It took a while for me to get used to the spanking new high-tech replacement at Victoria Street but has since been my regular hangout and will continue to be for a long time to come.

This weekend, I had the pleasure of experiencing the joy of reading on a public and personal level.

Me leading 200 children in mass reading (Photo: Sunday Times 20 July 2014)

Leading 200 children in mass reading (Photo: Sunday Times 20 July 2014)

Mass Reading with over 200 Children in Singapore

I was invited to lead over 200 children in a mass reading event at the Hong Kah North Reading Festival, where we made the Singapore Book of Records for “the most number of children reading with an adult”. Together, we read two picture books which I wrote – Prince Bear & Pauper Bear and The Tale of Rusty Horse. More on that later.


Middle Grade Novel of humans and critters

Middle Grade Novel of humans and critters

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp

by Kathi Appelt

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Ages 8-12

I spent the rest of my weekend immersed in a book I chanced upon at MPH Raffles City a few weeks back. I’m currently analysing books on talking animals so I bought it.

Two young racoons Bingo and J’miah take up their posts as the newest recruits of Sugar Man Swamp. Their jobs are to stand watch over the swamp and only in times of emergency (such as threats to the swamp), they have to alert the Sugar Man  – a massive creature born of the Swamp who delights in its sugar cane and is cousin to the Yeti or Abominable Snowman who rules elsewhere.

A parallel story runs with a 12 year boy named Chap, who lives with his mother next to the swamp and run Paradise Pies, serving sugar pies made from the sugar cane from the swamp.

Chap’s and the two racoons’ parallel stories start to intersect following the death of Chap’s grandfather, a champion of conservation of the Swamp, when the money grubbing owner Sonny Boy Beaucoup decides to turn it into a crocodile theme park.

The book started out a bit slow for me because there was quite a big cast of characters along with introducing the setting and plot. But it did pull me along to want to read on. I’m glad I did because it picked up pace once all the characters were introduced and brought me to a very satisfying finish.

Kathi Appelt writes with a masterful style, as she goes from present to past flashbacks of Chap’s grandfather’s encounters with the Swamp and the Sugar Man and in between, she interjects her narrator’s voice, talking directly to the reader. She successfully pulls every fact introduced in the earlier parts of the book into a complete tapestry that reveals a story rich in layers.

For me, no book yet trumps my all-time favourites Charlotte’s Web and The Adventures of Edward Tullane which pulled my heartstrings to the point where my heart broke.

But, this was definitely a worthwhile read for me this weekend and I plan to get my hands on Kathi Appelt’s earlier book The Underneath, which won her a Newbury Honor.

Today, I am taking part in It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? hosted by Book Journey and Unleashing Readers.



Caleb has been reciting his ABCs with greater gusto in the past few months. I think it has to do with his reading milestone of being able to read letters of words off signages and books. He’s been spelling and typing his name over and over on my laptop and tells me to bring him to z-o-o.

His ABC-intensive phase spilled over to my reading last week when I borrowed 5 ABC books from the library.

The books are all fun reads but 4 of the 5 have humour and language which will probably be understood by  slightly older children who have past the ABCs of reading, say 5 years old.

ABC books for young readers and up

ABC books for young readers and up

Q is for Duck (An Alphabet Guessing Game)

by Mary Elting & Michael Folsom


I would have a hard time explaining why B is for Dog to a 3-year old (Answer: Because dogs bark) since Caleb has just understood that B is for Ball, Boy and other B-words.


by Tom Lichtenheld & Ezra Fields-Meyer





A funny story about how A decides that O stands in for E after E has an accident and lands in hospital. All words with E are substituted with O for the rest of the book from there on.

A fun read but again, my son will probably appreciate the humour of the substitution better when he knows how to spell the correct way first.

A was Once an Apple Pie

by Edward Lear


A was once an Apple Pie

A was once an Apple Pie

“A was once an apple pie, pidy, widy, tidy, pidy, nice, insidy, apple pie!”

“B was once a little bear, beary, wary, hairy, beary, taky, cary, little bear!”

Okay, cute as some of the words are, I did not “get” this book. Because it is all written in past tense, I read with anticipation that there would be a present tense conclusion. But it followed the same past tense pattern through Z and left me wondering.


The Z was zapped

by Chris Van Allsburg

The Z was zapped

The Z was zapped

The Z was zapped (again)

The Z was zapped (again)

Very artistic book which adults will also appreciate as you try to guess what the letter on the page is depicting.


Alpha Oops – The Day Z went First

by Alethea Kontis, illustrated by Bob Kolar

Candlewick Press

Alpha Oops

Alpha Oops


Alpha Oops


Alpha Oops is my favourite of the lot. It is humorous, with all the letters jostling to go first in line –   something Caleb can understand because that is exactly what he does.

P stands for Penguin and M for Monster (so no alphabet confusion for the pre-reader here) even though they don’t appear in order. I like how they also had the correct order of the ABC at the bottom perimeter of every page spread in pencil-like lines, which are then covered over by the bickering Letters in the order they insist on going on.

