Best books my kids read in 2015

 

My kids (aged 2 and 4) love reading, and as we are big fans of our library, and visit it nearly every week, we borrow several hundred books a year!

Here are some of our favourites last year.

Favourite series

 

The kids continue to love Mo Willems’ Piggie and Gerald stories. And last year, we discovered Cynthia Rylant’s Mr Putter and Tabby, a series about an old man and his old cat, and their neighbours Mrs Teaberry and her dog Zeke. It’s about ordinary things like taking a train or making soup or walking the dog, but has some funny bits and it’s just good old fun. Also, because boys will be boys, we read Thomas books nearly every day. And there are plenty of Cars (as in Pixar Cars) books too.

poutpoutfish
The Pout-Pout Fish
We loved it so much we’ve read all the Pout-pout fish books so far.

goodnightgorilla
Good night, Gorilla – Peggy Rathmann
The best part, as the kids say, is in the dark.
bearstaysup
Bear Stays Up for Christmas – Karma Wilson
Bear’s friends make him stay up for Christmas by decorating a tree, baking and more.

nonipony
Noni the Pony goes to the beach – Alison Lester
Gentle simple rhymes and delightful illustrations

flyingbooks
The fantastic flying books of Mr Morris Lessmore – William Joyce and Joe Bluhm
A must for a booklover!

wandering whale sharks
Wandering whale sharks Susumu Shingu ; translators: Ann B. Cary and Yasuko Shingu
A muted palate of blues, whites and blacks add to this non-fiction picture book about whale sharks

mrpostmouse

Mr. Postmouse’s rounds – Marianne Dubuc
Darling illustrations of animals’ homes, and a postmouse who has to deliver their mail

onecoolfriend
One Cool Friend – Toni Buzzeo; David Small
So many things work great in this book – the penguins, the very proper young boy and his father, that surprise ending. I wasn’t sure if the kids would find it as delightful but they asked for it again and again.

 

pizza

Pizza – Frank Asch

My two-year-old asks for this book nearly every night. Needless to say, he loves pizza.

hamster

My Humongous Hamster goes to school – Lorna Freytag

This one was the older boy’s favourite. He likes hamsters and thought it was hilarious.

magritte

Magritte’s Marvelous Hat – DB Johnson

You might know some of the famous paintings by Belgian surrealist artist Rene Magritte, but even if you don’t, this picture book will surely inspire you to see things differently.

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Little Owl Lost – Chris Haughton

It’s a simple story. A baby owl falls from his nest and looks for his mummy, with the earnest help of Squirrel who doesn’t quite get things right. Love the bold illustrations!

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Stick Man – Julia Donaldson, Axel Scheppler

Ok so I’m starting to love Julia Donaldson’s books. Great illustrations and fantastic rhymes, and that bit of whimsy, whether it’s Tabby McTat or Highway Rat. Although oddly, we have yet to read The Gruffalo. Must amend that.

“I’m Stick Man, I’m Stick Man, I’M STICK MAN, that’s me!”

There are plenty more books that I could have highlighted that I think I will have to get my act together and do a proper round-up each month of the best kids’ books we read.

What were some of your favorite picture books of last year?

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Weekend Cooking: Books for little foodies

 

Do you have a little foodie in your house? I’ve been trying to cultivate my four-year-old’s palate ever since he was born.

We’ve had a lot of problems with food early on. He had really bad eczema all over his face and arms ever since he was a few months old and finally we took him for allergy testing – first blood then when he was a bit older, skin. And discovered that he’s allergic to tree nuts and peanuts. And initially eggs and wheat too. You wouldn’t know he had eczema today though. A combination of bleach baths, steroids, lots of moisturizing and regular visits with allergists and dermatologists, at least for the first couple of years of his life.
 

