Posts Tagged ‘Writers Resources’

The Biggest Festival of Children’s Content of its kind will kick off end of May! Now into its 5th year, the AFCC (Asian Festival of Children’s Content) has continued to grow in reach from home base Singapore.

As a local author and someone who has grown with the Festival right from its infancy, thanks to Book Council Executive Director and AFCC Founder Rasu Ramachandran, I’ve decided to do a series of book giveaways as I count down to AFCC which starts in 30 days.

Here are two Kid Portions which I hope to chew on as I attend the AFCC’s Preschool & Primary Teacher’s Congress this 30th and 31st May:


Dilip-Mukerjea_200_250_90_s_c1Visual Mapping for Young Children to Enhance Their Learning Capabilities

As a picture book author, I think visually when I write. Thus, I am very interested to hear Dilip Mukerjea, Owner & M.D of Braindancing International and Buzan Centre (India), speak on how we can maximise our children’s visual intelligence given that 80% of the brain is dedicated to visual processing.

Dilip has been publicly acclaimed as “phenomically creative and one of the world’s top 10 Master Mind Mappers” by Education Guru Tony Buzan.


Quin_200_250_90_s_c1Code-Switching & Language Development: Exploring Bi-literacy in Books

Given my half-past six Mandarin which I switch between my stronger suit, English, I have concerns about how best to develop my preschooler’s love for Mandarin.

I will look forward to hearing Yow Wei Quin, Asst Professor, Singapore University of Technology & Design,  speak on Code-switching, the alternation of two or more languages within a single conversation. This session will include some of the latest findings with regards to code-switching in bilingual children on spoken language, as well as the use of two languages in children’s literature.


So with all this talk of visual learning and literacy, I am giving away 1 FREE autographed copy of my picture book Bunny Finds The Right Stuff.




Bunny Finds The Right Stuff has received the following accolades:

– Silver Medal, IPPY Awards 2010 (the world’s largest book awards)

– Hedwig Anuar Children’s Book Shortlist 2011

– Honorable Mention Award, Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards 2012



To take part in this Book Giveaway, all you have to do is share this blogpost on Facebook and leave a comment on my Blog Post with your shared link.

Closing Date is 8 May 2015 and open to those living in Singapore (for postage reasons). Winner will be picked randomly.

So, share away and also check out AFCC 2015 where you can attend with a 1-day pass through full Festival Pass!

The Random Draw Winner is Florence Chia!



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Today, Mummum has the pleasure of speaking to seven-times New York Times bestselling author, educator and writing coach Emma Walton Hamilton. Her full bio extends pages, so I will just point you to her website. Did I also mention that she is daughter of Hollywood actress Julie Andrews and both mother-daughter team have written several immensely popular children’s books together?

New York Times bestselling children's books author

1. You have a stellar career in the children’s books market, as bestselling author, educator and writing coach. What would you say has been two most satisfying moments in your involvement in this market?

New York Times Bestseller

New York Times Bestseller

Ans: Of all the fields I’ve worked in, I find children’s lit to be one of the most rewarding. Unlike much adult literature, no matter how dark the subjects that children’s books tackle may be, they are ultimately, inherently, hopeful… offering some sense of resilience, or championship of the human spirit. And the people who write them and illustrate them and publish them and sell them are some of the nicest people in the world – which makes it a very lovely world to be a part of. It’s hard to narrow all the satisfying moments down to just two specific incidents, so I’ll give you one general and one specific one.
First of all, there is nothing more rewarding for a children’s book author than doing a school visit, and seeing the joy or interest on children’s faces as you read a story you have written for its intended audience. The questions, comments or enthusiasm of even just one young reader can provide me with enough energy to go back to months of sometimes solitary slogging away at the computer.

