Reading with Eileen

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Today we have with us Eileen Sim, formerly a magazine sub editor, now a stay at home mother to two, she has an amazing children's book review blog called Picture This Book and an equally amazing Instagram.

Her mission is to give honest reviews of children's books that parents and educators can easily access. She says, "Aside from the usual suspects (Suess, Boynton, Carle, Willems and other 'bestsellers'), many fantastic children's books tend to be unjustly overlooked, and, thus, sadly unread by their intended audience. So while we do feature deserving reads by the former, we also take pride in introducing books that are a little off the beaten track but worthy gems all the same." We love that and were thrilled when she agreed to let us interview her!

Please welcome Eileen.

Name: Eileen
How many kids do you have and what are their ages? I have a son and daughter, and they are 6 and 4, respectively.
What did you study in college? Food Science and Technology
Where do you live? I live in the tropical city-state of Singapore

What are 3 ways you foster reading in your home?
I handpick every book in our house so I can rest assured that the kids are always surrounded by the good stuff. We have books and bookshelves in every room of the house except the kitchen, so their sheer presence is also a great visual reminder to read! I also make it a point to read to the kids every day - both new finds and old favourties - and our storytime is not limited to just before bedtime.

What 5 picture books do you think every home library should have?
Wow, that is a tough one since I can probably name a few hundred, ha! Also, I think the definition of a good home library is pretty subjective since it ought to appeal to the particular child and evolve as he or she grows. That said, anything by Margaret Wise Brown, Arnold Lobel, Charlotte Zolotow and Julia Donaldson should be appealing to most kids.

What did your parents do to foster a love of reading in your childhood home?
My parents -particularly my mom- thankfully understood the value of books and reading, so we did have a small library of books (mainly Ladybirds) to call our own, which she read aloud to me and my siblings. When we were a little older, my parents would also bring us to used/rental bookstores and set a budget for us to spend on whichever books we chose…and that was probably how I was first exposed to American culture -- through tons of Archie comics and the Sweet Valley books, ha!

We share a comment interest in vintage children's books, can you share your top 5 favorite vintage children's books?
Again, I have way too many favorites to name, but We Were Tired of Living in a House by Liesel Moak Skorpen and Doris Burn gets a special mention since that was the first vintage book I ever bought, and it is one that the kids and I absolutely adore. I also collect anything by Arnold Lobel, Charlotte Zolotow and Jack Kent.

What are your favorite places to find vintage books?
Sadly, Singapore has very few good bookshops and almost none that sell vintage children's books, so most of the vintage books we currently own were bought online from Ebay, etsy, etc. or when we travel. I always make it a point to visit thrift shops or used bookstores overseas since I love the thrill of  finding unexpected book gems.

Are there any favorite international picture books that you've come across in your travels that American families might not have heard of?
I grew up with Ladybird stories that are probably more popular in the UK and Commonwealth nations, and the vintage editions are absolute gold! In terms of new discoveries, Instagram is probably one of the best ways to get a good feel of what people are reading, and Aussie author Aaron Blabey is one of the authors we discovered through other people's posts, and whose excellent Pig the Pug books we bought when we were in Perth recently. They are hilarious!

What are you reading right now with your kids?
The kids are a on a Ladybird kick right now, and since the books have different reading levels, both kids have particular favorites that they can read independently. I'm not in a hurry to push them into chapter books either, so we all take turns to pick various picture books, either borrowed from the public library or from our own collection, to read every night. They are spoilt for choice so it's rare that we read the same book twice in a row!

What are you reading right now for yourself?
A friend passed me a copy of The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, so that will probably be my next read.

Do you have a favorite children's Christmas book? If so, what is it?
Yes, I love Raymond Brigg's grumpy Father Christmas!

Are you curious about the awesome illustration of Eileen that she uses as her avatar? We were too, so we asked her to give us the story behind it, she says:
The hugely talented Micah Player occasionally takes commissions for illustrated family portraits, so we got ours done last year, and I loved it so much that I asked Micah to crop and modify the avatar of me from the portrait, which he very kindly did.

We hope you are enjoying this series as much as we do. We love picking the brains of readers who love children's books just as much as we do. Discovering new to us authors and illustrators and learning about how other families promote reading in their homes is the best. If you love reading and would like to be featured in our Reading with series please let us know!


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