Monday, September 17, 2012

{Guest Post} My Favourite Children's Author: Leo Lionni

I love Leo Lionni's meaningful fables too, and I'm very happy to have fun and creative Adora Tan of The Gingerbread Mum guest post and tell us all about him.

She is mum to Poppy, 4, Calla, 5 months. She tackles mealtime mayhem, kitchen disasters and playground politics on a daily basis. In between breaths, she writes for parenting magazines on a freelance basis and runs a crafts-for-kids business. She enjoys cheap chocolates, smelling her baby's head, and would really like a good night's sleep.

She's even offering a giveaway. Read on to find out more!


Some time ago, we chanced upon Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni and feel in love with it and the simple but adorable story. I loved how he shared at the end of the book that he got the idea from babysitting his grandkids, and decided to tell them a made-up story one day.

We used it to learn about mixing colours and even made a craft out of it; you can read about it here. Since then, I’ve been on the look out for Lionni’s books each time we visit the library. So far we have read quite a few, and some are great and well loved in our household, but some are rather hit and miss. But what you can be sure of is absolutely gorgeous illustrations.

Now here’s the thing about illustrations: I really don’t like ‘cheapy drawings’, neither do I like the overly classy kinds. These are kids’ books, and I think the illustrations should reflect as such, and should appeal to kids. Keen to pick up a Lionni book? Here's what we think of some of them we've read:

A Colour of Its Own is a beautiful book that talks about chameleons and how they change colours to fit the environments they are in. One chameleon was fed up about having to change colour all the time but realized it’s actually not too bad if he had a companion. So there’s a little bit about friendship in there too. Too lazy to read the book? This is a fun video of the story you could watch.

Swimmy is a story about a group of fish ganging up against a bigger fish that was taunting them. It was actually a bit too long and draggy for Poppy. She got bored of it quickly. But it should be interesting for an older child.

Fish is Fish is one that we loved so much that we actually bought the book. It’s great because the pictures show the tadpole in its growing stages and ultimately becoming a frog. Tadpole and Fish are good friends, but when Tadpole grows into Frog, he leaves the pond and hops off to explore the world. One day he returns to tell Fish all about the world. But Fish cannot really picture what people look like or what these strange animals with milk bags attached on them look like. I especially love the drawings of the fish’s imagination. A great story to teach life cycle of frog.

Geraldine and the Music Mouse is a lovely one. We enjoyed it a lot, and weeks after it’s been returned to the library, I can still tell it from memory. This has the potential to start exploring different kinds of music with your child, but I’m not very musical, so Max brought Poppy for the Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s Casual Concert.

Tillie and the Wall was promising throughout but disappointing at the end. A bit anti-climatic, if you ask me. Too much build up for a “Huh?” kind of ending. Bummer.

Cornelius is one that I believe could have been developed further. But it was a fun read nonetheless. A cute story about how a croc didn't fit in with his family and went off to learn cool tricks from a monkey and when he returned to show off to his family, they were all like "Yeah whatever". But then soon as he's out of sight, they try out all the tricks he showed them. I suppose one could extend the story to explain about acceptance and peer pressure.

Tico and the Golden Wings reminds me a lot of the typical old fashioned Chinese virtuous tales. All about caring and sharing, the world before I and such. A tad bit slow and predictable. Not one of our favourites. We didn't even realise Max had returned it to the library.

It’s Mine! is an easy read with an easy to explain moral. It’s captivating. I urge every mum with an under 8 year-old to read this. It’s so easy to say when on a playdate, “Remember to share, just like in It’s Mine!”

Frederick is cute. Poppy first heard the story in her old playschool but I’m guessing they didn’t go too much into it. So we got it from the library and read it MANY times. It’s fun to talk about the different seasons and stocking up for the Winter, and about the power of imagination. Now if she asks me “Can we go somewhere?”, I can say “Sure! Let’s go in our minds, shall we?”. Sometimes we just lie down and close our eyes and I ask her to describe what she sees.

Among all the books it is Alexander and the Wind Up Mouse that is our absolute favourite. It’s rekindled her love for a little windup ladybird she has. Now she makes me tell her this story again and again. If I tell her other stories and include the part about the magical lizard, her eyes light up the moment she recognizes it as a character from this book.

So since there were so many mousey books in the series, we did lots of mousey activities as well:

Mouse Race!
She’s back to asking me for surprises when she gets back from school, so today I did this very quickly (like in 3 minutes): cut up triangles for mouse, added circles for ears, drew on the eyes, nose and whiskers, and then used bluetag to stick them on her wooden trains. When she got home from school, we had a race :) The funny thing is that because the trains are magnetic, they kept getting stuck on our dining table’s legs!

Feelings and expressions
I drew 6 mice with different expressions, and asked her to paint them, using appropriate colours to depict their feelings. She decided on yellow for happy, red for angry, blue for sad, white for sleepy, purple for deep in thought, and grey for impatient.

Play Cat and Mouse!
The game is called Viva Topo but the words bear no meaning to us so we simply call it Cat and Mouse. It’s an all time favourite in our household. We also wrote a review on the game; if you're interested, you can read about it here. Alternatively you can simply play hide and seek - mice hide and cat seeks :)

Mouse Puppets
Made with brown paper bags, these are easy and quick to make, and are lots of fun. We use them to tell our stories too :)

Minnie Mouse Colouring
Poppy got an amazing colouring book from her grandmother at Christmas – it’s got magic markers which only work on the magic paper of the colouring book and she loves it! It’s her quiet activity if she wants to be in the room with me when I’m putting the baby to bed.

So you've listened to me drone on and on about Lionni and mice, and now you're itching to get your hands on one? Well whoopdy doo, here's the best news of all! I have a brand new copy of Alexander and the Wind Up Mouse up for grabs so that you too can enjoy it as much as we do!

Here's what you have to do to participate:

All 3 points must be fulfilled. Incomplete entries will be disqualified! 
(it's bolded and underlined and in a different font colour and all, so "But I didn't know!" is not an acceptable excuse)

1. Like The Gingerbreadmum's FB page (if you have not already done so!)

2. Email me at with the subject: "I'm loony for Lionni!", and let me know why you'd like to have that book.

3. Leave your name and email address. Well, only if you want to be contacted if you win :)

Giveaway will close on 1 October 2012, at 11.59pm.

This giveaway is only open to readers in Singapore.

1 comment:

  1. Yay! Congratulations to MamaJ - You've won for yourself a copy of Leo Lionni's Alexander and the Wind Up Mouse! I'll be in touch soon :)


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