His first skin test

 

The first time he broke out in hives. It still happens once in a while, due more to high temperatures than with food

 

So we spent the first couple of years of his life worrying about his diet. We managed to slowly introduce eggs and wheat into his diet and he’s no longer allergic to eggs and wheat. Nuts are of course a different matter. So for a kid with allergies, or really, for a four-year-old in general, he’s done exceptionally well for his age I reckon, as he is wiling to try new things, like smoked salmon. His favourite meals include avocado sushi, mac and cheese, He’s also the kid who says “yay! Roasted cauliflower!” when he hears what’s for dinner. Asked to name his favourite vegetables and he includes Brussels sprouts, corn and edamame. We generally eat together as a family and I don’t make separate meals for the kids but I do try to come up with a variety of different styles of foods, pasta one day, rice, meat, veg the next, noodles, that kind of thing.

 

He loves his carbs

I also have a two-year-old and he is in an absolute anti-vegetable stage at the moment. I have only recently managed to get him to like eating baby carrots again, after serving it with Japanese mayonnaise. He’s a funny one, he’s kind of like an old Asian man, telling me today that the leftover birthday cake was “too cold”. He has had a love for soups – clear, Asian-style soup – since he was 1.5. He prefers to eat rice instead of baked potatoes and loves noodles.

beebimbop

Anyway, about those books, I recently picked up Bee-bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park and illustrated by Ho Baek Lee from the library book sale. It’s a fun little book about a girl and her family preparing beebimbop (bibimbap?) and then sitting down to eat it for dinner. There’s even a recipe for bibimbap at the back of the book. Of course after reading it, the kids asked for it for dinner. I’ve made it several times before but this time they really seemed to like it. I made it with beef, carrots, eggs, mushrooms and peas and corn.

 Then I started thinking of all those foodie books for kids that we’ve borrowed in the past few years.

minettesfeast

Minette’s Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat, by Susanna Reich and Amy Bales

Told from the point of view of Julia Child’s cat! It has a rustic, handpainted, almost vintage look to its illustrations. And by that I mean, it seems more geared towards adults than younger children.

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Dim Sum for Everyone – Grace Lin

The family goes out for dim sum and everyone gets to choose their favourite dish. Simple language, colourful drawings. A hit with my kids.

booksushi

mangiamangia

For babies, there are foodie board books like My First Book of Sushi by Amy Wilson Sanger. Sanger isn’t just doing books about sushi, she’s also written books about dim sum, Italian food, Indian food, soul food and more. The rhymes are simple and the pictures colourful, just right for little ones.

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LMNO Peas – Keith Baker

Peas are the stars of this alphabet book

mooncakeshapes

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Round is a mooncake and Green is a chile pepper– Roseanne Thong

We’ve not yet read Green is a chile pepper but Thong uses different cultures to demonstrate these concepts – shapes and colours.
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In the Night kitchen – Maurice Sendak

A classic, and lots of fun

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Max makes a cake – Michelle Edwards ; illustrated by Charles Santoso

And not just any cake, a surprise Passover birthday cake for his mummy! It involves a lot of frosting, so my older son was very pleased.

 

Frank Asch has also written a few food-related books, like

popcorn
I loved this book as a kid and was delighted to find a copy at my library’s book sale

 

pizza

 

Monica Wellington is another children’s book author who has a few food-related ones:

crepes cookiebaker

 

There are plenty of other books that I’ve come across, but that we’ve not yet read, like

juliachild

Julia, Child – Kyo Maclear  (Author), Julie Morstad (Illustrator)

pancit

 

 

What are some foodie picture books that you’ve come across lately? 
weekendcooking

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

The Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family Stories

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It is times like this that I wonder what I was reading as a child. And why did I never read any Joan Aiken?

Would the child-me have enjoyed the Armitage family’s antics as much as the adult-me does today?

Because it was such a fun, silly, charming and enchanting read that I so wished I could share with my kids.

(They’re 2 and 4 and while they are developing their own sense of humour, I don’t think they’re ready to appreciate this book quite yet.)

What is an Armitage Family story?, you may wonder.

Well, there is Mark and his sister Harriet, and of course their parents, Mr and Mrs Armitage. Mark and Harriet are very likable, rather sweet kids, to whom delightfully odd things happen. Their parents often get turned into things, but react in very straitlaced manners. Like fundraisers and business meetings. Although the fundraiser is for the Distressed Old Fairy Ladies and Mr Armitage takes his meeting as an insect. As in, oh I am an insect, oh bother, here, son just take me to my office so I can conduct my meeting anyway.

