Archive for the ‘Bookelicious Asia’ Category

Had the pleasure of launching our Marky Polo in Beijing at the Singapore Writers Festival two Saturdays back.

These in-person events are so few and far between these days that it was the only time that illustrator Nicholas Liem and I have met since the kick-off meeting on this book at the start of this year. I’m glad we did so we could finally take some photos together!

There were plenty of safe management measures in place. We could not talk or socialise with the audience. Seats came with sticker labels, reminding people to sit apart.

Our welcome pack include ART swab kits – truly a sign of the times.

There was no Festival bookstore in Arts House, to reduce mingling. Instead, the charming National Library Board bus was parked outside Arts House and was the “pop-up bookstore”

What really warmed my heart happened after our event.

A family of four came up to me to ask for autographs. The mum said she was glad to see me as they were told that they could not speak to us at the event. She shared that her kids have loved my books from young. Then she pulled out 3 of my books for autographs. One of the books was my first edition of The Tale of Rusty Horse ie. my first print-run of the book from 13 years ago!

It would be an understatement to say that it absolutely warmed the cockles of my heart to see that this family had kept my book with them for 13 years and then taken the trouble to bring it to Arts House (in this Covid climate) to get me to autographed it!

Thank you to this lovely family for their encouragement and also such an uplifting reminder why I continue to plough on and write!

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The past month has been an intense but meaningful period, which started on the day right after my Jubilee year birthday.

Two nights before my Jubilee year, I received a very long late-night WhatsApp text from Dr Darryl Lim, who was Caleb’s paediatrician from 4-5 years ago. It had always been a doctor-patient’s mum relationship, so we weren’t exactly in contact after Caleb switched to seeing GPs once he passed preschool years.

What created a dotted-line connection between us was when I bumped into Darryl whilst driving into the carpark of Mt Alvernia carpark on Day 2 or 3 of Chinese New Year 2019. I remember it vividly because I had gotten my mum admitted into hospital, for what was to be her final three weeks before passing.

Darryl was crossing the road to his clinic and called me as I was turning into the carpark. We said a rushed “Hi” to each other. That led to occasional WhatApp season’s greetings. But that was that.

That was until 16th October last month when Darryl sent a long WhatsApp message sharing about a volunteer telemedicine initiative that he had started in support of MOH’s Home Recovery Programme. With this initiative, his volunteer paediatric team from private practice could take some load off our hospitals through their telemedicine consults with Covid-positive children recovering at home. He shared about how parents and kids were fearful and uncertain of the Home Recovery process and thought that the doctors calling them were scam callers.

I could not resist writing Darryl into the story!

Through sheer coincidence, I decided to have a Indian doctor in the children’s A&E to reflect our multicultural team of doctors. Then, Josef drew him from imagination. When Darryl saw the draft, he told us that he has a good friend who is a doctor in A&E who looks exactly as Josef had drawn. So, we got permission to use his real name here too. For me, these two pages are such a beautiful picture of private and public healthcare folks working hand in hand for the health of our children.

Darryl asked what I thought of his idea of doing a simple booklet with illustrations to explain the Home Recovery journey (which then evolved into a full-fledged 36-page children’s picture book). Was it practical and executable? He said he’s my biggest fan and can I help produce this book? Haha… Also, by the way, it would need to be quick and there’s no budget, so can I do it pro-bono?

For something like this to work, I knew I needed an illustrator who could produce the right illustrations + quickly + free… Haha again. The name that came immediately to mind was Josef Lee, who is a picture book author and illustrator.

I started following Josef’s Facebook posts of his pandemic picture book stories a few months ago. And as I read his stories, two thoughts had crossed my mind:

Firstly, I thought… Wow, I really like how Josef is using his talent during this pandemic in his tribute picture-stories to healthcare workers, teachers, migrant workers et al. I would really like to do more of such meaningful writing that is uplifting and beneficial to others in this pandemic period.