New York Times bestseller too

New York Times bestseller too

I am also fortunate in that I work as a teacher, editor and coach for aspiring children’s book authors, and I get so much pleasure out of seeing a student or client achieve their dream of getting published! Just recently, a former student and editing client of mine (and also a good friend), Susan Verde, had her first picture book, “The Museum,” illustrated by one of my favorite author/illustrators, Peter H. Reynolds, and published by Abrams. Because I introduced Peter to Susan, his dedication in the book was to me. I felt like the world’s happiest midwife. Talk about a thrill!
2.When did you first decide that you wanted to be an author? Can you name a specific moment that triggered that?

Ans: I wrote prolifically as a kid – poems, stories, novels – yet whenever someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said things like “a vet,” “an actor,” etc.

My Mom would always counter, “She says that now, but she’s going to be a writer.”

I ended up being an actor for a while, and then became a director, and a producer, and an arts educator (never a vet, though!). But all the while I kept writing, mostly children’s books.

18 years ago, my Mom and I started writing together, and I’ve never looked back. To date, we’ve written close to 30 books for kids of all ages, and all those other jobs (with the exception of arts education, which I still do) fell by the wayside.

3. I have to ask this question. What’s it like writing books together with your mother?

A discovery of self and one's gifts

A discovery of self and one’s gifts

Ans: Mom and I are both enormously grateful for the joy our collaboration brings us… we didn’t necessarily know that would be the case when we first started writing together, although we had worked together successfully in other mediums, such as film and theater. But we’re both fairly opinionated ladies (read: bossy!) and we were well aware that it could be problematic.

Happily, we have found we have different and complementary strengths, which seems to be the main factor in keeping the collaboration smooth, and our professional relationship has also done wonders for our mother/daughter relationship. We’ve been very aware of the benefits of time spent being creative and brainstorming together, as opposed to indulging in less productive mother/daughter stuff, like discussing health issues, weight management, or family dramas!

Generally speaking, when we begin a new story, we brainstorm the big idea first. We talk about theme, and dramatic arc – the beginning, middle, and end – what the central problem is, and how it gets solved. If it’s a chapter book or novel, we’ll do a chapter breakdown. Then we start writing. At that point it becomes a process of finishing each other’s sentences. We literally think out loud, and I take it all down on the computer – I’m the scribe. Ideally, we’re in the same room together, but we often work via Skype or iChat. At the end of every session, I’ll email the day’s work, which we then review and edit separately. We compare notes at the beginning of the next session, and press on from there.

Emma with mother Julie Andrews

Emma with mother Julie Andrews

Can you share one golden moment when you were completely in sync and one moment where you had divergent views on a story? 

In terms of moments of being particularly in sync, it happens all the time. As I said before, we typically finish each other’s sentences when we’re working, and often shout out the same word at the same time if we’re searching for something specific. I think that comes from being mother-daughter, and also from the longevity of our collaboration now.

We rarely have really divergent views – but if we do, we have a sort of tacit agreement that “the best idea wins.” That means if one of us is particularly passionate or articulate about a certain idea, then the other one generally defers. There’s a lot of give and take, and a lot of mutual respect – and as I said, we are very aware of our differing strengths. So far, that system has really worked for us and we’ve never (touch wood!) really come to blows.


4.What is your favourite book from childhood? Why?

Amazon.com #1 Bestseller

Amazon.com #1 Bestseller

Ans: The book I returned to most often as a kid was Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth. It was my rainy-day book – I loved nothing more than curling up with it in front of the fire on a rainy day. It’s about a bored little boy named Milo, who one day discovers a tollbooth in his room, drives his toy car through it and embarks on a great adventure. The book is a total celebration of language. Milo visits places like Dictionopolis and Digitopolis, where he literally “eats his words” and “jumps to Conclusions” and befriends a Watch Dog named Tock, among other strange and wonderful characters. All the abundant wordplay really captured my imagination, and thinking about it now, it may well have been one of the contributing factors to my wanting to be a writer.

