This weekend I found myself back in Tiong Bahru. I was on my way to visit Woods in the Books, another independent bookshop almost next door to BooksActually. It would be my second visit to WITB; I wanted to confirm if my earlier impression of the shop was correct.
There was a light drizzle but the sun was out. We passed by a table filled with pots of sweet-smelling incense sticks and food: mandarin oranges, green apples, milk and juice cartons, fried mee, and local cakes. August in Singapore is the month of the Hungry Ghosts, a time when spirits are allowed to roam the earth freely. I think it’s quite telling that one of the first things these spirits seek out is something to eat.
I initially thought (and some blogs say) that WITB is a children’s bookshop, but I later find out from their own website that they’re an “independent bookshop [specializing] in picture books for all ages.”
This explained a lot. On my first visit I was a little confused to see copies of Kunwu and Otie’s ‘A Chinese Life’ and Morgan Chua’s ‘Tiananmen: 25th Anniversary Edition’ shoulder-to-shoulder with ‘Mud Pies and Other Recipes’ and other books from the New York Review Children’s Collection.
That said though, I would still say most of the books in the shop are for kids and teens. The shelves are filled with comfortingly familiar names and titles: Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake, the Harry Potter series. On the table in the middle of the store there is a wooden crate with children’s books by local authors. Some books were written in both English and one of Singapore’s other official languages (Tamil, Malay, Standard Chinese), sponsored by the Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism. I found Ann Peters’ ‘Farrer Park: Rhyming Verses from a Singapore Childhood’ and asked for a newer copy but was told I held the last one. I bought it anyway.
At the back, there is a small activity area where WITB holds art workshops for kids aged 4-9 years old. WITB also holds book launches: last Sunday it was Sampan (Wooden Boat) by Chua Hui Ying and the place was filled with adults when I visited (hence adding to my earlier confusion: where are the kids?).
WITB also had small soft toys and illustrated alphabet postcards for sale.
I bought a few books to add to my non-existent kids’ shelves, including the first book in ‘The Diary of Amos Lee’ series by Adeline Foo (‘I Sit, I Write, I Flush!’) and one from the former president of Singapore. Will write about my finds soon.
I thought it would be nice if WITB added a space for kids to hang out and read–maybe set out one of those rubber alphabet mats and a few cushions on the bare area towards the front, in addition to the area closed off for crafting at the back? It might encourage kids to linger — and lingering in a bookshop is always a good thing. Just my two cents. :)
No photos allowed inside — they actually follow you around (surreptitiously) to make sure you don’t take any.
No. 3 Yong Siak Street, Tiong Bahru, Singapore 168642