You know, because these things happen. And mostly on Mondays. Because on Mondays, “unusual things were allowed, and even expected to happen at the Armitage house”.

One of my favourite stories involved Brekkfast Brikks, a dusty kind of cereal with a cut-out garden on the back. A magical cut-out garden that is!

And the one where Mr Peake, the ghost who lives in the house, takes Harriet out from school for the holiday weekend.

Or maybe it’s the one where the unicorn makes its appearance.

It’s just full of wonderful stories to read, reread and share. Whether it’s a Monday or not.

“Well,” she allowed, “we could have a special day for interesting and unusual things to happen – say, Mondays. But not always Mondays, and not only Mondays, or that would get a bit dull too.”

Can’t wait to read these Library Loot books

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

 

 

With grandma around to read to the boys for a bit, I got to wander among the fiction shelves and pick up some goodies.

 

Fortunately the Milk – Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Skottie Young 

Yup this was more for me than the kids! Hee hee!

fortunatelymilk

“I bought the milk,” said my father. “I walked out of the corner shop, and heard a noise like this: T h u m m t h u m m. I looked up and saw a huge silver disc hovering in the air above Marshall Road.”

“Hullo,” I said to myself. That’s not something you see every day.” And then something odd happened.

Find out just how odd things get in this hilarious story of time travel and breakfast cereal.

Mildred Pierce – James M Cain
I just realized this would be perfect for Back to the Classics. I’ve watched a little of the HBO series via Amazon Instant Video and Kate Winslet is amazing as always, even playing an American housewife.

mildred pierce.jpg

Mildred Pierce had gorgeous legs, a way with a skillet, and a bone-deep core of toughness. She used those attributes to survive a divorce and poverty and to claw her way out of the lower middle class. But Mildred also had two weaknesses: a yen for shiftless men, and an unreasoning devotion to a monstrous daughter.

Out of these elements, Cain creates a novel of acute social observation and devastating emotional violence, with a heroine whose ambitions and sufferings are never less than recognizable.

 

Four Souls – Louise Erdrich

Ok I did not know that this was a continuation! Hopefully it will work reading it on its own.

foursouls
Four Souls begins with Fleur Pillager’s journey from North Dakota to Minneapolis, where she plans to avenge the loss of her family’s land to a white man. After a dream vision that gives her a powerful new name, Four Souls, she enters the household of John James Mauser. A man notorious for his wealth and his mansion on a hill, Mauser became rich by deceiving young Indian women and taking possession of their ancestral lands. What promises to be a straightforward tale of revenge, however, slowly metamorphoses into a more complex evocation of human nature. The story of anger and retribution that begins in Tracks becomes a story of healing and love in Four Souls.

Children of the Sea #1 – Daisuke Igarashi

I kind of love these covers

childrensea1

When Ruka was younger, she saw a ghost in the water at the aquarium where her dad works. Now she feels drawn toward the aquarium and the two mysterious boys she meets there, Umi and Sora. They were raised by dugongs and hear the same strange calls from the sea as she does.Ruka’s dad and the other adults who work at the aquarium are only distantly aware of what the children are experiencing as they get caught up in the mystery of the worldwide disappearance of the oceans’ fish.

Children of the Sea #2 – Daisuke Igarashi

childrensea2

The sea has a story to tell you, one you’ve never heard before. Umi and Sora are not alone in their strange connection to the sea. Forty years ago, Jim met another young boy with the same powers. As penance for letting the boy die, Jim has been searching the world for other children with those same ties to the ocean. Anglade, a wunderkind who was once Jim’s research partner, lures Sora away with the promise of answers. This leaves Umi severely depressed, and it is up to Ruka to help her new friend find his brother. But time is quickly running out… When Ruka was younger, she saw a ghost in the water at the aquarium where her dad works. Now she feels drawn toward the aquarium and the two mysterious boys she meets there, Umi and Sora. They were raised by dugongs and hear the same strange calls from the sea that she does. Ruka’s dad and the other adults who work at the aquarium are only distantly aware of what the children are experiencing as they get caught up in the mystery of the worldwide disappearance of the ocean’s fish.