5. What are your first words of advice to aspiring authors?

Ans: OK, here are the essentials, in my opinion:

1) Read. Steep yourself in the culture of the world or genre you are writing for by reading everything you can. That’s not to say you should imitate anyone else – but it is a business, and I think it’s hugely important to really know and understand what the standards, formats, and market trends are… and, as Billy Collins says, to think about what you can contribute to the ‘conversation.’ People often make the mistake of thinking “I was a kid once, and I know what I liked” or referencing books from their childhood, but children’s publishing has changed dramatically in the last 20 to 30 years. You have to know what the market is like today, and stay plugged in as it evolves – no matter what genre you write for.

2) Hone your craft. Take classes and workshops, attend conferences. Keep stretching, learning, sharpening your skills – even (or maybe especially) after you’ve sold your first manuscript.

3) Find community. Writing can be a solitary business. I’m lucky – I write with a partner, work for a graduate writing program and host a membership site for children’s book authors, but it’s really important to find your tribe and connect with them regularly. Find a supportive critique group, join forums, take classes, attend conferences, whatever it takes to connect with other writers. It will keep you sane, and honest.

4) Diversify your strengths. It’s the rare writer that makes a living solely from writing. Even the most successful writers in the world have to augment their income with things like teaching, editing, or speaking engagements. Find ways to support your writing habit. Be willing to have a day job, to do whatever it takes… but whenever possible, try to make those other sources of income writing-related, such as freelance writing, editing, teaching, etc. It makes it easier.


Future Mum-and-son writing team

Future Mum-and-son writing team

Mummum: Emma, thanks for a treasure mine of practical advice. I’m at the final lesson of your on-line 14-week Just Write for Middle Grade course. It’s been so valuable in helping me shape, frame and structure my Big Idea for my manuscript. I love the worksheets, questions and bite-size worksheets which stretch my mind and yet, does not overwhelm me. That really gives me a good foundation given that I’m trying to expand from 500-word picture book manuscripts to 20 times the number of words in chapter book writing! Read more about Emma here!

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Today, Mummum is pleased to speak to Marjorie Coughlan, Founder of Mirrors Windows Doors, an online magazine spotlighting children’s and Young Adult books with cultural diversity, as resource for librarians, educators, parents and caregivers.

Marjorie was previously editor of the well-regarded Paper Tigers. I first met Marjorie at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she was invited as speaker. She returned to AFCC this year to conduct a book review masterclass with renowned children’s books critic Leonard Marcus.


Marjorie: Hello, Emily – thank you for inviting me to take part in your wonderful High Chair Conversations series.

1. What are 2 things you want everyone to know about Mirrors Windows Doors? What inspired the name?

Marjorie: MWD celebrates multi-cultural diversity in children’s and YA literature from around the world, and promotes good books that open young people to an increased sense of empathy with the world, whether close by and familiar or across the globe.

MWD is aimed chiefly at adults – parents, teachers, librarians – choosing books for young people, though it would be great to introduce an area on the site for young readers at some point down the line.


Mirror_SuzyLeeThe name Mirrors Windows Doors is taken from the metaphor that children need to find themselves in books, as well as gain an outlook on different worlds, whether real or imaginary – and that books provide a conduit for young people to go out into the world confident of their own place in it; stretching out their hands in friendship; and respecting and celebrating the rich diversity of our wonderful human race.

I give a bit of background to this metaphor, and why I love it, on MWD’s About page.


2.How is it different from PaperTigers which you were previously with?

Marjorie: In terms of the ethos of the site, it is no different; and indeed, I hope that MWD will be able to build on PaperTigers’ legacy – and I’m grateful for the support that MWD has received from the wonderful network of PaperTigers supporters in the kidlit world. Like PaperTigers, MWD has a global outlook, highlighting good books in English, wherever they are published, and their creators and publishers, as well as literacy promoters across the world. The PaperTigers site is still available as a very rich archive, and MWD will certainly link to it on a regular basis.

