Monday, April 07, 2014

History/Social Studies Textbooks Now and Then

Diva likes the comic section best!

Last Sunday, I was talking to a couple of girls in Primary 5 and 6 about their Social Studies textbooks. I was happy to hear that they liked it. "It was like a magazine!" one said, and she meant it in a good way. The latest textbooks are bright, cheery and full of illustrations. They even have comics, er... graphic novels in them!

This is a far cry from the textbook I used when I was in school. There was no social studies in primary school so my first encounter with history was in Secondary 1. The textbook I used was "Social and Economic History of Modern Singapore" and  the thickest book in the school bag. It was perhaps more serious than the textbooks of today with a lot more words. Surprisingly, I liked the textbook. (Probably because I liked to read).  I was especially taken by the stories in the "Supplementary reading material" section. I always thought these bits were more interesting than the main text!

My fascination with history textbooks has lasted for many years, I even did my Masters thesis on Singapore history textbooks. So I was very happy to have contributed to the P5 Social Studies textbook as consultant and happier with the way they turned out. The team at the Ministry of Education worked very hard on them, and I hope that the students of today appreciate how much efforts goes into making their first encounters with history fun and interesting.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Who is Cheong Soo Pieng?

I've always been interested in art, so I was excited when I had the opportunity to research and write a book on pioneer artist Cheong Soo Pieng for the National Art Gallery, Singapore. At first I only knew Soo Pieng as the artist of the Salted Fish painting that is found on the back of our $50 bill. By the end of the project I knew much more!

This book was also interesting in that it was my first attempt at a graphic novel or rather "tovel" -- a textbook cum novel. I really liked how the illustrator Ann Gee was able to translate my suggestions into lively, colourful illustrations and appreciate the efforts of the book designers in playing with the design such that every page was interesting and a delight to the eyes! If you have the chance, check out the book. It is different from my other books but it has inspired me to do more biographies of Singapore personalities in the future.

Find out more about Soo Pieng at the Art Gallery website. This book is available at Select Books.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Primary 3 Social Studies Readers

Last month, I was happy to attend a launch of new readers for the Primary 3 Social Studies programme. The main reason for my attendance was to see my books -- I wrote three of the readers -- finally in print! I enjoyed researching and writing the books but there is nothing like reading the stories fully illustrated! I hope the P3 children will enjoy reading these stories in their classes.

Ah Kong's Farm is a story about Ah Kong who has a farm growing vegetables and fruits. One day, he is asked to change his farm or give it up. What will Ah Kong do?

Mr HDB tells the story of Mr Lim Kim San, the first Chairman of the Housing and Development Board (HDB), and how he helped build homes for Singaporeans.

Getting Around traces the changes in transportation in Singapore from the days of rickshaws and carriages to cars and trains.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The story behind Deanna and the Railway Cats

I was happy that the Sunday Times finally published my story "Deanna and the Railway Cats" yesterday. Many thanks to the National Arts Council (NAC) for making it happen.

Just thought I'd give a little background to the story. It was inspired the closing of the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station and the plight of the many cats whose lived in the station. I wished that I could have done something for the cats, but by the time I found out, the cats were already well taken care of by the Cat Welfare society. See

As a cat lover and proud owner of three adorable Singapore cats, I thought the least I could do was write a story inspired by these railway cats. I knew that many cat owners named their cats based on the colours of their fur, and favourite coffee shop drinks. So I named the cats Alia (ginger), Teh (brown) and Kopi-O (black) roughly based on the colouring of my own cats. Too bad ST had not picked up on this and got the illustrator to reflect this in his accompanying picture.

I hope that the story encourages children to have positive feelings about cats, and to think about their welfare. I know there are many children who love cats, as well as children (and adults!) who are terrified of them. For me, there can never be too few stories about cats!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

P1 & P2 Social Studies Readers

Last year I was happy to write 4 Social Studies Readers for use in Primary 1 and 2 classrooms. Classroom teaching is so different today compared to when I was in school. Children get to learn from big books with lively pictures and local content!

For Primary 1 students, I wrote two stories: Siti's New Home and Don't Cross the Line! These two books feature a sister and brother team who have fun but sometimes get into trouble with each other. The first story Siti's New Home was inspired by Queenstown -- the neighbourhood I grew up when I was a child.

 For Primary 2 students, I wrote another two stories: New Girl in Town and We are Singapore. In the latter book, we meet a pair of twins -- Emma and Ethan. These characters were inspired by my own niece, Emma and nephew, Ethan. Like the character in We are Singapore, my niece Emma asks a lot of questions. Overall I enjoyed writing these stories and I hope students and teachers will enjoy reading them!