I don’t really enjoy writing book reviews because I used to write endless book reviews as a graduate student. But I think I might enjoy reviewing books that I read to my children. Here is my first book review and its not exactly great because I did little research, but I was hoping to spread word about it because its such a great book.
While there are many brilliant local writers in Singapore, very few have tackled children’s picture books. Now picture books are not easy to write and the illustrations have to move in tandem with the narrative, so I can see why it might be a challenging project for our young literary scene. And when there is a local author who attempts at writing for very young children, I am quick to grab a copy.
My favorite book from Singapore to date is The Mango Tree by Hidayah Amin. It’s told from Hidayah’s point of view, growing up in the Yellow Mansion in Kampong Glam, and it is about her life and her favorite mango tree that was planted in her backyard in honor of her birth. The story provide snippets of how the mango tree has grown and blossomed together with Hidayah. But at the heart of her story is the representation of the mango tree as a metaphor for her own culture, family and history. By the end of the story, I am always disappointed when I read to my daughter that the authorities did nothing to keep their promise to Hidayah never to chop off the mango tree. For anyone who have anxieties as I do that I have little to show my children about the places I grew up in or used to go as a child because they have all been demolished, replaced, upgraded, “improved”, you will really like this book.
We need more books and picture books to remember these places. Photographs are great, but stories are even better. How are we suppose to commit ourselves and tell our children to commit themselves to a place that has no memory, or rather lack of respect for the collective memories of Singaporeans?