TheHelloGoodbyeWindowA few years ago, PaperTigers set up the Spirit of PaperTigers project, which sent out specially chosen sets of books to schools and libraries in different parts of the world. This aspect of PaperTigers has evolved into the non-profit WaterBridge Outreach (http://www.waterbridgeoutreach.org/) , which combines water projects with the book giving, still at a grass roots level. I am sure that MWD will maintain strong links with WaterBridge Outreach, as regards the books chosen for the book set, and perhaps with more active support in the future.

I suppose the difference, really, is that while PaperTigers was a project of Pacific Rim Voices, MWD is independent. This means that the last few months have been a steep learning curve for me on the technological side! So, on a personal level, it’s great to be able to concentrate on the books properly again, now that the site is up and running.


OldmanAndHisDoor3. What kind of books are you interested to review?

Marjorie: I am interested in reviewing books from any genre and written for any age-group from 0 to YA that exemplify one of the three aspects of the Mirrors Windows Doors metaphor, with a particular focus on ethnic diversity and opening up the world. This often means that a book’s setting may be in a particular country/culture, but the themes will be universal. I don’t usually review books that I don’t like – not because I won’t write a negative review, but because the purpose of MWD is to promote good literature and I have a limited amount of time to write my reviews. I am open to reviewing self-published books, as well as books in English or bilingual with English from publishing houses anywhere in the world.


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

Marjorie: Oh dear, one book? I am definitely going to have to cheat on this one! There are quite a few books from my childhood that still resonate with me as an adult but I’ve whittled it down to these few… I grew up with Beatrix Potter and Alison Uttley’s Little Grey Rabbit books (illustrated by Margaret Tempest) and I still love the illustrations especially. As a child, the stories and the characters really lived for me. I still think of Timmy Tiptoes every time I see a grey squirrel; and teasel will always be Little Grey Rabbit’s hair brush (http://www.plantlife.org.uk/wild_plants/plant_species/teasel). It probably helped that I was surrounded by the English Lake District/countryside landscapes they were set in too. Some of our family’s copies had belonged to my mother, mostly, and some to my father, when they were children; and even when I was small, I loved the thick, old paper that had blank pages – I think my love of the physical book, and especially old books, right down to the smell, started then.

Gobbolino the Witch's CatI loved all the Babar stories – my Dad’s old Babar and Father Christmas, a much bigger book to hold than any of my own, was at my Grandad’s house. I remember vividly the day I was finally able to read the strange curly font for myself, rather than getting Dad to read it to me – and elephants have always been my favourite animal.

I read and re-read Ursula Moray Williams’ Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat and The Little Wooden Horse – their terrible ordeals and their consistent faith that they would get through them – and the fact, of course, that they did – and without their characters being blighted – are all aspects that I must have lived at the time, though I might not have been able to say it then. The books both made me cry when I read them to my sons a few years ago.

I suppose the stories that have stayed my companions since first reading them as an older child are Anne of Green Gables, Emily of New Moon, and Little Women – I read them and their sequels every two or three years. I think Anne, especially, has offered something new at every reading as I have got older and I empathise with her at the different stages of her life. And one day I will visit Prince Edward Island!


5.What’s the first word that describes your reading style?

Marjorie: I would say ‘absorbed’: within about five seconds of getting my nose in a book, I become oblivious to my surroundings. This can be annoying for the family and has its inconveniences like missing train stops, but is great when you’re waiting in a long queue!

Thank you, Emily, I’ve enjoyed ‘chatting’ with you and look forward to welcoming you to MWD.


Mummum: Marjorie, thanks for sharing about your exciting new site. I look forward to seeing myself in the mirrors, looking through the windows and walking through the doors of your impactful book reviews!

I usually end with a photo of Caleb on my High Chair Conversations post. But thanks to Marjorie, I’m putting a different face to childish behaviour here.

Marjorie3 (DavidSeow&me)

Eagle-eyed Marjorie glimpsed how kidlit rivalry can get when children’s authors get “up in arms” trying to get “ahead” of one another and captured this storyboard through her reviewer lens.