 

 

E-books:

Black Water Rising – Attica Locke

I’m supposed to read Locke’s latest, Pleasantville, for an upcoming book tour. But didn’t know that it had the same characters as Black Water Rising. So thought I would try to read this first! Also, I enjoyed reading her previous book, The Cutting Season. 

blackwaterrising

Writing in the tradition of Dennis Lehane and Greg Iles, Attica Locke, a powerful new voice in American fiction, delivers a brilliant debut thriller that readers will not soon forget.

Jay Porter is hardly the lawyer he set out to be. His most promising client is a low-rent call girl and he runs his fledgling law practice out of a dingy strip mall. But he’s long since made peace with not living the American Dream and carefully tucked away his darkest sins: the guns, the FBI file, the trial that nearly destroyed him.

Houston, Texas, 1981. It is here that Jay believes he can make a fresh start. That is, until the night in a boat out on the bayou when he impulsively saves a woman from drowning—and opens a Pandora’s box. Her secrets put Jay in danger, ensnaring him in a murder investigation that could cost him his practice, his family, and even his life. But before he can get to the bottom of a tangled mystery that reaches into the upper echelons of Houston’s corporate power brokers, Jay must confront the demons of his past.

With pacing that captures the reader from the first scene through an exhilarating climax, Black Water Rising marks the arrival of an electrifying new talent.

Kids’ loot:

 

More comics this Library Loot!

 

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

Just a quick visit after lunch to pick up some more books for Comics February! As well as more books for the kids.
Wonderland – Tommy Kovac, illustrated by Sonny Liew

wonderland

Among the numerous curiosities that have gone unexplained in the classic tale Alice in Wonderland, perhaps the most perplexing might be who, exactly, is the “Maryann” that the White Rabbit mistakes Alice for at the beginning of the story? Lewis Carroll first made us ponder this and, years later, Walt Disney again made viewers wonder who Maryann might be in his classic feature length film based on Carroll’s book.

Now, the amazingly talented folks at SLG Publishing, through a licensing deal with Disney, have finally answered this age-old question. In their beautifully executed comic book series, WONDERLAND, readers experience Alice’s fantastic world as they’ve never seen it before. Writer Tommy Kovac’s Wonderland is missing Alice herself, but it’s still populated by the other characters that make the world such a curiously exciting place. The Queen of Hearts is present, barking orders to lop off people’s heads, as is the Cheshire Cat, the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter and the rest of Wonderland’s beloved cast. And there are some new faces, too, including the book’s main protagonist, the mysterious Maryann herself. All are beautifully illustrated by Wonderland’s artist, Sonny Liew

 

Apollo’s Song – Osamu Tezuka

apollossong

 

The gods with their poetic justice, can be unrelenting. Just ask the young cynic Shogo, who sinned against love. Electroshock therapy was only meant to bring him face to face with his own violent misdeeds, but instead landed him in the court of a stern goddess.

If the encounter was a hallucination, then it’s a hallucination that starts to encroach on reality in this unforgettable tale penned by manga-god Osamu Tezuka and inspired by Greek myths of divine unforgiving. Sharing with his longer work Phoenix the themes of recurrence and retribution as well as the spirit of high invention, Apollo’s Song explores the meaning of love and the consequences of its absence.

Shogo’s mother is a bar hostess, his father could be any one of a dozen of her regular patrons. Growing up, he learns nothing of genuine love and tenderness, and when he witnesses his mother in the nearest approximation of which she’s capable–lustful embrace–he receives a merciless beating soon afterwards. Shogo comes to hate the very notion of love. But goddesses, who are neither the Buddha nor Christ, do not excuse misfortunes of upbringing.

Apollo’s Song reaches Olympian heights of tragedy as the story proceeds from a boxcar bound for a Nazi concentration camp to a dystopian future where human beings are persecuted by an ascendant race of their own clones. Will Shogo ever attain redemption, or, like the human race itself, will he have to relearn the lessons of love forever? Is it better to have loved and lost if the heartbreak must recur eternally?

