Quick reads for the young (and young at heart) this March holidays
The March school holidays will soon be here. Whether you're planning to stay in Singapore or head overseas for a quick holiday – you'll do well to bring some entertainment for the young 'uns. We've just the thing: books!
Why? Well, they're portable, they don't need batteries, and they don't need connectivity to entertain. (See? We're helping you save on mobile data charges.)
Not sure where to start? Here are some quality books by Singapore authors that will beat any school’s reading list. Er, just don’t tell the teachers we said that!
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SUHO: THE CREATION OF THE HORSE-HEAD FIDDLE
by Catherine Khoo; illustrated by Jayne Ong
With colourful illustrations by Jayne Ong, author Catherine Khoo retells the story about the creation of Mongolia’s national musical instrument in Suho: The Creation of the Horse-head Fiddle. In this latest instalment of the popular picture book series, Asia's Lost Legends, we travel to the grassy steppes of Mongolia, where we meet a young fiddle player named Suho and his beloved horse. The two are inseparable and have fun together until a cruel king tries to tear them apart. But the bond between Suho and Khuur is so strong that the horse's spirit comes to Suho in a dream and instructs him to make a musical instrument so the two could still be together and neither would be lonely. That instrument is the morin khuur (or "horse-head fiddle").
COOL FACTS: The morin khuur, one of the most important musical instruments of the Mongol people, is also listed as one of UNESCO's Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. In order words, it's Very Important.
THE MYSTERIOUS CHICKEN RICE RECIPE
by Ruth Wan-Lau; illustrated by Eliz Ong
In Percy and Pam: The Mysterious Chicken Rice Recipe, Pam and her best bud Percy the polar bear find a recipe for chicken rice on the floor, they set out to return it to its owner. After all, a recipe for perfectly tender chicken and deliciously fragrant rice is simply too good to lose, right?
With the help of a friendly shop assistant, and a stall-owner at the nearby wet market, Percy and Pam piece together the clues to solve the mystery and, as always, make time to enjoy some tasty treats along the way. The Percy and Pam trilogy is ideal for children growing in confidence as readers and beginning to read alone.
COOL FACTS: In the 1940s, Mr Wong Yi Guan first started selling Hainanese chicken rice in Singapore by carrying two baskets on a bamboo yoke over his shoulder. He later opened the first Hainanese chicken rice stall in Purvis Street.
THE ROCK AND THE BIRD
by Chew Chia Shao Wei, illustrated by Anngee Neo
There once was a rock which stood old and alone. For a long time, it knew nothing except the lapping waves of the sea. Then one day a noisy bird came to rest on the rock – and began to annoy the rock with its incessant chatter.
The story about the relationship between a rock and a bird may seem weird, but in the hands of author Chew Chia Shao Wei, The Rock and the Bird becomes a study in emotion and attachment.
COOL FACTS: Shao Wei picked up top honours at the Royal Commonwealth Society Essay Competition when she first penned this story as a mere teen – when she was thirteen, to be precise! In 2015, the book was picked as the winner of the Hedwig Anuar Children’s Book Award. The following year, it won the Best Young Adult Title at the Singapore Book Awards.
FREDDY THE EAGER FUNDRAISER
by Swapnil Mishra; illustrated by Lai Hui Li
After young Freddy finds out about the devastating earthquake in Nepal, he is moved by the plight of the earthquake victims and wants to contribute to his school's fundraising efforts to help the Singapore Red Cross. He and his brother do household chores and sell lemonade for money but Freddy feels it is too small a contribution. Freddy calls on his friends, family, and colleagues of his parents as he decides to set up a fundraiser/awareness fair, but it's not as easy as it seems, and he has to solve many problems along the way.
COOL FACTS: Author Swapnil Mishra actually experienced an earthquake when he was a little boy living in India. That experience became part of Freddy the Eager Fundraiser.
TIMOTHY AND THE PHUBBERS
by Ken Kwek; illustrated by Lolita Chiong
Timothy Pong's first day at secondary school didn't turn out to be the best after he has a run-in with the school bullies. But he cannot turn to his immediate family for help. That's because they only interact with each other through mobile devices and his mum says Timothy is too young to own a phone. So what can he do? Luckily, Timothy has a few ideas up his sleeve, and together with the help of his undernourished friend Rudy, and his Uncle Russ Tee, he sets his plans into action. Unfortunately, things don't always turn out the way he likes. Timothy and the Phubbers is the first novel by author Ken Kwek.
COOL FACTS: The word "phubbers" is derived from the word "phubbing" and yes, that is an actual word! According to the Cambridge dictionary, "phubbing" is the act of ignoring someone you are with and giving attention to your mobile phone instead. So a "phubber" is a person who "phubs".
LION BOY AND DRUMMER GIRL
by Pauline Loh
In this young romance novel, lion dancers have become the new pop sensations in Asia, forming the new "Leopop" wave. The "lion boys" are all strapping and good-looking, but none are as charming or handsome as Ricky Ang. But while the rest of the lion boys aspire to be the part of the lion, Ricky would rather goof around as the big head doll. Although he has flocks of female fans, there is one girl who is resistant to his charms: Ying Ying, who plays the drums in their lion dance troupe. Ricky is interested in her, but Ying Ying is following her mum's advice: “don’t fall for a lion dancer, he will break your heart”. Still, there's something attractive about Ricky...
COOL FACTS: Author Pauline Loh really, really likes lion dance. “I do feel that lion dancers here are very underestimated," she says. "They have so much potential but Singapore has not paid much attention to them." Lion Boy and Drummer Girl is a little homage to them.
Check out more books for the young ones.