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

Following my earlier post (Part 1), I’m reproducing a condensed extract here:

As a newbie author in Singapore in 2007, I had to first pick up the ropes. As there was only a handful of locally produced children’s picture books in Singapore in 2007 beyond the Book Council winners, I self-published my first book with the Book Council publishing grant. I read how-to books, attended conferences and asked whoever I could in the local industry.

Write Children's Books, Writer's Digest

Write Children’s Books, Writer’s Digest

The first three how-to books that I read in 2007 – which turned out to be my Publishing 101 course – helped me to figure out how to write, publish and market my first book:

  • You can write children’s books (by Tracey E. Dils)
  • How to write & sell children’s picture books (by Jean E. Karl)
  • The business of writing for children (by Aaron Shepard)

My very first book conference in 2007, titled “You can get rich with books” (organised by the Singapore Book Council) pretty much tempered my high expectations to a more realistic level when every panel speaker effectively said they were still figuring out how to get rich with books. I also attended the Book Council’s Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference (now folded into the main tract of the AFCC) and masterclasses in subsequent years and was able to hear publishers and agents impart the do’s and don’ts of writing.

There are now more opportunities through the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) and other Book Council Initiatives, such as the Scholastic Asian Book Award and the AFCC Bilingual Picture Books Initiative, where winning entries are published.

The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Singapore Chapter, was re-started in 2010 after a period of dormancy and has since grown from an initial membership of five writers to forty pre-published and published authors.

In the next post, I’ll touch on Survivial Skill 2- Growing Thick Skin.


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Source: Peanuts

Source: Peanuts

Free Webinar Alert!

I will be conducting my first webinar on the topic of writing children’s books for Media Associates International on 20th May at 8am -9am U.S. Chicago time (correspondingly 20th May, 10pm-11pm Singapore time.)

Save the date and register for my free webinar “Writing for Children – Commandments to Follow & Sins to Avoid” here!



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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


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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!



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Darshana photoToday, Mummum has the pleasure of sneaking a peek into Reviewer Darshana Khiani’s flowering mind. Darshana and I met on Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Picture Book Challenge last year and she is a wealth of resources which she shares generously with the private 12×12 Facebook group. I’m also glad to have her as one of my wonderful online critique partners as she also provides insightful comments (and book recommendations!) which helps me hone my writing.

1.Tell us 2 moments that told you that you belonged in the world of Kidlit?

Darshana: Just two moments …hmmm.

I get super-excited when I see my requested library books have come in. I have on average 30-40 picture books out at a time. Going to the library is like going shopping … but FREE!!

I also LOVE, LOVE talking about the latest in kidlit. I am in heaven whenever a parent asks for book recommendations for their children.

Lastly, I love the writing community – it is so supportive and helpful; I have not come across any other industry that is as nurturing.

Bear-on-a-Bike_BB_W2. How did your review blog Flowering Minds come about? What’s the inspiration behind the name?

Darshana: I was taking a blogging class and they recommended writing down 20-30 words that you liked and that could be tied to the purpose of your blog. Flowering Minds was a clear winner when I tested it out on my family and friends. I think good books can cause a child’s mind to blossom in the most wondrous of ways that was the thought behind the name. I still remember using the Bear on a Bike board book as a crawling incentive when my older daughter was a baby. I have seen my girls pour over books like You Choose where the reader gets to imagine where they would live, dress, etc., but also become engrossed in learning about the world such as in People.

3. Which book from childhood had the greatest impact on you? Why?

Darshana: I remember loving What Do People Do All Day by Richard Scarry. It was a fun way to learn how things work. I wish someone would do a modern version of it. But the books that probably had the most impact were the Nancy Drew series. I loved that she was intelligent, friendly, and pretty too. I wanted to be just like her.

you_choose picture bk4. As a reviewer and also having been a Cybil’s judge, tell us which is your all-time favourite book. Why?

