Maxilla-Book Review and 5 Book Activities!

Book Review- Maxilla


When my friend, Lianne first contacted me to do a blog write-up for her newly published book, “Maxilla”, I couldn’t be prouder of her! I have always been an ardent fan of local writers and illustrators, as I strongly believe they have so much to offer in terms of creating a local context for children to relate their daily experiences to, as well as showcasing their storytelling and artistic flare. So you can imagine how elated I was to receive this book! By our very local writer!

In this picture book, Lianne recounts her own boy’s magical experience with a caterpillar, and how a greater lesson of letting go comes through the storyline. The main character, Reuben found a caterpillar in the garden, named it Maxilla and hoped to see it transform into a butterfly. However, he found out that Maxilla can only survive in a natural habitat, otherwise it may die. Reuben is then confronted with the tough decision of whether to set it free or keep it.

Although this picture book resembled the theme in the all-time favourite- The Very Hungry Caterpillar, it carries a deeper, more personalized meaning for young children. Children can easily relate to Reuben’s struggles of letting go, especially when they want something so badly. And the embedded message is when you choose to let go and do what is best, you may just be surprised with something remarkable!

My first reading with my little 3-year old was amazing. She was enthralled and captivated by the colourful, realistic illustrations. She could also relate with the main character in the story as we too had an amazing encounter with some caterpillars once! She could recall her past experience of watching her caterpillars metamorphosise into moths.

5 Awesome Activities Based on Maxilla

This book is rich in its potential to bring forth several learning objectives in terms of language, math and science! Based on this book, I have come up with 5 activities for my preschooler girl.

1. Caterpillar Art

For this simple art activity, simply re-use your little tea cups or bottles to make circle prints for the caterpillar! My little girl had so much fun making adjacent circles and seeing the caterpillar emerge in no time! She then requested to paint the caterpillar body green, as she recalled the illustration from the book Maxilla. She said she wanted the same caterpillar as Reuben in the story.

IMG_9273    IMG_9320    IMG_9329

2. Counting Caterpillar

The idea of using the circles to learn counting came to mind straight away when I was thinking up of a math-related activity to do. Simply write consecutive numbers on circle cut-outs, and you can create several caterpillars with numbers from 1 to 10, 10 to 20, and so on. Your child will be extremely motivated to line the numbers in sequence to create the caterpillar! It’s a great way to teach your child how to count using one-to-one correspondence!


3. Subtraction Story

For older children, your child can come up with a subtraction story, where they imagine the hungry caterpillar eating up food items. You can use food cut-outs as visual aids for your child, and simply write out a subtraction story. Then come up with a subtraction sentence and number bond representation for the story. This method helps to contextualize learning for your child since it is a book-based activity, and also interests your child to pick up beginning concepts of subtraction. I did this activity with my class of 6-year olds and they love it!

photo (7)

4. Butterfly Snack

I saw this lovely idea online and decided to try making some butterfly snacks for my girl and her classmates. We went to the supermarket to browse through the selection of nuts and cereals, and turned out to be a very enriching experience of getting to know the various types of nuts and cereals! She then worked with me to decorate the clothespins and her eyes sparkled when I put it together to make into butterflies! It is a wonderful way to entice your little one to eat healthy!

IMG_9346    IMG_9343

5. Butterfly Kit

This is probably our favourite activity to do! Learning science is simply about tickling your child’s curious mind. Providing a sense of wonder and curiosity is the first steps to getting your child excited about learning about the objects around them. This picture book is ideal in introducing the theme of insects or caterpillars to your child! You can easily get a butterfly kit from Oh Farms, and let your child have an experience of caring for their very own caterpillar and watching it turn into a butterfly! Through it, the lesson on the life cycle of a butterfly takes on greater meaning as they  experience it first-hand for themselves! Remember to document the whole process with photos and dialogues with your child, and it can become a long-lasting memory for your child!

You can find out more about purchasing your butterfly kits from this website

Author Biography

Lianne Ong is a freelance writer who writes primarily about parenting, education and fashion. Maxilla was written based on events that happened when her family was living in California. She now lives in Singapore with her husband and two children, Reuben and Phoebe.

Maxilla Book

Grab a copy of Maxilla picture book at all major bookstores in Singapore (Kinokuniya, Times Bookstore and MPH Bookstores) at only SGD $10.60!

For our overseas readers, it is also available worldwide at MPH Online!

