Books for Younger Readers from Singapore

Today’s post again comes from Barb Reid, Head of Libraries at UWCSEA East here in Singapore. She has picked out a range of her favorite books for younger readers written in and about Singapore, suitable for children ages 7 to 10. You can find Barb’s previous post about picture books from Singapore here, and our overview of publishers, bookstores, and other resources for SingLit, here.

In spite of my library catering for this age group I find it  difficult to fall in love with many books at the lower end of this age range, so apologies in advance that the books listed here are more suited to 9 to 10 year olds for independent reading or as read-alouds or read-withs for the younger end of the scale. I wanted you to see what I think are some interesting books and also some books that I have genuinely enjoyed. I know that the children in our school love these books (with one exception, explained later) because they see themselves or their little island, reflected in the pages and stories. 

ten

Ten: A Soccer Story. Author: Shamini Flint. Sunbear Publishing, 2009. ISBN: 9780544850019.

Shamini is a very prolific author for all ages. Although she was born in Malaysia, she has called Singapore home for many years. Shamini’s Diary of…  series is perfect for this age group and they love it, but this book, Ten,  is an absolute favorite of mine. Even though it’s ten years (or more) old, it has so many relevant themes. Ten-year-old Maya is growing up in Malaysia in a mixed race family. She is soccer mad, she has issues with friends and what’s worse, her mum and dad are not getting along. It sounds like a lot, but it is so beautifully dealt with in this small package! On another note, Shamini is a fantastic author visit so, if  see her coming to an area near you, snap her up. The kids love her.

 

Amos Lee

The Diary of Amos Lee. Author: Adeline Foo. Epigram, 2009. ISBN: 9789810824846.

In 118 pages this book, in Diary of a Wimpy Kid-style, tells you everything you need to know about Singapore. Amos’ tiger mum doesn’t believe that going to the bathroom is an excuse not to be learning so she buys him a diary and forces him to write in it daily, whilst sitting on the loo. The result is that every major event that happens throughout the year in Singapore is documented through the eyes of this mischievous ten-year-old boy. It’s funny, it’s fun and you will learn so much about Singapore from Amos Lee. Adeline is also a prolific author with some of her books, including Amos Lee being produced for local television.  Treat yourself, watch the clip!

 

House on Silat

The House on Silat Road. Authors: Si-Hoe S. S. & Sim Ee Waun. Illustrator: Lim An-Ling. Pepper Dog Press, 2018. ISBN:

The House on Silat Road is the book that I have been waiting for someone to write for years, and finally, they did! At some point most Primary School children study war or conflict ,and I was constantly struggling to find a book set in Asia that dealt with this in an appropriate way. My British School students read plenty of accounts of The War in Europe, but some of my students had never been to Europe so it meant little. Singapore is rich in WWII history, and now they have a book that they can read and relate to, and even visit the places that are described in the book. I didn’t enjoy the first book in the series quite as much, The House on Palmer Road, but I will revisit it soon and view it through a different lens.

 

The Little Singapore Book

The Little Singapore Book. Authors: Sim Ee Waun & Joyceline See Tully. Illustrator: Diane Ng Rose. Pepper Dog Press, 2015. ISBN: 9789810976248.

This nicely illustrated non-fiction book is a lovely entry into history for younger readers. It starts in the 14th century and takes the reader through to Singapore as we know it today. Readers will experience culture and stories along the way and recognise the neighbourhoods and landmarks that make up modern Singapore. Note, this is a second gong from me for Sim Ee Waun, she is clearly an author to watch out for! 

 

A Yellow house

A Yellow House. Author: Karien van Ditzhuijzen. Monsoon Books, 2018. ISBN: 9781912049349.

Full disclosure, I do not have this book in my library, but it is a great book. It may be my Australianness that makes me uncomfortable with it in a Primary setting, in spite of the main protagonist being only 10 years old, and the subject matter being extremely relevant to our Grade Five students. Unfortunately, the book uses a quite vulgar word at one point, which may make it unsuitable for some Primary libraries. Language concerns aside, Karien has told a story that needs to be told in a skillful way. The plight of Foreign Domestic Workers is so newsworthy in Singapore, and nearly all of our students have “helpers” so this makes this book doubly relevant . This book describes the relationship between Maya and her “Auntie” in a family where the parents are busy pursuing their careers. Maya, through her Auntie, becomes aware of the problems facing other domestic workers (maids) whilst dealing with bullying and her own grief over the death of her grandmother. 

Kairen is Dutch, grew up in Asia, and currently lives in Singapore. She has grown up with maids in her home and now supports a charity in Singapore for abused Foreign Domestic Workers. This is a wonderful book, and it is a story that needs to be told. I will put it in the hands of students after discussing that one word with parents. If your community would be okay with this then I highly recommend this book. 

I love to discuss controversial children’s books so if you have an opinion on my decision, please email me at bre@uwcsea.edu.sg. Remember, it’s all about context!

4 thoughts on “Books for Younger Readers from Singapore

  1. Barb, you make me want to read each and every one of these books! I can just imagine you book talking these to your classes. Thank you for sharing your expertise with all of us.

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  2. It would be a pity if one or two isolated words in the story prevented this book from reaching a wider audience. The experiences of foreign domestic helpers in Singapore (and throughout Asia) is certainly one which local children should be encouraged to think about, although I admit that so far I have decided not to address this topic in my own books.

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