A picture’s worth a thousand words

Woods in the Books in Singapore is a little piece of heaven for picture book lovers.

The understated decor and appealing display of picture books make it so conducive as a bookshop that it is difficult to leave the shop empty-handed.

Drawn by a common love for picture books, owners Mike Foo and Shannon Ong started Woods in the Books two years ago. The two met through MAAD, the Market of Artists and Designers.

He is a graphic designer, artist and toy maker who likes to draw and she is an event organiser who likes to read.

The duo, who has been collecting picture books for some years now, believes “in the art of story telling through creative drawing and the value embedded in good quality picture books”.

The picture book repository carries a comprehensive range of illustrated books by internationally renowned authors, ranging from the famous works of Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Jean-Jacques Sempé’s Le Petit Nicolas to recently acclaimed works like The Missing Piece by Shel Silverstein and The Red Tree by Shaun Tan.

They also carry books with a more local flavour like The Kampong Boy by Lat and The Diary of Amos Lee by Adeline Foo under a dedicated section set aside for local authors.

All the titles are hand-picked by the both of them. Asked how they go about selecting picture books, Mike Foo says: “With these books, there is less of a language barrier. We source them from different countries. There are those that are widely acclaimed and others that have won awards. But a good picture book is simple in delivery and deep in meaning.”

A personal favourite of theirs is A Day, A Dog, a wordless book “told” in charcoal sketches by French author Gabrielle Vincent.

For all ages

The common misconception about picture books is that it caters more to children, but the two beg to defer.

“Unlike with novels and literary works where some language competency is required, picture books generally speak to people of all ages,” he explains.

“Children love picture books for the colour and illustrations and adults are drawn to them for the story, artistic delivery and the sense of nostalgia.”

Once a customer in his 30s bought Noddy – A Classic Treasury for his mum because it brought back memories of her reading to him when he was young.

They do however agree that starting a child early on good picture books can help them develop a sound foundation for reading and art appreciation.

Creating an oasis

The duo gave this venture a lot of thought before starting shop — from the name to the design of the shop.

They wanted the bookshop to be an oasis where people can “take a breather and delve into a different world”.

“Switching ‘woods’ with ‘books’ was a deliberate attempt to make people pause and ponder,” she says.

“Of the different meanings to this name, what we like most is its inference to finding adventures in books.”

They painted murals on the shop walls and embellished the shop with handmade hanging mobiles, plush toys and framed art pieces, creating a juxtaposition between art and literature.

“We also decided not to install a clock in the shop so that there is no concept of time when people are here,” she says.

The best thing about having their own bookshop is the freedom to do what they each love most — which is to read and draw.

What they hate most are the long retail hours. “Since we started, Sunday has been our favourite day. It is the only time we can have a proper sit-down dinner,” she says.

But looking at the bright side, they have had a very encouraging response, considering they are both greenhorns in the book industry.

“Many have complimented us on our collection of picture books,” he says.

“One of our regulars even jokingly requested that we lock our doors to prevent her from coming back to buy more books.”

Their advice to budding entrepreneurs is: “Just do it, because life is an adventure!” - Source: Singapore Straits Times/Asia News Network