Darshana: Favorite books… Isn’t that akin to picking which of your children is your favorite? I love the Cybils as it is a great way to find out about lesser known books. I frequently use The Cybils Awards shortlists to find new titles. Two books I love and would probably never heard of on my own are the Anna Hibiscus early chapter books series and the picture book Infinity and Me. I love the Anna Hibiscus books, which take place in Africa, because they give young readers a peak into another world and culture through the eyes of the young girl, Anna. Infinity and Me is a unique book which introduces the abstract concept of infinity by the musings of a young girl as she asks her family and friends, each coming up with their own special answer.

5. The first word that comes to mind of yourself.

Darshana: Hard-working

Caleb Flowering Mind

Caleb’s flowering teeth (at age 1) take a bite of a Helen Oxenbury board book.

Mummum: Darshana, “Hardworking” is definitely the word given how you manage your job (not in the world of kidlit), run your Flowering Minds site, work on your picture book writing and am Mum amidst all this! Check out Flowering Minds for excellent book recommendations!

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Picture 054 BToday, Mummum is delighted to speak with Vivian Kirkfield, educator, author, blogger and passionate advocate of early childhood education.  I first got to know Vivian (my first blogger friend) when she linked an article I had written A Picture Book Says A Thousand Words for Cha, an online Asian Literary Journal. I went over to her site and since then we have been following each other’s blogs.  As a Festival Director of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content, I invited Vivian over as a speaker and we had a great time getting to know each other in between sessions.

So, onto the Conversation:

1. Tell us what inspired your award-winning book Show Me How.

Vivian: When I graduated from college, I began teaching kindergarten. Back in the late 1960’s, a child’s day in kindergarten was filled with playing. I knew that this first year of school would have a great impact on the children – could I help them believe in themselves? Would the children leave my classroom with a feeling of self-worth and self-respect that would help them succeed in school and in life? I knew how important picture books were – young children relate what happens to the main character to their own lives – the messages in picture books can help children cope with many of the difficulties they encounter in those early years. I wished there was a book that would recommend a story for particular problems or concerns of young children such as fear of monsters or being jealous of a sibling. And wouldn’t it be great if the book also provided activities like crafts! When children are comfortably engaged in activities like crafting and cooking, they are more likely to enter into a dialogue about things that are on their minds.

I started a notebook where I listed the books I read with the children and a sample of the craft activity we had done. Then I took a leave of absence from teaching, while I raised my own three children, and operated a home daycare – the notebook of story titles and activities grew thicker. When my grown children left to start families of their own, my husband encouraged me to pull out that bulging notebook. “It’s your time now,” he insisted. “Write the book you wished you had had. And Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking was born.

2. Share 2 moments that made you know for certain of your calling to work with and want to write for kids.
Vivian: Emily, I always had a ‘knowing’ – even when I was a child myself – that I wanted to work with kids. And books are like air to me – they have always been an important part of my life. The library was my second home. In fact, my first ‘real’ job was in the children’s section of the local library. Writing my own stories was a natural progression from reading them. I still have a little spiral memo pad with several poems in the childish cursive handwriting of an 8-year old Vivian. My picture book writing increased dramatically as my own three children were growing up – I would make up stories to entertain them on car rides or to lull them to sleep on long winter nights.

BlackBeauty3. Which was your favourite book from childhood and why?

Vivian: Black Beauty by Anna Sewell was my favorite book – I still have that old copy…the tattered cover and dog-eared pages are a testament to how many times I must have read it. I love horses, underdogs who triumph and happy endings. Black Beauty is a story that has all three elements, as well as an endearing hero who must overcome great challenges. I also loved all of Louisa May Alcott’s books…Little Women, Jo’s Boys, Rose in Bloom…simple stories of family, where love ruled amidst the struggles of life.