For more information on Maxilla, do visit the Facebook Page

(FYI, I do not receive any monetary reward for writing this book review! It’s all for the love of supporting our local writers! 🙂

photo 1 (16)

This blog post is published in The Preschool Survival Kit Magazine distributed to all preschools in Singapore. 



Picture Books on Farm Animals

Children love learning about farm animals found in picture books about farm life.  Even though they don’t live on farms and get to experience farm life, children are particularly fond of exploring topics on animals and their characteristics. Cows, pigs, chickens are popular characters in picture books, which captivate the young readers and get them acquainted with names of the farm animals, and their individual characteristics!

1. There was an old lady who swallowed a fly (Illustrated by Pam Adams)


This classic is one of the popular favourites with children. The text has a simple tune to sing along with, and it is catchy for any child to follow. It is about an old lady who starts eating farm animals (like fly,spider,bird, cat, dog…) in hope that the animal she swallowed will catch the previous animal. There is a simple rhyme to the text, and and it is a fun, repetitive book. The illustrations are colourful and visually appealing to the readers. Children love memorizing the sequence of the animals in the story. It forms almost like a food chain by the end of the story! This is a great story to teach naming of farm animals and even comparison of sizes among the farm animal species.

2. Who Sank The Boat? (Pamela Allen)


This is my personal favourite of Pamela Allen’s books. This book is a perfect combination of wit, humor, anticipation and surprise, a homerun with children of all ages. The story is about five friends; cow, a donkey, sheep, pig and a small mouse who decided to get into the boat for a row.  The reader is invited to make a guess who will be the animal to sink the boat, as each farm animal gets into the boat one by one. The unexpected twist plays with the children’s expectations based on the logical reasoning of the weight and size of the farm animals. The hilarious ending makes for a wonderful read for both parents and children.

3. Mr Archimedes’ Bath (Pamela Allen)


This is another classic from Pamela Allen. It is a humorous account of Mr Archimedes taking a bath with his three animal friends and the bath tub keeps overflowing with water. The mess is so unpleasant that he wants to find out who the culprit is. He used a measure and asks each animal to get out of the bath and finally discovers who it is. This is a scientific discovery for both the characters and the reader! The comical moments, the striking illustrations and the use of animal characters in the story makes it an interesting read!

4. Rooster’s Off To See The World (Eric Carle)


The rooster wakes up one morning and decides he wants to travel the world. He meets many farm animals along the way like the cat, frogs, turtles, and invites them to join him on his adventure. The story is set in beautiful colourful, collage illustrations and beguiling, simple text. Eric Carle cleverly embeds the Math lesson of counting up and counting down in this exciting story. Eric Clarle wrote this book especially for children who has difficulty learning about numbers, and the symbolic stickers positioned at the side of the text helps children visualise numbers in its quantitative form.

5. The Little Red Hen


In this old folk tale, the little red hen finds a grain of wheat and asks for help from the farm animals to plant and harvest the wheat. This ever-charming book teaches children lessons on work ethics like hard work or cooperation and character traits like helpfulness. It is also a cautionary tale about reaping what we sow. There are many renditions of this well-loved story that have sustained its popularity. It has a simple, yet powerful message for all to learn!

6. Chinese books on farm animals

IMG_0014 IMG_0015 IMG_0016

I found this series of Chinese readers on farm animals locally at Popular Bookstore. The illustrations are digitally done, with bright colours and clear drawings. I like it that the text is simple with easy to read Chinese characters, and each story features a farm animal with its physical characteristics, its abilities and its personality. The portrayal of these characters makes them very endearing and loveable. My girl loves this series so much that she could recite some simple lines after the fourth round of reading them! This is a great series to start your child on naming animals and talking about them in Chinese.

We will be adding more picture books on farm animals, with focus on the sounds they make!

Look out for our next post on teaching animal names as a follow-up activity after the introduction of farm animals through these books!

Not A Box!

Title: Not a Box

Author: Antoinette Portis

Where to get: Available in public libraries and major bookstores

This book is one of my all-time favourites, a must-read book to tickle the imagination of a child! It is a picture book that is a great hit with adults too!


It tells of a rabbit who insists that a cardboard box is not a box! The rabbit then imagines it to be many things in his mind. From a robot to a spaceship, the character travels places as far as his imagination can take him! The examples below show how the rabbit sits in a box and pretends he is in a racing car. Another instance in the book portrays the rabbit standing on the box and transports himself to a high mountain.

