The biggest bookstore in Singapore is called Kinokuniya. I refer to it as “the bookstore” because I can’t seem to remember the name correctly and I have to check my spelling every time I write it! My husband and I escaped our home on Saturday night and went to the bookstore. I love my husband, he buys me watercolors when he travels and whisks me off to a bookstore when we finally have some together time. We always end up in the children’s book section, but because 2013 had been a rough year for us, we had neglected the children’s book scene and this was the first time in a while that we were browsing through the newcomers on the shelf.
Looking at an unfamiliar bookshelf is a glorious thing. There is all that potential for life enriching discoveries, patiently waiting for a curious hand. I stood facing the shelves and waited for a book spine to single itself out. A fresh looking peppermint green spine looked promising… but as I pulled it out the cover immediately disappointed. Then I tried the tall one with Rackham type silhouettes that peeked out temptingly only to disenchant with it’s sloppy imitation of genius. One after another I pulled books from their cosy spots, only to put them back again.
These books were incomplete, their story lines unsatisfying, the humor unintelligent and the illustrations nothing remarkable. How do these books make it onto the market? Isn’t it suppose to be difficult to get your books published? Is this really all the industry could come up with? The whole exercise was becoming dreary and disheartening. Lucky for me, I had my smart husband with me, he has exceptional taste in children’s books and a rare ability for finding good things. He discovered a gem in that pile of plastic rhinestones. One of our favorite books is “The Paper Dolls” by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Rebecca Cobb. A new book written and illustrated by Rebecca Cob was released in October last year. It is titled “Aunt Amelia” and it is the most delightful book I have seen since I discovered “Journey” by Aaron Becker. My spirits lifted, here was a worthy book, it is whimsical and funny and the illustrations are so darn adorable! Then a very unassuming soft cover book caught my attention and I spent ten minutes wrapped in it’s spell. “The Princess’ blanket” mesmerizes you with its dreamy illustrations done by Catherine Hyde a UK based artist. The story written by Carol Ann Duffy is traditional fairy tale material and weaves a soft, satisfying plot, none of those limp Lemony Snicket type endings!
While we smiled at beautiful singaporean children that were staring at us as we sneered and snickered and laughed and our rear ends went numb sitting amongst treasured and tacky books in Kinokuniya, we learnt valuable things. We looked up the illustrators we liked and found out who their agents were, made a mental list of the publishers who like the books we like. Learnt more about what makes a beautiful book and an engaging story. Mostly we re-enforced the love we have for children’s literature and that is the most valuable treasure of all. We ended off the evening with some fragrant berry tea and dainty macaron, while discussing alligator aunts and british agents.