Secondly, I like Josef’s artwork style, with its somewhat retro-comics feel and two/three-colour illustration style. I thought this was one person I would like to collaborate with at some point.

I parked these thoughts at the back of my mind.

Fast forward to 17th October morning. Josef came back to mind immediately as the right creative to help with this project. I must confess that my initial thought was simply to introduce Darryl to Josef and ask both of them to work on this together. After all, Josef is an author as well as an illustrator.

I messaged Josef through Facebook (because we actually don’t know each other and I didn’t have his mobile), asking if he could take on this pro-bono project. Then I settled down to some spiritual quiet time. As I did, a second thought dropped into my mind quite immediately.

Hey, Darryl asked you to help. You are now approaching Josef, who you don’t know, to take the entire project off your hands. Why don’t you collaborate instead?

Oh, I said to myself. I guess if Josef comes back to ask me to collaborate, I take it as the sign and confirmation that I am meant to work on this.

When I ended my quiet time, I looked at my phone which pinged with a message from Josef. He said yes and proposed that we collaborate on this, with me as the author and him as the illustrator.

The sign was clear.

We got on board with the project immediately. I started a three-way WhatsApp chat group that same afternoon. We had our kick-off Zoom meeting with Darryl, Josef and myself two days later (right after my birthday). From then on, we were on an intense super-speed bullet train ride in the creation of this e-book through days and nights. (The editor of my other books actually re-emailed me, saying it was not like me to not answer emails. But I simply did not have the bandwidth or headspace to look at anything else).

The invisible hand behind this project prepared me on this speed-writing front with experience I had gained from two of my latest book series.

Marky Polo Travels is a hybrid picture book series which I developed, as inspired by my son Caleb, to appeal to kids like him who were moving out of the picture book bracket to junior chapter books and comics. My hybrid picture book series blends comic book panels with picture book pages to bring a more pacy and lighter touch to the storytelling. Informational boxes across pages allow for fun facts on the city that we spotlight in the book. And I added extra post-story pages to highlight other city attractions and more fun facts on the native animals.

Marky Polo’s creative framework inspired the format for our Covid home recovery ebook. And the invisible hand that brought Josef and I to collaborate also brought on board an illustrator who does both comics and picture books and works at lightning speed. A typical picture book production process takes minimally 6-9 months from concept to publishing. With God’s enabling, we completed this book in 3 weeks. And this is the first time Josef and I are collaborating, and we still had to factor medical input from Darryl and his team in my writing and Josef’s illustrations.

My latest Wow Wild Asia picture book series, which will be out by end of this month, prepared me to write from a first-person point-of-view perspective. My children’s books have always been in third person point-of-view writing style because it’s easier and more familiar for me. Working on three picture books for Wow Wild Asia in first person POV earlier this year gave me the confidence to dive straight into first person POV for I Can Recover at Home!

The title came easily too because my Wow Wild Asia series comes with first person POV titles – I Really, Really Don’t Like Water! being the first book I’ve written in this soon-to-be-launched series.

I believe that the invisible hand of God brought Darryl, Josef and me together to produce I Can Recover at Home! Our work process has been very much on the same page and an excellent complement of skillsets.

I love what one of the doctors on the paediatric team (that reviewed our draft copy) said. She was quoted in our e-book’s feature story in Straits Times Life! on Monday 15 November, and her quote captured the heart of why we produced this book.

Dr Agnes Tay from International Baby Child and Adolescent Clinic in Ang Mo Kio said this: “The e-book is simple to read yet includes accurate facts and practical details. This delightful work of art struck me with its clarity and its message of hope and assurance that all will be well. It is truly a labour of love.”

For me, our labour of love came out of the invisible hand of God and His Love for our little ones who fear Covid and the recovery process. A subject of fear was turned into a theme of clarity and hope in our little picture e-book. And I hope that it will help our children towards allaying their fear of the unknown through this Home Recovery journey that we have now made known through this book.

