Archive for the ‘Preschooler/Toddler’ Category

The Really, Really Hot Day, along with 4 of my other picture books, will be featured in animation in the storytelling segment of 5 episodes of Junction Tree, Singapore’s 1st bilingual 26-espisode preschool TV series. All 4 of the picture books which I wrote for Singapore National Cooperative Federation, and re-published by Seed Institute, and I Can Do It!, which I wrote for the Ministry of Education for the preschools, are featured.

I had the pleasure of attending the launch Mediacorp’s new preschool series which showed a trailer of The Really, Really Hot Day animation along with other segments of this show.

I enjoyed the show, which reminded me a little of Hi-5 with a little of Sesame Street and lots of Singaporeaness. The different hosts switching between English to Chinese to Malay and Tamil went smoothly and gave it a true Singapore flavor. This series is supported by the Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism.

Junction Tree debuts today on Mediacorp’s Okto Channel!


Related Links:

A Very Big Storm on a Really Hot Day






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Hop Snort Hooray! Tibby & Scaredy Snout, the 3rd in in my Tibby picture book series is out!

Tibby & Scaredy Snout is a story about fears and friendship. A young boar Snout is afraid of the dark and other things that come naturally to boars. He meets Tibby the tiger-bunny who befriends him and shows him that some things are not as scary as they appear.


With my tiger-bunny at Epigram Books, publisher of my Tibby picture book series


My character Tibby the tiger-bunny came about the week that Caleb was born. It was Chinese New Year week – with the Year of the Tiger passing and the Year of the Rabbit coming. As I sat, heavily pregnant and waiting to pop, I wondered if my son would be a tiger or bunny. Out of that came the idea of a character with both traits, who is as friendly as he is loud. As it turns out, Caleb does roar like a tiger and bounces all over like a bunny.

Jade Fang, illustrator for the Tibby series has definitely outdone herself for this book – her amazing artwork brings another layer to the story which plays off and also counters Snout’s fears in delightful ways.

Related links:

Tibby  & Duckie Launch Off at Singapore Writer’s Festival

Tiger Bunny Flies Crystal Kite & Helps Friend Soar




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One of my most heartbreaking moments, since being diagnosed with breast cancer, was seeing my 5-year old break down in my hospital room.

Following my mastectomy and reconstruction surgery, I stayed in hospital for 9 days and Ben bunked in with me almost the entire time.

My parents ferried Caleb to a school holiday programme in the mornings and at lunchtime, they brought him over to visit me.

Considering how active Caleb is, he stayed contentedly in my hospital room for 3-4 hours daily, and up to 7 hours in a stretch on a weekend, without getting bored. But in true Caleb style, that was after he had inspected every inch of the room, attempted to press the buttons on my bed (which was a no-go for me on the first 3 days – the bed had been set to a specific angle because of my surgery), poked at the saline and antibiotics drips hanging off the stand next to my bed and discovered my unsightly urine packet tucked under the bed as I was initially on a catheter.

“Mummy, what’s this?”

On learning it was my urine packet, he inspected where the tube was connected to and instructed me, “Mummy, quick! Drink water! I want to see it drip into the packet!”

His Science 101 practicuum.

“Okay, good,” he said as he gave a thumbs-up. “It’s dripping in.”


Each day, he ate lunch with us, watched a Disney or Pixar movie, and then built his Lego. Ben had bought a 1,600 piece Star Wars Lego which kept him occupied over 4 days on the pulled-out sofa bed.

Caleb Crosses

Midway through building his Star Wars spacecraft on the sofa-bed, Caleb decided to build two crosses (1 big and 1 small) for Mummy. Behind him is the little nook that became his official Cry Corner which he climbed in to hide and cry when he felt sad.


Three days into his daily visits, Caleb had a huge emotional meltdown. It started innocently enough with him wanting to watch Madagascar from where he had left off the day before. We could not remember exactly where because we had taken the DVD out so we could watch something else the night before when I could not sleep.


