Afternoon Tea at the Raffles Hotel is the first board book set in Singapore; find out what inspired the author, who’ll be signing books for Sassy Mamas this weekend
My daughter and I read a new book the other evening — Afternoon Tea at Raffles Hotel by Fleur Vella-Chang. The board book, the first I’ve seen that is set in Singapore, asks: what do the animals from the Singapore Zoo do on their day off? (They meet for cake and tea at Raffles Hotel, of course.)
The book highlights Singapore’s most recognisable icons and landmarks — the Merlion, Changi Airport, its shophouses—and is the perfect Singapore souvenir or gift for families with new babies. Young readers will relish Vella-Chang’s cheeky illustrations that showcase the vibrancy of Singapore’s flora and fauna. “[I spot] an Oriental Pied Hornbill or a handsome grey monkey looking suspiciously at me through my living room window!” Vella-Chang says.
Read more: Sassy Mama’s Top 10 Baby Books
Afternoon Tea at Raffles Hotel is a board book: its high contrast images are perfect for little eyes and its sturdiness can stand hard wear by babies, who tend to throw and chew them. Although my 4-year-old is much past the stage of gnawing on her books, her board books are still beloved to her as she can now read them herself! She appreciates this book’s simple and silly rhymes (“Gus took the bus,” “Pip sailed by ship,” etc.).
Vella-Chang was a teacher in Australia, but found her true calling as a graphic designer after moving to Singapore as an accompanying partner. She received international recognition for her academic work as student at Chatsworth Mediart Academy, which gave her the professional validation that she needed to pursue design and illustration as a career.
Afternoon Tea at Raffles Hotel is not Vella-Chang’s first book; she wrote, illustrated, and self-published her debut, The Story of Flora, in Australia. While studying the children’s literature market in Singapore, she found few, if any, books for emergent readers (infants). “I knew of so many mothers looking for books for their little ones,” she says. “I had found my niche.”
Her illustrations always begin as doodles and she always carries a pen and paper on her daily errands. She then recreates her drawing digitally and spends a lot of time editing. “I muck around with colour and redraw again and again,” she says. “Editing takes a long time.”
As she basks in the publication of Afternoon Tea at Raffles Hotel, Vella-Chang is making a lot of art — but not on anyone else’s deadline! “I love ceramics and sculpture and floral art and I’m doing a lot of that to find inspiration for my next project,” she says.
Want to know more, mama? Fleur Vella-Chang will be doing an exclusive reading and signing books this Saturday, 16 April at our April Mama Meet Up! The book is available for purchase on the publisher’s website, and at Kinokuniya.