Welcome to Singapore! Over the next few posts I, along with Barb Reid and Mairin Raisdana from International School Library Network (ISLN) in Singapore, will share some of our favourite local organizations, resources, authors, and books from and about Singapore, with a focus on children’s and young adult literature. Singapore is a multilingual, multicultural city state, with four official languages: English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil. Singapore has a thriving literary scene, one of the best public library systems in the world, and some wonderful international school libraries and librarians. Drop us a line if you find yourself here–we are always up for a librarians’ night out!
LOCAL LITERARY ORGANIZATIONS AND EVENTS
Red Dot Awards: Founded in 2009, the Red Dot Awards are an initiative of the International School Library Network. Librarians from international schools in Singapore devise shortlists of eight books in four categories each year: Early Readers, Younger Readers, Older Readers, and Mature Readers. Shortlists are announced in June each year, and students vote on their favorites between March and May of the following year. The Red Dot website includes information not only about this year’s books, but also about past shortlists and winners. The shortlisted books are explicitly meant to include a range of nationalities, and often include books written in or about Singapore and the wider region.
Singapore Book Council: The Singapore Book Council was founded in 1968 to support and promote Singapore authors and literature. They run a number of events, including the annual Asian Festival of Children’s Content conference, which brings together authors, publishers, and content creators from all over Asia and the world to talk about new trends in publishing and to celebrate excellent children’s and young adult content. In conjunction with Scholastic Asia, they are responsible for the Scholastic Asian Book Award and the Scholastic Picture Book Award, both of which recognize books that celebrate distinct Asian themes and experiences. The Book Council is also responsible for the Hedwig Anuar Children’s Book Award, a biennial award for children’s literature written by a Singaporean author or permanent resident.
Singapore Writers Festival: The Singapore Writers Festival is in its 22nd year, and is one of the largest multilingual writers festivals in the world. It celebrates works written in all of Singapore’s official languages: English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil. Though the festival is geared towards adults, they have a strand for students and anyone interested in young adult literature.
Epigram Books: Epigram Books is Singapore’s largest independent publisher. They publish a large range of children’s and young adult books. They are also the publisher of one of my all-time favorite books about Singapore, the absolutely wonderful Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew. They also publish a number of series for younger readers, including the popular Sherlock Sam and Mount Emily books. Sugarbread, by Balli Kaur Jaswal, is on the Mature Readers shortlist for the Red Dot Awards this year.
Ethos Press: Ethos Press also publishes a range of Singaporean children’s books. They published the excellent This is What Inequality Looks Like by Teo You Yenn, which takes a sympathetic and thoughtful look at what life is like for the poorest Singaporeans.
NUS Press: Though NUS Press is an academic press, they are worth noting for any library wanting to add serious non-fiction books about Singapore and South East Asia to their collections. They recently published Wanderlust: The Amazing Ida Pfeiffer, the First Female Tourist, which tells the story of the first woman to circle the globe alone.
Bubbly Books: Bubbly Books is a small Singaporean publisher, with a focus on children’s and young adult titles set in Asia. Their biggest hit has been the RUNHIDESEEK trilogy, written by then fourteen-year-old Singaporean Gabby Tye.
Balestier Books: Balestier Books is an independent publisher of contemporary global literature, including adult, young adult, and picture book titles from all over Asia, as well as Africa and the Pacific. They have offices in London and Singapore.
LOCAL BOOKSTORES AND OTHER RESOURCES
National Library Board: The NLB is one of the best public library systems in the world. There are branches all over the island, and a massive central library in the center of Singapore. Their website provides access to a wide variety of resources for Singapore history and culture. This guide to Singaporean books for children and teens is useful and comprehensive.
BooksActually: BooksActually is an independent bookstore that specialises in literature and fiction in Singapore’s Tiong Bahru district. They also have an impressive selection of nonfiction works, as well as the largest collection of Singapore literary publications. One can often find out-of-print titles here. In addition, BooksActually publishes and distributes books under their Math Paper Press imprint, and produces a stationary line named Birds & Co.
Closetful of Books: Closetful of Books is owned and operated by Denise Tan, who is an invaluable resource for books written in and about Singapore. She arranges workshops and visits with local authors, and has put together this guide to the writers and illustrators she works with here.
The Moon bookstore and cafe: The Moon is a small bookstore with a big selection. Half of their titles are by women authors, and they have a special focus on writers and artists of color. They have a dedicated section for young readers, as well as in-house merchandise and consign artwork and products by local makers. The building also houses a cafe and a performance space.
Woods in the Books (picture books): Also located in the Tiong Bahru district, Woods in the Books is a small independent bookstore for picture books. Their second location- Books Ahoy!- is located in Forum The Shopping Mall on Orchard Road and offers a selection of picture books and chapter books for younger readers. Both shops offer classic and well-known titles, as well as local and hard-to-find titles.
Once Upon a Garden City: Published by the National Arts Council in 2012, Once Upon a Garden City is a bibliography of Singaporean picture books, chapter books and young adult fiction books.