May I share a quick tale that involves Little Women? My older sister was graduating from junior high and my mother took us shopping for her dress. Back in the 1950’s, Abraham and Straus was one of the finest department stores in New York City…and one of the largest. We took the elevator to the eighth floor – the book department. “We’ll be back soon,” my mother said, and she and my sister went down to the dress department on the fifth floor. I wandered between towering shelves and tables piled high with books – oh – did I mention I was eight years old at the time? Of course, a parent would never leave a child alone in a store these days…but that was a kinder gentler time. I quickly found a copy of Little Women, sat down on the carpeted floor in a little hidey-hole under a desk, and was soon completely engrossed in the story. Many hours later (to me it seemed like minutes), I turned the last page and stood up. “There she is!!!!” My mother, sister and several store officials and uniformed policemen ran towards me. It turns out that my mother had come up to the book department but had been unable to find me. I had been so involved in the story that I hadn’t heard her call out to me and she had alerted the store manager.

4. Share 3 tips on how you got so plugged into the online kidlit community so quickly.


Tip #1: BE NICE…I started blogging when my parent-teacher resource, Show Me How! was published so that I could connect with parents and teachers to let them know about the book. I posted picture book reviews and activities for young children. I visited other bloggers who were also blogging about picture books and activities for young children – and left comments on their posts and linked their posts to mine. They returned the favor and came to visit my blog and I soon had many blogging buddies.

Tip #2:  SHARE …One of these first blogging buddies suggested that I visit children’s author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site because Susanna had started a weekly feature called Perfect Picture Book Friday. She had established a linky and was inviting writers, educators, librarians and others to contribute a picture book review and resources and/or activities that would extend the story reading experience for the child. Since I loved picture books and was already posting reviews, I joined her community and immediately connected with a vibrant kid lit community.

Tip #3: BE AN ACTIVE PARTICIPANT…Through other members of that kid lit community, I learned about Julie Hedlund’s 12×12, a challenge that encourages you to write a picture book draft every month and Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo, a challenge that encourages you to write a picture book idea for each day in November. Both of these authors have large followings of kid lit writers and artists, many of whom are already published authors and illustrators. I know I am fortunate to have discovered this amazing community of generous, caring, like-minded people who quickly accepted me. The only problem is that there aren’t enough hours in the day to participate in all that I would like to.

5. What’s the first word that comes to mind in describing yourself?

Vivian: Empathetic…when I was a young child, I cried easily…not for myself, but for others. I never wanted to see people sad…I always wanted to help people to be happy. For example, when my older sister misbehaved, I begged my parents not to punish her because I didn’t want to see her crying, even if she was being punished for being mean to me. I’m a strong advocate for building self-esteem in kids because I’ve observed that people who don’t think well of themselves often become bullies and find it difficult to reach their potential. When I am with people, I can feel their unhappiness and pain and I am moved to help them to make things better. That is why I want to write picture books for young children – I hope that my stories will make a difference in a child’s life…or just bring a smile to their faces.

As a passionate advocate of early childhood education, Vivian believes that with a positive self-image and a love of books, every child can achieve a life of balance, happiness and meaning. To spread the message that reading picture books with children is one of the most important tasks of parenthood, Vivian wrote Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking, an award-winning parent-teacher resource.  She contributes to newspapers, magazines and blogs world-wide and actively serves the community by providing literacy and self-esteem-building programs for parents, teachers and kids. Her current projects include several picture book stories and Will Write for Cookies, a collection of writing tips and tasty treats from a baker’s dozen of picture book authors.

Caleb Shows Us How everyday objects can be oodles of entertainment for a toddler

Caleb Shows Us How everyday objects can be oodles of entertainment for a toddler (just past 1 year old)

Mummum: Vivian, thanks for “finding” my blog in the first place, and also introducing me to amazing sites like Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Challenge and Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo through your blogposts. Our friendship has been just a great story to share about how two persons on opposite sides of the world met at a place we are both passionate about – the sphere of children’s books – and soon after, at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore!