Love, propagation, nature, war, death–Tezuka holds his trademark cornucopia of concerns together with striking characterizations, an unfailing sense of pacing, and of course, stunning imagery.

Though marked by a salty pessimism, this unique masterpiece from Tezuka’s transitional period is also unabashedly romantic–and, at times, profoundly erotic. Combining a classic tale of thwarted love with cognitive ambiguities reminiscent of the work of Philip K. Dick, Apollo’s Song is guaranteed to plumb new depths of the human heart with each rereading.

Ode to Kirihito – Osamu Tezuka

odetokirihito

It may or may not be contagious. There seems to be no cure for it. Yet, Monmow Disease, a life-threatening condition that transforms a person into a dog-like beast, is not the only villain in this shocking triumph of a medical thriller by manga-god Osamu Tezuka. Said to have been the personal favorite of the artist, who held a degree in medicine, and surprisingly attentive to Christian themes and imagery, Ode to Kirihitodemolishes naive notions about human nature and health and likely preconceptions about the comics master himself.

From pregnant vistas of the Japanese countryside to closed rooms full of sin and redemption, Tezuka astounds for more than eight hundred continuous pages, his art in turn easefully concise and flamboyantly experimental, his inquiry into our most repugnant instincts and prospects for overcoming them unflinchingly serious. Incorporating elements of the often lurid and adult-oriented “gekiga” style for the first time, Tezuka entered into his fruitful late period with this work.

A promising young doctor, Kirihito Osanai visits a remote Japanese mountain village to investigate the source of the latest medical mystery. While he ends up traveling the world to discover what it takes to be cured of such a disease, a conspiracy back home attempts to explain away his absence. Hinging upon his fate are those of his loved ones: an unstable childhood friend and colleague trapped between factions of the medical establishment that nurtured him; a fiancée emotionally transformed by Kirihito’s mysterious disappearance; and a stranger who becomes his guardian angel, a sensual circus-act performer with volatile psychological secrets.

From plutocratic Taipei and racially divided South Africa to backwater Arabia and modern Osaka, ambition and desire beckon “normal men” to behave uglier than any beast. Riveting our attention on deformity and its acceptance like The Elephant Man by David Lynch, Ode to Kirihitoexamines the true worth of human beings through and beyond appearances

Kids’ loot:

Gossamer by Lois Lowry

gossamer

 

Oh! A sweet enchanting book that will enthrall the young and the not-so-young-but-still-loving-books-for-the-young like me. Although I wonder if I had read this book as a kid, would I have appreciated the little ways that Lowry has with her characters? I’m not sure.

This short book, just 144 pages, tells of dreams and nightmares and its givers. Littlest is an apprentice dream-giver. What is she?, she wonders, not a human, not an animal. She learns from the more senior one, learning to touch objects around her person’s house, gathering the fragments, the memories that are imbued into these items, and bestowing these dreams onto the woman.

The woman – elderly, dog-lover, childless – begins to foster an abused boy who has uneasy dreams, whose presence in the house attracts those who give nightmares, the Sinisteed. Littlest and her teacher must help him and his caregiver overcome these nightmares, face their past and figure out what they mean to each other.

Gossamer is a whimsical little story, a tale full of heart, one that treads between fantasy and reality.

I read it while my own littler boy slept in the stroller, unwilling to nap in the bed that afternoon, crying and crying until I gave up and picked him up. It was a cold afternoon, the light was fading, and I seemed to be the only one walking around the estate that day. Kindle in gloved hand, I pushed the stroller around and around as he slept and dreamt on.

Squirky! And Stacey!

This post is long overdue – with all my apologies!

For my friends Melanie and Lianne have (quite a while ago!) written and published these lovely picture books. And more importantly, packed them up, went to the post office, and mailed them to me all the way from Singapore.

So first of all, a very big thank you to both Melanie and Lianne for adding a taste of Singapore to my little readers’ bookshelves. It is quite rare to find books from Singapore/written by Singaporeans etc in libraries here and it’s even more unlikely to find Singapore children’s’ books!

