Here’s your chance to support a brilliant new children’s book series about Asia’s real-life science superheroes
We’re all for getting kids excited about science, and the team behind Singapore’s Asian Scientist magazine is on a mission to do the same. Earlier this month they introduced a brilliant new children’s book series, Asian Scientist Junior, on Kickstarter, and in less than a week were able to meet their funding goal!
Geared toward kids ages 4 to 8, the beautifully illustrated series profiles six noteworthy scientists from Asia; all but one are in fact still living (Indian space scientist Udupi Rao passed away in 2017), and two – Paleontologist Chang Meemann and Nobel-prize winner Tu Youyou – are women. It’s a truly fabulous initiative to raise awareness of Asian scientists’ important contributions to fields including marine biology, nuclear physics and biomedical research (did you know, for instance, that a woman in China developed a cure for malaria? I sure didn’t!).
According to Asian Scientist Editor and Wildtype Media CEO Juliana Chan, who spearheaded the project and wrote some of the books,
“As a mother of two children aged two and four, I buy children’s books in droves. I’ve also bought books on scientists, such as Marie Curie, but how many of these incredible scientists that we read about are from Asia? None, of course. The fact remains that despite their considerable contributions, scientists from Asia have yet to enter the public imagination.
“Given that we aren’t children’s book publishers, my team decided to adopt this as a passion project. One year later, the Asian Scientist Junior series is completed! Each illustrated book dives into an individual scientist’s life from childhood to adulthood, and discusses their failures and achievements. While the names and stories of these scientists are familiar to other professional scientists, the general public will likely never have heard of them before.”
Sassy Mama team member Emilie got a sneak peek at the books and shared the following feedback after reading the first three in the series with her children who are 6 and 9:
“As a parent that has lived in Asia for close to 20 years I loved that the accent was on Asian scientists. I hadn’t heard of any of them! I thought the stories were beautifully illustrated and very well written. Especially when it came to explaining the scientists’ projects, which can be complex, the author managed to simplify it enough for a 6-year-old to understand. I would love to see more of them!
“My 6-year-old was very interested in the stories and had a lot of questions about the scientists and their projects. This led to meaningful conversations about our planet, the importance of medicine and how one person’s dream can impact his/her community/country/world.
“My kids both asked me to read the remaining 3 stories tonight!”
Adds Editor Beate:
“We love reading scientific books and have a lot of lift -the-flap Usborne science and body books in our collection, along with Rosie Revere Engineer, Iggy Peck Architect, and Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, so these Asian science books are right up our alley. Living in Asia it is especially important to acknowledge Asian scientists and this book does just that in an accessible, kid-friendly way.
“My son’s favourites were the Chou Loke Ming book (‘I like snorkelling and sea stories’) and the book about Shinya Yamanaka (‘As I love experiments’). The books left him quite curious to find out more!”
We interviewed Juliana Chan to find out more about the initiative, including whether the enthusiastic response to the Kickstarter campaign means we can expect a Volume 2. Be sure to visit www.asianscientistjunior.com to nab yourself a copy of these fab books, mama!
What is the target age range of your junior audience?
We have beta-tested the stories on kids from a range of ages, including my 4-year-old daughter, and we find that the stories are suitable for children aged four- to eight years old. Some of the terminology like “paleontologist” will prove difficult for younger kids.
It’s so cool that all but one of the featured subjects are still alive and practicing, setting them apart from figures we normally read about in history books. Can you explain your thinking behind this?
We originally wanted to choose six living individuals so that we could collaborate with them on their stories, but Indian space scientist U. R. Rao’s story was too good not to be told, and we decided to make an exception in his case.
How did you decide which scientists to profile?
The six scientists are individuals who have personally inspired us but have stories that may not be so well known. You should have seen the long list! The editors first made a long list of candidates, which we then debated endlessly, and only six made the final cut.
We had a few criteria to consider: first and foremost, the six scientists had to be performing scientific research at the highest international levels—this criterion was not negotiable. Second, they should represent a mix of scientific fields ranging from nuclear physics to biomedical research, to show to kids what is possible in science.
Third, the stories should represent Asian countries strong in research and development, as well as offer a balance of men and women; considering that women have won only four percent of all Nobel Prizes, we did our very best to ensure that two out of the six names were women.
Will there be an online or multimedia component to these books?
I have on many occasions succumbed to the temptation of playing shows such as Peppa Pig or Paw Patrol for my kids when I needed some peace and quiet in the house.
I would much rather my children read physical books and play with physical toys, so I doubt we’ll create an online component to these books.
That said, if a TV producer out there is interested to develop a series on scientist superheroes from Asia…. *voice trails off*….
If the project is successful, do you hope to publish a second volume?
Yes, in a heartbeat! On 10 August, an anonymous donor came forward to purchase and donate a set of six books to every library across Singapore. There are 26 public libraries in Singapore, which means there will be 156 books available for borrowing! We are overwhelmed by this donor’s generosity, as well as the support we received from everyone including the Straits Times, which announced the launch of our Kickstarter campaign, our 60 backers on Kickstarter, and Sassy Mama.
To tell you the truth, I’ve already started reviewing our long list for names for a future edition. The limiting factor is our time and energy, as our editorial and marketing costs are not adequately covered by book sales alone. Nonetheless, there are many excellent scientists from Asia whose stories need to be told. If not us, then who?
Images #2 and #4 courtesy of Cyril Ng