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Julie Hedlund - HeadshotToday, Mummum has the pleasure of having the 1st conversation of the year with author Julie Hedlund. Julie  founded the very successful 12×12 Picture Book Challenge (which pulled in a 500-strong crowd of new and experienced authors last year), is Leader of the Writer’s Renaissance in Florence Italy, Author of A Troop is a Group of Monkeys and A Shiver of Sharks and most recently, crowdfunded her latest picture book My Love for You is The Sun, amongst other accomplishments.

So, without further ado, let’s hear it from Julie!

1. Share 3 nuggets about yourself /your writing journey that led to your first published book/app.


1. The first children’s book I ever wrote to completion was also my first published book — A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS — first as an app and then as a print book. I just kept plodding away at it and realized, once apps came along, that it would be the perfect medium for making that story come alive.

2. I spent 10+ years working in the electronic banking and payments industry, which is about as far away from children’s writing as one could get. I’m grateful for the experience though, because it taught me a great deal about tenacity, overcoming challenges, and how to think like a business/business person.

3. I met my publisher, Little Bahalia, at an SCBWI conference. I had paid to have a consultation with the art director about my app proposal. She decided that day that she wanted to publish it. Moral of the story: It IS important to invest in your career (attend conferences, get professional critiques, join writing communities, etc.) if you want to accelerate your learning and progress.

TROOP-Cover-300x2832. How has the founding of 12×12 helped you as an author?

Julie: The biggest way 12 x 12 has helped me as an author is by giving me a community of immensely talented, gracious, generous, smart, and diverse authors and illustrators to learn from and share triumphs and tragedies with. NOTHING beats having a community of people who “get” you and genuinely want you to succeed. When my own faith in myself falters, they are always there to help me find it again.

12×12 has an incredibly sophisticated forum – how did you even know where to begin to get it set up and where did you get all your cheery elves?!

Julie: I had no idea how to begin or set it up when I started. Luckily, I offered the program for free the first year, so people were very patient as I learned the ropes of my own challenge and adjusted as it evolved. The “elves” (12 x 12 helpers) are all volunteers from first-year participants. They’ve helped keep me sane! 🙂

Eloise3) Which book from childhood had the greatest impact on you?

Julie: Wow that is SUCH a tough question! But I think I’d have to go with Eloise.


First of all because it was one of the few books I actually owned (most came from the library). But mostly because, as a child growing up in the woods of Northern Michigan in a tight family, Eloise seemed so exotic. Here was a girl living in a fancy hotel in New York City with just a harried nanny to look after her. I both envied and pitied her. I think it helped me understand just how different people could be and yet still remain so much the same. I mean, who HASN’T played the game of repeating everything someone says back to them? It’s a childhood rite of passage. 🙂

4) Your recent CrowdFundraising project for your latest picture book has been a resounding success. What next?

Julie: Well, the book that was crowdfunded, MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN is in production now and will be published in Fall 2014. So exciting! But my main focus for writing in 2014 will be less entrepreneurial and more traditional than the past couple of years. I want to get at least two picture books to “submission-ready” according to my agent, so that she will shop them to publishers.

Shiver-icon-small5) What’s the first word that comes to mind in describing yourself?

Julie: Grateful!

Crowd Favourite Caleb pulls Papa and Mummy in for a cosy shot

Crowd Puller Caleb pulls Papa and Mummy in for a cosy shot

Mummum: Julie, thanks for taking time out for this interview even though you currently have lots on your plate including the launch of 12×12 2014 which I know will only get bigger and better! I have benefitted so much from my participation in 12×12 last year, both in my writing and being part of a supportive picture book crowd that you have pulled together so well!

Registration for 12×12 Challenge (12 Picture Books in 12 Months) starts today (6th Jan 2014 U.S. time) over here. I’m looking forward to it!

Read more about 12×12 and Julie at the links below:

Julie Hedlund – December 12×12 Featured Author

12×12 Picture Book Challenge – 12 Reasons Why

A Village to Raise a Child, A Crowd to Fund a Picture Book

Emma Walton Hamiton: January 12×12 2014 Featured Author

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