Our resident children’s author reviews a wonderful new Singapore children’s book, The Amazing Sarong
Back in November, at the Singapore Writers’ Festival, my family and I attended Epigram Books’ “Children’s Picture Book” launch event, where we heard Quek Hong Shin, a graphic designer and illustrator, read from his first picture book, The Amazing Sarong.
In The Amazing Sarong, Nora and Adi set off to the beach when Ibu, their mother, takes off her baby sling, a handed-down, batik sarong, and gives it to her two elder children. In the course of the afternoon, brother and sister discover the unexpected fun, joy, and new encounters a sarong can bring—as a towel, a canopy, a blindfold, and a safety net.
I really loved this quiet, gentle book. The illustrations are vibrant and energetic, and my daughter asks me to read it over and over again. (And, of course, it explores similar themes as my picture book, so what’s not to like?).
My only complaint is that I wish the book featured protagonists in a contemporary setting rather than in a “kampong”, or village setting, as so few commercially-published fiction titles feature non-Chinese children in present-day Singapore.
Quek, in an email interview, told me he entered an early draft of The Amazing Sarong into the 2013 Singtel Picture Book Award competition. While he did not win, Epigram Books subsequently acquired the manuscript, where his editor suggested that he add additional characters to his story including the siblings’ multiracial group of friends—Xiaoming, Asha, and Fauzi.
“[I wrote The Amazing Sarong] to give children a glimpse of ‘kampung life’, and that, with creativity and imagination, a seemingly ordinary, everyday object can be of many uses,” he said.
The Amazing Sarong is a very welcome addition to our bookshelves. The book is available online from Epigram Books (SG$14.90). Many thanks to the publisher for sending this lovely book my way!