I thank God for His invisible hand which is very visible to me.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10

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Thank you Straits Times and Elisa Chia for supporting us with a full page feature story in today’s Straits Times Life! on this free e-book which we created as a gift to our community!

Read the full and free-to-read story here:


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Very privileged to be part of this collaboration to produce ‘I Can Recover at Home! – A COVID Home Recovery Guide for Families & Kids’ – together with illustrator Josef Lee and Dr Darryl Lim. We have produced this e-book for young children to provide a reassuring peek into the journey of recovering from COVID at home. It is also meant as a handy guide for parents and caregivers caring for their COVID-positive kids. We’ve packed it with helpful information, useful tips and website links.

This e-book is produced as part of a voluntary community initiative. It is also meant to be a supporting resource for the team of doctors providing free telemedicine care for children with COVID, in support of our Ministry of Health’s Home Recovery Programme.

You can download the FREE e-book from this blog’s homepage (look for download button in top right column).

Please help to share this e-book resource with friends and families with children under 12 years old. Together, we can move towards living with COVID as an endemic!

You can download the free e-book on this blog’s homepage from 14 November 2021!

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Thrilled that Marky Polo gets a spot in Straits Times’s Fun with Kids column for his travels to Beijing in both the print and e-edition of Straits Times Life today!

The e-version of Straits Times Life includes a pagespread from our book!


The print edition has a different layout format.

Whichever way, I’m delighted all round!

Get your copy of Marky Polo in Beijing in the bookstores or with World Scientific Education’s online store!

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! Marky Polo in Beijing arrived at my doorstep hot of the press today!

In the second book in our Marky Polo’s Travels series, Marky’s cousin Martial Polo invites him to Beijing, after hearing of his first trip overseas to Tokyo. Martial Polo is a Wushu enthusiast who dreams of being a renowned martial arts expert like Great-grandmother Muay Thai Polo. Martial turns Marky’s holiday into an exhausting strength-building, endurance-training workout. Can Marky endure Martial’s bossy nature and find a way to enjoy sightseeing in Beijing at a slower pace?

Marky Polo in Beijing is packed with amazing illustrations of Beijing, a humorous and entertaining story and lots of fun facts. We hope kids can travel vicariously through the pages of this augmented reality integrated children’s book and enjoy this educative read. Inside pages to follow in the next post!

Thrilled to have worked on this with amazingly talented illustrator Nicholas Liem and World Scientific Education. And of course our taskmaster cum Publisher Ruth Wan who brought Nic and I together for this fantastic collaboration.

You can visit World Scientific publishing website to pre-order the book before it hits the bookstores: https://www.worldscientific.com/worldscibooks/10.1142/12485

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At the end of Singapore’s Circuit Breaker in 2020 (Singapore’s version of a lockdown), I found my conversations with my dad had become everything Covid-related. I felt we needed to change the conversation. So, I decided to write his life story.

I interviewed my dad over a series of scheduled interviews (although we live in the same house…LOL).  I recorded and transcribed each interview (my wannabe journalist instincts). Then, I sat down to put it together into a manuscript.

The project came to a pause earlier this year when my dad was diagnosed with cancer. For the next few months, we were in and out of hospitals for consultations, tests and scans. He’s just completed his last cycle of chemotherapy, in time for his 77th birthday. So, it’s been timely that I was able to publish his legacy book in time to celebrate both his birthday and end of chemotherapy treatment.

I blogged last year about how my grandparents moved from China to Singapore in search of a better life around 1940. After World War 2, my grandfather wanted to heed China’s call for their people to return to rebuild the country. He felt a strong sense of duty to his home country.

When my grandmother did not allow him to do so, it led to a heated argument which led to him taking a chopper and chopping off the last finger on his left hand to show his resolve to go back to China. Grandma gave in when he threatened to cut off another finger.

This was what happened next in my dad’s words:

“Father took my two elder brothers and me back to China. Unfortunately, the ship that we were on sank shortly after leaving Hong Kong harbour. I learnt that there were two ships at Hong Kong harbour at that time. There was a storm brewing and that other ship stayed in the harbour. But the ship that I was on set sail and sank shortly after.