Guess I got my ABC fix for the week.

I was invited to write an essay “Survival & Success as a Singapore Author” for One Big Story – Delving Deeper into Asian Children’s Literature, launched at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2014.

With all the earlier posts on Survival Skills, it begs the remaining question:

So, what then of Success as a Singapore Author?

Is it measured purely by selling hundreds of thousands of books? Is it when you earn enough royalties to buy a house in Singapore? For most of us, these visions will be a really, really long time coming, if ever. Maybe, you can buy a Certificate of Entitlement (the right to own a car in Singapore), but it remains to be seen if you can buy a car to go with that.

At the end of Prince Bear & Pauper Bear's Theatre Show

At the end of Prince Bear & Pauper Bear’s Theatre Show

I found my own answer through this chapter of my story:

Seeing my first book Prince Bear & Pauper Bear published in 2007 was one of my biggest joys. But after the book came out, I found myself at a crossroads. I was in between jobs and was unsure if I should continue writing or return back to corporate life. I was also finding it hard to write my second story. With Prince Bear & Pauper Bear, I was happy just to see the book published. I had my Book Council award and publishing grant. However, with book two, practical concerns had surfaced. I had to invest my own money to publish the book. What if it flopped? What if I was a one book wonder?

I considered returning back to my old job. Prior to this, I was working at the head office of a luxury hotel company, in the area of acquiring hotels and management contracts for the expansion of the hotel chain. I stayed in 5-star hotels, dined at fancy restaurants around the world, and it appeared outwardly to be a glamorous and successful career. At least that is how most people perceived it.

The other option was for me to continue writing, photocopying my own marketing leaflets, lugging boxes of books from school to school, talking to 4-10 year olds in classrooms and reading rooms. But that also meant that I had a chance to impact the next generation of future leaders.

That was when I realized that I had turned into Rusty Horse, the main character in the second manuscript that I was struggling to pen. Rusty the rocking horse wished to be a real horse so he could be a favourite with the children again – in other words – a Success. He was concerned with crowd opinion, just as I was. But Rusty came to realize that real magic was in choosing to be true to self. And as I chose to listen to my inner voice, I found the ending to my second manuscript. Once I learnt to believe in myself and continue following my passion for writing, I wrote my own definition of Success as a Singaporean author.


Earlier posts:

Survival Skills (Part 1) – Introduction

Survival Skills (Part 2) – Picking Up the Ropes

Survival Skills (Part 3) – Think Skin & New Voice

Survival Skills (Part 4) – Shiny Badges, Beyond Bookstores

Survival Skills (Part 5) – Crossing Borders, E-Books & Apps

Survival Skills (Part 6) – Right Commisioners, Write Support

Today, I am thrilled to be having a conversation with SCBWI friend Sarah Mounsey. Over the past three years,  Sarah has successfully written and self-published 3 titles in her Purple Paw Prints picture book series. Her talented illustrator Jade Fang is also the illustrator for my Tibby The Tiger Bunny and upcoming Tibby & Duckie.

Author & Publisher Sarah Mounsey and Illustrator Jade Fang

Author & Publisher Sarah Mounsey and Illustrator Jade Fang


1. How long had you been writing before you decided to self-publish your first book?

Sarah: Forever!  I wanted to be an author when I was in primary school and always had my nose in a book or was writing stories, poems, letters and diary entries.  Then I worked as a primary school teacher and fell in love with picture books all over again and decided that one day I would attempt to write them.  It was not until I was on maternity leave with my first son, William, that I started to actively do something about it.  I was living in London and enrolled in some writing for children courses and started to write regularly again.  Four years (plus one more son and a new country) later I took the plunge and self-published Purple Paw Prints.



2. What prompted the decision to take the self-publishing route?

Sarah: I was a member of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) in London and then joined the group in Singapore. I had never thought about self-publishing until two friends from that group in Singapore really encouraged me because they had both been involved in self-published picture books. Thank you to David Seow and Kenneth Quek for this encouragement! The last few years of my life would have been very different if they had not helped me to make this decision!

PP and the Magic Sofa LR

What 3 tips or words of advice would you give someone venturing the self-publishing route?

Sarah: 3 tips or words of advice…

  1. Be prepared to work very hard if you want your books to sell. They do not sell themselves.
  2. Understand that you will have to become an editor, decision maker, marketer, sales person, administrator for a small business and public speaker as well as being an author. Of course, I have had lots of people including my amazing illustrator, Jade Fang, and great editors to help me along the way but when you self-publish you have to do the vast bulk of the work and there is a lot to do. Fortunately I have just signed with a great distributor, Closetful of Books, and they are helping me with some of this work.
  3. If you are happy to do all of this, you can make your dreams come and true and be involved in all the decisions to create books that you believe in.