He got angry beyond proportion, thinking that we had watched Madagascar without him. It developed into a full-blown tantrum.

And then, I saw the bigger simmering issue behind it.

“Caleb, it’s okay to be sad and angry. But it’s also good that you talk about it.”

He climbed into a little corner behind the pull-out sofa (which became his crying corner in the days that followed).

“It’s not fair! I never wanted you to be in hospital! I’m going to stay here forever!” he cried from behind the curtains where he was hiding.

I tried to coax him out but he only bawled louder and stretched his arms out to me. “I want to hug Mummy!”

“I’ve told you that we cannot hug for a while. Remember that’s why we hugged 585 times?”

“It’s not enough,” he wailed. “I want to hug 600 times. I will only stop crying if I can hug you. I have to hug your whole body.”

“You know you cannot till my wounds heal. But you can hug my arm,” I said.

“No, I must hug your whole body or I cannot stop crying.”

There was no consoling him.

So I did the next best thing. I cried with him. For the next 10 minutes, he sobbed inside the curtains and I sobbed in bed.

Then, finally, I decided to find a distraction. “Hey, tell you what. I’m going to let you climb into bed next to me. But you must promise not to climb onto me or it will be very painful for me.”

Still hidden behind the curtains. “No, I will stop crying only if I can climb on you and hug your whole body. That’s the only way.”

Plan B.

“Okay, I’m going to let you do something for me. I don’t need to have the bed in a fixed angle anymore. How about you come press these bed buttons and help me sit up?”

The forbidden fruit that I had religiously kept him from touching for 3 days.

Sobs stop to a sniffle. Peeks out of curtains. Curiosity and itchy fingers get the better of him. Eagerly climbs out of his cry corner to my bed.

Presses one button to elevate my bed too quickly.

“Caleb, don’t send me flying out of bed, okay?”

“Okay.” Pushes another button. “What is this?” He said as he pressed the call button.

The nurse shows up.

I apologize and turn to him. “Don’t ever touch this button again!”

That evening, Ben and I agreed that he would go home and spend the night with Caleb.

The next day, when Caleb came, he promptly climbed into my bed next to me to cuddle.

The day after, he took over the whole bed so I got bumped to the visitor’s chair. He elevated the bedhead to the highest incline so he could slide down.

Except for a few small crying bouts, we were good for the rest of my time in hospital. Because it was good for him to have let his big emotions from inside come out. And we hit on the right buttons.

Related post:

Inside-out Kid #1 – Our 100 Hugs before Mummy goes to hospital

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When I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, my most immediate concern was my 5-year old and how I could prepare him for my upcoming surgery and time away from him.

“Caleb, I will need to go into hospital soon because I am sick. The doctor will cut away the bad cells inside me and I will be okay after that.”

Caleb listened and over the days, asked me about where I would be cut and so forth. He peered over Ben’s shoulder at surgery procedure photos in the Mayo Book on Breast Cancer as Ben read up on how a mastectomy and reconstruction surgery would go. He wasn’t spooked and wielded his newfound knowledge with gusto.

“The doctor will cut mummy like that,” he told his grandparents. “This way and that way,” he said with demonstrations of a quack surgeon.

Well, at least he wasn’t too afraid, I thought. I shared this with my girlfriend Gail. She reminded me to hug Caleb as much as possible before my surgery because it would be difficult to do so for a while post-operation.


That day, I sat Caleb down again.

“It’s 5 days to my operation. Let’s hug each other 100 times before that. So, make it 20 times a day.”

Caleb hugged me tight and counted aloud to 100.

“I hugged you 100 times!” He exclaimed.

Over the next few days, he hugged me repeatedly and counted as he did. “What’s 20 + 100?”

“120,” I replied.

“I hug you 120 times already!”

And so, he aggregated his hug count with every hug.

“What’s 30 + 120?”

“What’s 50 + 150?”

On the final day before surgery, Caleb jubilantly announced, “I hugged you 585 times!”


I asked for 100 hugs. But Caleb’s mathematics of love overwhelmed me sixfold.

