Kids Read #2: Pop-Up Sea by Patrick Watson

I think there are good books to be found everywhere. It doesn’t have to be in a Kinokuniya or a Power Books.

At the neighborhood grocery store, Fairprice, sometimes there’s a table set up opposite the cashiers on the way out to the rest of the food stalls and kiosks. It has children’s books displayed for sale. I like to check it out sometimes, after we’re done with our weekly shopping.

These are not Newbery Medal winners or New York Times’ bestsellers or anything fancy like that – they’re run-of-the-mill ABC picture books, or board books with 123s or shapes and colors. A lot of it is movie merchandise: coloring books with black and white outlines of Elsa and Anna, Nemo and Dory, or that dinosaur from the other Pixar film that everybody promptly forgot.

Sometimes there are quiet gems though: second-hand copies of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, good quality board books from DK, and well-made pop-up books.

I love the pop-ups. Seeing them there at Fairprice reminded me of one of Squishy’s current favorites, Pop-Up Sea published by Grandreams Inc.

popup sea 1

(Full disclosure: Pop-Up Sea is actually one of Squishy’s hand-me-down books my now 20-something year old sister used to own. Yes, you read that right, it’s a 20-year old book. As far as kids’ books go it’s ancient, but it’s in excellent enough shape that my son is able to enjoy it in 2016. This is a testament to my mom’s talent at safekeeping stuff — will tell you more about Squishy’s other hand-me-down books in a later post. You won’t be able to find Pop-Up Sea in a bookstore these days, but it’s still available on eBay. Even the publisher Grandreams seems to have folded. The last book it published was back in 2011.)

What I love about Pop-Up Sea is that the pictures, for lack of a better word, actually pop.

The back cover of the book names two “Paper Engineers” – including the man who wrote the text, Patrick Watson – who I assume were responsible for making the dolphin and the stingray look like they’re practically swimming out of the page.

popup sea 3

popup sea 4

If you angle the book just right Mr. Walrus almost looks like he’s about to give you a wet hug.

popup sea 2

If you move the pages up and down the scary-looking moray eel with its small sharp teeth can practically give you a bite.

popup sea 5

No wonder Squishy loves it.



Pop-Up Sea (Grandreams Inc.)
Text by Patrick Watson
Paper Engineering by Patrick Watson and Matt Rickard



Kids Read #1: Baby Faces by Margaret Miller

It’s a simple ask: I hope to raise kids who love to read.

My siblings and I love books. One of my earliest memories was struggling over the word “pebbles” in a Ladybird copy of Hansel and Gretel, and asking my mom how it was pronounced.

Reading, I felt, changed our lives in so many ways for the better, and I wanted to pass it on to my son.

Way before Squishy even arrived in our lives I was already trying to “build” a small library for my (then future) kids. I started with a few books I remembered loving as a child, and a few more I wish I knew about when I was younger.

I recalled the timeless charm in Shel Silverstein’s poems and black-and-white illustrations. The delicious thrill I felt from Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell’s scary stories. My amazing adventures with Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew, and Tintin. Crying with Wilbur in E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. Looking for Wally. Rhyming with the infinitely readable Dr. Seuss.

I wanted to share my love for these books with my kids. I wanted to find out what books my kids would introduce me to.

I didn’t care whether I was having a boy or a girl, or that it would be years before he/she would even be able to read them. I’m getting these books for them! I thought.

It eventually dawned on me that I had to slow my too-excited heart down. His time to read all that will come.

We all start with ABCs and 123s, so that’s where Squishy’s reading journey begins.

I read that babies love looking at people’s faces. In fact, a Stanford study (among many others) showed that “as early as four months, babies’ brains already process faces at nearly adult levels.”

That babies are so advanced at processing faces and facial expressions shouldn’t be surprising. It’s essential to their (and our!) survival.

Here’s a quote from another study, on how much babies learn from looking at faces (emphasis mine):

A lot can be learned about our social world from the faces of others. Faces provide information about age, race, gender, physical health, emotional state, and focus of attention, giving observers a window into the mental states of other human beings. During the first year after birth, infants begin to extract a large amount of information from faces: they begin to recognize identities, recognize and prefer faces from their own race, detect affect, and follow gaze. However, these sophisticated abilities are of little use if infants don’t look at faces to begin with. Put another way, to extract information from faces, infants must first attend to them.

Michael C. Frank, Edward Vul, and Scott P. Johnson, Development of infants’ attention to faces during the first year (2008)

So we made sure to talk and read to Squishy. A LOT.

One the first books we read to him is Baby Faces, a baby-friendly board book by Margaret Miller.

Start 'em young. Squishy at 3 months
Start ’em young. Squishy at 3 months

As the title implies, it’s a book with babies of different races making all sorts of facial expressions, from “Yum-yum!”, “Uh-oh!”, “Boo hoo!” to Squishy’s favorite, the “Yippee!” Baby:

baby faces

Board books are excellent for little ones especially, who often like a book more for its chewability than its content.

See? It’s so baby-friendly, Squishy can hold it in one hand!

Watcha lookin' at?
Watcha lookin’ at?

Baby Faces is a good addition to his first library, and a good start, I hope, to a lifelong love for reading.

When the time comes, I’ll be waiting with my Tintins.



Baby Faces (Look Baby! Books) (Board Book)
By Margaret Miller

Available at Kinokuniya for S$7.99

P.S. Stay tuned for more on Squishy’s books under Kids’ Read!