20130820-151500.jpg                20130820-151506.jpg

This book is highly creative and illustrates how children play with objects with boxes and engage in pretend play!

You will fall in LOVE with this book for several reasons:

1. Simple Text

It has a repetitive question and answer format echoing throughout the book. It provides predictability for emergent readers and the language chunks used in this book are great for children to pick up and use in their daily speech.

2. Clear Illustrations

It has simple colours like black, white, red, yellow that capture a child’s attention straightaway. The simple line drawings will also appeal to young babies and toddlers. These simple pictures will be especially visually helpful for children with autism or ADHD to pay attention to the story.

3. Taps on the child’s imagination

It offers opportunities for children to use their inferencing and predicting skills to imagine what the box can look like. They have to observe the visual cues of the pictures to imagine what it will represent.

4. Lots of teaching points!

You can use this book in many ways to teach different language use like prepositions (on, in, around), use of wh-question words (why, what) as well as the use of negation like the word “not”.

Look out for our next post on our own creative play episode with boxes!


Meanwhile, start collecting boxes for your child!

Zoo Animals Picture Books

Children have such a fascination with animals. One of the reasons can be that animals are living creatures just like us, and there is so much about animals to learn about; their physical attributes, their special abilities and their habitats. Animals inspire so much wonder and curiosity in children who are discovering so much about the world around them!

Below are some of my personal favourites when it comes to introducing young children to zoo animals!

1. Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do you hear? (Eric Carle)

IMG IMG_0008

Eric Carle needs no introduction. He is one of the greatest children’s book writers in our time. He illustrates colourful, captivating characters that makes it so easy for children fall in love with. He is renowned for turning a simple plot into a magical experience for children. In this book, he takes children in this exploration about the sounds that zoo animals make. In terms of language, the repetitive lines in the book makes it easy for children to pick up chunk language or phrases, that can be used in their daily speech. It is also a great book to pick up new vocabulary such as zoo animals, and the sounds they make. You can use this anytime as a read-aloud book, and mimic the sounds that the animals make to make the book come alive!

2. From Head to Toe (Eric Carle)

from-head-to-toe IMG_0010

This is another great Eric Carle classic! From head to toe is a simple story about how a boy imitates the movement of the different zoo animals such as turning his head like a penguin,bending his neck like a giraffe, and stomping his feet like an elephant! Rae loved it when I first introduced this book to her at 14 months old. I will follow the pages and model the animal actions for her, and she loved imitating it back to me (which was hilarious!). This is one reading activity that is irresistible to any child!

3. Edward the Emu (Sheena Knowles, illustrated by Rod Clement)


I used this book a lot when I was teaching the 4 to 6 six year olds! It is a heartwarming story about how an emu didn’t like being an emu, and thought he would be happy if he could be like the other animals in the zoo. He pretended to be a seal, a lion, and a snake, and later realised that others loved him just as he was. The story teaches self-esteem, and children loved it for the humor presented in how the emu ended up looking silly when he tried to be like the other zoo animals. The text is made up of rhymes, which is great for children to enjoy!

5. Possum Magic (by Mem fox, illustrated by Julie Vivas)


Mem Fox is a very popular Australian children’s books writer (one of my all-time favourites for sure!). Possum Magic is such a whimsical story that tells of the adventures of a possum who became invisible under the magic spell of her grandmother, and wanted so badly to be visible again that they embarked on a journey through the different Australian cities in search of the ‘food’ that could break the spell. Children reading this book will encounter Australian zoo animals such as the Koala bears, the kangaroos, as well as the boa constrictors.

6. ZZZZZ…. A Book Of Sleep (By Ill Sung Na)


I stumbled upon this book in a book sale when I was travelling in Perth with my then toddler. She was immediately drawn to this book because of the cute cover of the owl. Upon reading just a few pages with Rae at the store, I knew this will become one of our family favourites! It is an interesting book about how different zoo animals sleep! The koala bears sleep in peace and quiet, while the elephants make a lot of noise! The horses sleep standing up, the whales sleep on the move, the giraffes sleep alone while the penguins like to huddle close together! Rae learnt so much about the sleeping habits of these animals in a simple, yet amazingly interesting book! Part of enjoying the illustrations in the book is spotting the owl hidden in every page, like playing hide and seek!

Hope you will pick some of these books in the library or bookstores, and enjoy learning more about zoo animals with your child!

I will be putting up a post for an activity about zoo animals! Stay tuned!