For me, that went a much longer way than a certain Big Nutbrown hare who loved his Little Nutbrown hare to the moon and back.


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Calvin & Hobbes, one of my favourite comic trips, waxes lyrical about life and existence amidst pretend play. I used to chuckle at how Calvin’s dad has to deal with endless difficult questions.

Hobbs 1.jpg

Then I became a mother and now I find myself in that position daily with a highly curious preschooler. When Caleb is not fighting Darth Vader and dashing about like Flash, he often lapses into philosophical moments.

Just this morning:

“Mummy, God made us for what?”

“He made us so He can have a relationship with us, like how Papa and Mummy want to spend time with you and talk to you.”

“How come we all die? I don’t want you to die!” he exclaims.

I explain the whole death issue… and know this is not over yet.


Last few weeks, he developed an interest in body parts:

“Why do we have a face?”

“Why must we have hair? For what?”

“How come our ears have no bones?

“Because it is made of cartilage. See? Isn’t nice that it is so bendable?” I said as I twisted his ear about.

“No, it isn’t. I want bone in the ear.”

“Go complain to God ok?”


Then, the questions about nature:

“What are trees for?”

“Why must we have water?”

And so on.


A few more weeks back, he pondered about marriage:

“Mummy, I want to marry you, but when you are young.”

It’s a Michael J Fox-as-Marty McFly in a Back to the Future movie moment for me. I explain how one day, he will grow up and meet someone he loves.

“I want to wear a suit like Papa in the (wedding) photo. Let’s make one now!”

“You will outgrow it by your wedding day. So, let’s wait till then before you make your suit.”

His mind wanders away from his wedding suit to the bride. “I know. I want to marry X.”

“That’s nice. Does she know?”

“I’ll tell her when we are in Primary one.”


“And I don’t want to drive to work next time. You send me.”

I tell him I am off-duty by then. If he doesn’t want to drive, he has to take a bus.

“I know. I will tell X to send me to work.”

I explain to him that marriage does not work as a dictatorship and you actually need to discuss things with your life partner and not make such unilateral decisions.


Then the questions about the people he sees, which he asks excitedly at the top of his voice:

How come that man has no hair?” He exclaimed.

“Ssh ssh..!” I explain social graces and how if he has burning questions about someone within earshot, he should whisper in my ear so it doesn’t offend the person in question.

And in the toilet:

“Hey, that auntie didn’t want hands after using the toilet!” He exclaims loud enough that everyone two floors up and down can hear.

I quickly squirrel him away to explain how some people have poor toilet habits. And since then, I notice every person who doesn’t want hands after using the loo and I shudder at how many there are.

“That uncle didn’t clear his tray!” He announced as the person table next to us gets up and walks out of Mc Donald’s.


Being a parent has been training me as much as I try to train Caleb. I have to learn to walk the talk and role model good behavior. And if I lapse, ever so often, I have a little voice in my ear (literally) who reminds me.

“You didn’t say Good Morning Kong Kong.”

“Oh…Good Morning Kong Kong.”

“No, you call him Papa. I call him Kong Kong.”

“Good Morning Papa,” I say dutifully to my dad.

“Good Morning Kong Kong,” Caleb says to his grandpa.

“Good Morning Daughter. Good Morning Grandson,” my dad chirps back on cue.

Then, we all tuck into Saturday morning breakfast where I get minutes of quiet time  before Questions 101 start all over again.


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Over the past few weeks, I received delightful feedback on Why Did The Pangolin Cross the Road?, a picture book which I wrote for Wildlife Reserves Singapore. In the book, two children rescue an injured pangolin, which sparks off a class project, leading the class to eventually visit the Night Safari.

Pangolin front cover

A preschool principal wrote to me sharing that her students loved the book so much that they were inspired to do a school project on the pangolin. And could they make a bulk purchase of the books?

I directed that to Wildlife Reserves and was told that they had been receiving a number of enquiries about their outreach programme from preschools who had read the book. Apparently the book had touched both teachers and the children and had also resulted in a couple of school visits to Night Safari.