3. How do you see the children’s books writing scene in Singapore since you moved here?

Sarah: It seems to be really expanding with lots of new titles being created, which is wonderful. The writing community is very small here and it is great to get to know so many people who share the same passion.

4. Which is your favourite children’s book from childhood. Why?

Sarah: I have so many but to choose just one that I still have, then it would have to be my copy of The Cat in the Hat which is personally signed by the great Dr Seuss.

Paw Prints and the Itchy Spots

5. Congratulations on the launch of Paw Prints book 3 at the recent AFCC and also your win at the Moonbeam book awards! Can you give us a sneak-peek of your next book project?

Sarah: Thank you. It has been an exciting year! I am not sure what my next book will be but I am working on two writing pieces at the moment. One is a picture book about reducing plastic. This is a topic that is very important to me and my family. We are talking about it a lot and getting involved in Plastic Free July http://www.plasticfreejuly.org/ I am trying to create a story that is fun without being too didactic.   But it is challenging to create humour that also leaves children and their parents with the important message that we really need to reduce the amount of plastic that we use. So many people think that by recycling we are making a big difference but reducing waste is even more important. I am struggling with getting this story where I want it to go so I don’t think it will be finished for a long time. The other piece is another Paw Prints book, called Eddie Spaghetti and the Paw Prints. I first wrote this almost two years ago but this one also needs a lot of re-writing.

Toddler & the Itchy Gums

Toddler & the Itchy Gums

Mummum: Thanks for sharing your experience with your lovely picture book series. Congrats again on your successes and look forward to hearing more to come! Check out Sarah’s books here!







I’ve been following the What Are You Reading? meme which my friend Myra from Gathering Books has been taking part in, hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kelle and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and decided to jump on this meme’s bookwagon.

I had two hits and two misses with my reading list.

Two misses:

Stuart Little

Stuart Little

By E.B. White

Puffin Books

ISBN 978 0 141 30506 6

7 years and up

I absolutely loved E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. I love books on talking animals. But I could not get past half the book which I found to be quite a laboured read.

I had no problem with Paddington Bear living with his host family in London and doing humanlike things. But I could not get past the fundamental premise of Stuart Little, a mouse living like a son in a human family. And when I reached the part where he tries to date a human girl the same height as him, I pretty much stopped reading.

I guess it’s just me since Stuart Little is classic which has been around for 60 years.


A Nest for Celeste

By Henry Cole

Katherine Tegen Books

ISBN 978 0 06 170412 3

8 -12 years old

I was sold on the front cover, which is an illustration of an endearing mouse weaving a basket, and hijacked this book off my friend Hwee.

I love the premise of a basket-weaving mouse and the language is beautiful in this story of Celeste, a mouse trying to make a home within a huge house when her cosy corner is under threat by a cat. But I am still midway through the book and struggling to read on because the story meanders and plods along quite slowly. I’ve somehow lost the plot with this book even though it started promising.


I however found two less usual reads very enjoyable, which I guess makes it good reason to expand my reading horizon.

Jungle Book Kipling

The Jungle Book

Rudyard Kipling


ISBN 978-1-407143-61-3

Ages: 8 years and up

In my past life, I worked for the head office of Raffles Hotels and Resorts and we would regale business partners with stories of famous personalities who stayed at the iconic Raffles Hotel. One was Rudyard Kipling who had a Personality Suite named after him which came with a higher price tag.

Well, I finally got round to reading my first Rudyard Kipling book. I thoroughly enjoyed this original version of the Jungle Book by Kipling. Aside from the “thees” and “thous” which date when he wrote the book, his words bring the jungle animals to life in their savage best. Mowgli, the boy-cub, an inspiration for the movie The Jungle Book, takes up half this book which includes other short stories. It left me wanting more of Mowgli’s adventures with Baloo the bear and Bagheera the panther.

Kipling was born in India and based his story on his experiences there.

Starry River

Starry River of the Sky

by Grace Lin

Little Brown

ISBN: 978-0-316-12597-0

8 years and up

I was first introduced to Grace Lin’s middle grade books at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content a few years back when Grace Lin’s editor and long time friend Alvina Ling was invited as speaker at the Festival.

I was gripped by Grace Lin’s Newbery winner Where the Mountain meets the Moon and so bought this companion book Starry River of the Sky, which proved an equally compelling read.

It has a fascinating cast of characters and interestingly enough, the main character Rendi starts off rather unlikeable. Still, Grace was masterful enough to keep me turning the pages to want to know more.

Rendi, a young stowaway, is the only person who seems to notice that the moon is missing in a remote village of Clear Sky. He also notices that the village’s inhabitants all have their pecularities and problems. Slowly, he starts to realise their lives are more intertwined than they realise and that has all to do with the missing moon.

I like how the story weaves in stories which each character tells to the rest of the inn inhabitants and how all of them eventually come together in an intricate tapestry that shows what exactly happened to the missing moon. I also like how Grace weaves in tradtional folktales but with a contemporary spin. Brilliant writing and storytelling.


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