This highly illustrated non-fiction title traces the story of Singapore over 700 years, from old island kingdom to the current day.
I’ve had this title on the radar for over a year now thanks to a recommendation by Australian author and picture book aficionado Dimity Powell. At 79 pages, it is on the lengthy side for a picture book, but don’t let that put you off as you can easily dip in and out at your leisure. The book comprises four main chapters covering a period of 700 years from Singapore as old island kingdom, through British colonisation, WW2 and independence to the current day. Larger chunks of text are broken up by smaller nuggets of information and interactive elements such as crosswords, quizzes, recipes and invitations to check out resources on the book’s companion website. Beautifully written in clear, readable prose, this title also showcases vibrant artwork on every page.
Throughout The Little Singapore Book, there is a strong emphasis on Singapore as a thriving community of people from different cultural backgrounds and traditions. Singapore’s journey is described at the start as ‘a tale of immigrant communities and diverse cultures coming together as one, to beat all odds.’ Authors Sim Ee Waun and Joyceline See Tully zoom in on various neighbourhoods in modern day Singapore, such as Chinatown, Little India, Katong and Orchard Road and provide fascinating glimpses into their past. They mention the different cuisines that are available – noodles and stir-fries from China, Malay sambals and kueh – as well as the creation of dishes specific to Singapore. Readers will discover that Singapore even has its own unique language: Singlish. Diane Ng Rose’s brightly coloured illustrations portray the wondrous diversity of this island-city state (its peoples, cuisines, buildings) through double spreads, full-page images and smaller vignettes.
Yes, this is a fascinating book, packed with facts and information about Singapore’s past and present. It is sure to appeal to readers in Singapore, but also to visitors – and those who want to expand their horizons from the comfort of their armchairs. It has a ‘travel guide’ feel about it. An additional section at the end of the book highlights favourite places in Singapore. A heritage trail along the river is also featured, with a series of sites to see along the way. I was not surprised to learn that both authors have a background in travel writing! I visited Singapore briefly a long time ago and I’d leap at the chance to go again with this book in my backpack. One day!
The Little Singapore Book written by Sim Ee Waun and Joyceline See Tully, and illustrated by Diane Ng Rose (Pepper Dog Press LLP, 2015)
Sim Ee Waun is a food, travel and parenting journalist who now writes children’s books. She recently published her second book The House on Palmer Road, which she co-authored with her mother. She is a founding partner of boutique children’s publisher Pepper Dog Press,
Joyceline See Tully is a journalist and managing editor of Wine & Dine, Singapore’s longest-running gourmet food and wine magazine. She is currently working on her second children’s book.
Diane Ng Rose is a graphic designer, food & product stylist, and illustrator with a background in publishing.