According to records, on 19 July 1947, U.S. destroyer ‘Myles C Fox and Hawkins with British escort ship HMS Hart saved the crew and passengers of SS Hong Kheng after the passenger ship had run aground on Chilang Point some eight miles north of Hong Kong. Six motorboats, two from each warship, and two skiffs from Hong Kong made 76 trips to save some 1,800 survivors.’

I was about three years old then and too young to remember. Both my older brothers remembered that when the ship started to sink, my father used a rope to tie all three of us to him to keep us together. My first brother Poh Chan said it was so that we would not get lost.  My second brother Poh Chiew said that the real reason was that if one could not survive, it would ensure that we would go down together.

My family was rescued and brought back to Hong Kong. We subsequently made our way to Xiamen, Fujian and back to our village.

According to an old newspaper clip Straits Echo & Times of Malaya, dated 22 July 1947, “the ship ‘Hong Kheng’ had 1,800 passengers. After the passengers were removed, the ship caught fire spontaneously and all luggage on board was destroyed.””

Grandmother eventually brought my dad back to Singapore and my two uncles remained in China with Grandfather.

This and many more stories of my dad’s and grandparents’ generation are what we’ll pass down to our next generation.

It took the pandemic for me to pause and produce this legacy book. I’m glad that I did as I am richer for it in experience and memories.

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When Kai Kai and Jia Jia first arrived in Singapore in 2012, Wildlife Reserves Singapore approached me to write the giant pandas’ story. As it was their wish that the giant pandas would produce a baby, could I bring baby panda into the story?

Fiction preceded reality.

Three Kai Kai & Jia Jia books were birthed between 2012 – 2015:

In the first book, A New Home for Kai Kai & Jia Jia, the giant pandas get to know Singapore and their friendly neighbours living at River Safari.

In the second book, The River Adventure of Kai Kai & Jia Jia, Kai Kai & Jia Jia go on a river cruise adventure to welcome their new neighbours – the giant river otters. Jia Jia doesn’t feel well through the cruise but later discovers that she isn’t ill, but pregnant.

In the third book, The New Face at River Safari, the giant pandas and their friends prepare for the arrival of baby panda.

What lovely news to see it happen for real, with Kai Kai and Jia Jia now new parents of baby panda!

Kai Kai & Jia Jia’s picture books are sold at Wildlife Reserves Singapore’s e-bookstore and physical stores at the Singapore Zoo and River Safari.

More of Kai Kai & Jia Jia’s story of how their baby came to be – at Mothership:


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I’m delighted to have stumbled on a performance that children from an international school here in Singapore put up based on my book The Tale of Rusty Horse. It looks like a parent posted the video to Youtube.

This was the book that almost didn’t see light of day because I was concerned that it would not measure up to my debut picture book Prince Bear & Pauper Bear. My sequel book syndrome…haha.

It was also 2008 – a pivotal point in my life when I was trying to decide if I should pursue writing or say “Been there, done that in my sabbatical” and beg my former bosses for a corporate job back.

In the story, Rusty Horse was torn between crowd opinion and being true to himself. I too was torn between choosing to return to the glamour of a hotel job or pushing books to schools with my lonesome trolley. There were conflicting voices on both ends.

I finally listened to the inner voice and decided to be true to self – pursue writing and not look back. Shortly after, I became the first author in South-East Asia to win a Moonbeam when Rusty Horse giddied-up away with the Gold medal at the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards in 2009. It felt like Heaven’s nod to my station in life.

And Rusty Horse has remained a favourite with several friends, which I have been giddy with delight to know that.

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Marky Polo in Tokyo was launched at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2021 (AFCC) through a book talk where illustrator Nicholas Liem and I were moderated by bestselling author and former journalist Hwee Goh.

If you missed the live on-line session at AFCC last month, it is now available here:

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