So while they might not understand its significance yet, I’m happy that they get to read books about Singapore, written and illustrated by Singaporeans even though we live half a world away! More significantly, I think they’ve got more Singapore books than I ever had when growing up in Singapore in the 1980s!

 

 

whyamiblue

The Adventures of Squirky the Alien #1: Why Am I Blue? – Melanie Lee

(Here’s the book’s very own blog! It also has information on where to find the book)

This isn’t officially a review as Melanie asked me to be a beta reader (I know, I couldn’t believe it? Someone wanted me to read a book before it was published? And provide suggestions and comments? How could I say no?)

This is the first book in Melanie’s first children’s picture book series. She wrote this for her son, whom she and her husband adopted a few years ago. I had the privilege of meeting the cheerful boy when I was last in Singapore, and what a great kid he is – and also, what a wonderful mummy Melanie is!

Squirky is a little blue alien, adopted by a Chinese family in Singapore. And in this first book, he discovers that he’s a little bit different from his sister Emma, his parents and his friends. His parents tell him how they came to adopt him and he begins his search for his birth parents and home planet. This a six-book series so there’s a bit of a cliffhanger! Wee Reader wondered, what’s going on? So I had to tell him he had to wait for the next book (of course not telling him that I’ve actually read that manuscript already! Hee. The joys of being a beta reader!)

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There aren’t many picture books on adoption, and I’m not sure if there are any others written by Singaporeans, so this is a rather unique book.

My first experience (I’m not sure that’s the right word but I can’t think of anything else at the moment) with adoption is my aunt, my mother’s younger sister, who was given away when she was young. It’s hard to explain but it wasn’t such a rare thing to do at that time in Singapore, in the 1950s. She was given away to a family friend but would still join us for important events like my grandparents’ birthday dinners. So she was like a relative I would see a few times a year. As a kid, I never thought much about it, but as I grew up, I began to wonder about that a bit more. But you know us Asians, we don’t really talk about things very much. It has been quite a few years since I’ve seen this auntie but I’ve been wondering how she feels about having been given away and yet still remain somewhat close to her birth family.

But I am meandering.

Melanie has written a fun book that would appeal to most kids, adopted or not. It’s a story about a loving family and their unique little boy. Sure he may be blue but he is loved by his mummy and daddy and sister Emma. I think many kids will understand what it is to feel different, to be different. And this book shows that it’s ok to be different, and that you can still be loved and appreciated for who you are.

Oh and that Emma, she’s a spunky one, that kid. I think I especially liked how she doesn’t have long hair and wears shorts. Because girls don’t always have to be in dresses!

 

 

 

staceynationalmuseum

This is Lianne’s second children’s book. I wrote about her first book, Maxilla, on the blog previously. While Maxilla was based on her son Reuben’s experiences, Stacey goes to the National Museum is fictional, and has a hint of make-believe about it.

Stacey, along with her mummy and baby brother, visit the Singapore National Museum. And Stacey gets lost! A little gibbon helps her find her way around the museum and back to her mummy and brother.

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Wee Reader had fun spotting the gibbon as it made its way through the museum. We didn’t get to visit the National Museum when we visited Singapore last year but hopefully we will the next time we are in the country! I hear it is so very different from the National Museum I remember. But I’m glad to see that they kept the lovely building and all its features!

But he also likes to point out the durian painting. While he’s not had the actual fruit itself, Wee Reader does enjoy durian mooncakes!

I liked the use of actual paintings like this one, part of the William Farquhar Collection on display at the museum, and where the gibbon is from. They were painted by unknown artists, commissioned by William Farquhar between 1819 and 1823, during his tenure as Resident and Commandant of Singapore.

 

450px-Onka'_Pootie_(William_Farquhar_Collection,_1819–1823)

Stacey goes to the National Museum would make a great souvenir for kids visiting Singapore! It is part of a series of books about museums in Singapore.

For more information on Stacey Goes to the National Museum, check out its Facebook page
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