Wildlife Reserves is currently running the Pangolin outreach programme based on the same title – Night Safari Glides To School: Why Did The Pangolin Cross The Road? in Mandarin. The English edition of the programme should be out soon.

Why Did the Pangolin Cross the Road? and the Kai Kai & Jia Jia picture books I wrote for WRS are also available for sale at the WRS e-store.

And just recently, yet another pangolin was rescued by WRS. More on that here.

Photo Credit: Wildlife Reserves Singapore




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Of the many milestones that Caleb has crossed from his baby years to now, two of the most fascinating to me have been how a young child learns to talk and then read.

Since last year, Caleb has been able to “read” simple one-line-per-page readers from school where the same line repeats through the entire book except for a one word change. To me, that’s definitely the precursor to reading, but not reading per say as he’s clearly reading from memory.



So it was a huge thrill that at 5 years 1 month, Caleb picked up a book out of the blue (like a few blue no-bedtime reading months because he wants to play board games) and announced, “I know how to read!”

It was music to my ears and here’s 5 reasons why:

 1. I didn’t teach him to read

Some friends assume that being an author, I actually teach Caleb reading.

I don’t.

I don’t know how.

And I haven’t tried.

Up till last month, I didn’t even know what “Phonics” means. And the only reason I do now is because Caleb’s kindergarten educated us parents on that.

I’ve simply read to Caleb, and have done that from the time he was 3 months old.

I have not read daily either (for reasons that become clearer from Caleb’s first book choice).

Marvin K Book cover

2. He had a mindset change

Up to this time, over the past year leading up to this, Caleb had repeatedly moaned, “I cannot read!”

And I would repeatedly say, “Yes, you can. One day, you will be able to read.”

It finally came to pass.


3. That he chose to pick up this book unprompted and read it.

I’ve not read picture books to Caleb for a while, especially Marvey K Mooney (which, though picture-filled, is technically categorized as a Bright & Early Book for Beginning Beginners). But this is his very first Dr Seuss book (and his favourite) and I’ve read this to him umpteen times since buying it when he was 3 years old. Over the past few months though, we both “forgot” about this book. Due to a change in reading diet (for me), I’ve instead been reading early chapter books to him. So it’s been all about story and little chance for him to recognize words (as opposed to a picture books/beginning readers with much less text).

That tells me his first reading of this book to me wasn’t a case of  memory work but real words recognition.

4. Caleb’s choice for a first book

I’ve generally bought books according to Caleb’s interest. He loves superheroes, Star Wars and highly humourous books. So, those are what I buy now.

Caleb could not have picked a better first book.

– It’s Dr. Seuss! Good taste – check!

– The story is highly inventive  – exactly how Caleb’s teachers have described him.

– It comes with a bunch of made-up words like “Krunk Car”, “Zumble Zay” and more. He could not remember a few of these on his first read, but by his second reading to me, they were rolling off his tongue.


Caleb and I make up words all the time, which started when I told him he was my tiger-bunny, a character made up of a tiger and bunny, in my picture book Tibby The Tiger- Bunny, as inspired by him.

So, his picking this book and being able to read these made-up words pleases me immensely from a words-worth viewpoint.

Marvin K inside page.png

–        The story is about Marvin K Mooney, a dilly-dallier. His highly exasperated mum is trying to get him going out of the house. Story of my life at this point with getting Caleb K. Mooney to do things, from bathing to leaving home for Kindergarten. (See Reason 1 on why I don’t read to him daily.)

I’m tickled that Caleb sees the parallel humour in his first self-read book.


Caleb’s been so pleased with this achievement that he’s been picking up the same book to read every time. And that’s fine. Out of that roughly 200 words, he’s reinforcing his recognition of many commonly used words and some slightly harder ones.

I’ve now started re-reading to him Dr Seuss’ I’ll teach my Dog 100 words as the next book of his choice.

I know, in time, it will translate to my tiger-bunny reading 100 more words.






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