Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Legend of Lady Yue by Don Bosco


This is the fourth book in the Sherlock Hong Adventure series written by Don Bosco which is hitting all major bookstores as we speak. 

I loved this book best out of the four perhaps because there was sword fighting involved. Or elements of it at least. 

In this action-packed book, Sherlock Hong, a curious and adventurous boy, sets out to solve the mystery of the missing sword fighting manual of Lady Yue when he finds out that it is missing. 

I really enjoyed reading this book and Morse code is featured! Just like what a good detective novel should include. At the end of the book, you can even decode a message that is left just for you. Loved that bit.

The holidays have just started and if your kid is already bored out of his/her wits, grab this book and chase away all such feelings. Trust me, you'll love it.

You can check out my reviews of Book 1, Book 2 and Book 3 and buy the books at Popular, Kinokuniya, Book Depository and Amazon.

Enjoy!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Giver by Lois Lowry


This is one haunting tale that I had to review. One of my student lent it to me last Saturday and I neglected to read it until the very day before I met her again. But it was such a breeze to read that I finished it in less than a day, reading most of it on the commute.

It is BRILLIANT.

The beginning was rather boring and I had to force myself to press on because I am the type that usually finishes (almost) every book she starts on. And I'm glad I did. Because it just keeps getting better.

This is the dystopian novel before The Hunger Games or the Divergent trilogies got popular. Slightly less disturbing than Brave New World, it is just as good. Set somewhere in the future (we are not told when), it is a story about a bunch of people living in a well regulated and safe community which at first glance seems rather like the life we are living, except that everyone's a lot more polite.

Fast forward to the interesting section of the book where twelve-year-olds attend a Choosing Ceremony where they are assigned their future vocations. Protagonist Jonas isn't chosen which causes him quite a bit of disquiet until they announced that he hasn't been assigned but chosen to be the new Receiver for the community.

He goes through a bout of intense training from the previous Receiver (who is now called The Giver) and that's when he realised that his whole life is a lie. Which is putting it rather mildly. Turns out that these people can't see colours, don't have many feelings, and have no memories of the past. The Receiver is in charge of bearing all these burdens for the community and suffers under the weight of it.

Both Jonas and the Giver hatch a plan to restore memory to their community and you can read to find out what happened eventually.

As I was reading this book, and especially after I finished it, I felt like it was an allegory for the country that I'm living in. For the formative years of our lives, we are put through the education system that creates a lot of Sameness in most of us. We value the things that are of little importance. We start to take pride in rituals created by mere humans. And most frightening of all, we end up not being able to see the more important things in life or find ourselves numb to many things that should evoke strong emotion in us. 

Instead of the colours and wonders of this awesome planet, we are reduced to a rat race that is dominated by grades and good results. Instead of learning empathy for the weak and expressing love for our friends and family we fixate our eyes on those who are "less-than" and mercilessly criticise those who have transgressed the rules of our society. Instead of remembering the glorious history that is our past, we worry about the competitiveness and productivity of our country and peg ourselves against the best of the world.

There can be so much more to education that what it currently is. And I hope I can be part of the solution instead of a mere armchair critic.

All this from reading a book.

Books are powerful y'all.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Scroll of Greatness by Don Bosco



Parents of reluctant readers might do well to get the Sherlock Hong Adventure series. 

This third book has the protagonist Sherlock Hong searching for the Scroll of Greatness which has gone missing. After some difficulty, he eventually recovers it with the help of a mysterious old lady. 

While reading, a section of the book really inspired me. It made me stop and think and I even snapped a photo and uploaded it onto Instagram. It's good advice for anyone in general and I'd like to share it here with you:

"Be patient and wait for your moment. No matter what your circumstances might be, never give up on your dreams. Pursue the truth with all you can and work diligently at your duties." 

On a different note, I think I preferred the first and second book to the third because there were more things going on. Also, I felt the character development of the various characters in the third book could be explored in a bit more detail. 

Nevertheless, I think kids (the target audience) would probably not let these things get in the way. I'm sure most would still find the book an enjoyable read. 

As always, you can buy the book at Popular Bookstore, Kinokuniya for local readers and Books Depository or Amazon for international readers. 

Enjoy!




Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Peranakan Princess by Don Bosco


The second in the Sherlock Hong Adventures series, this book is chockfull of action and is guaranteed to keep you or your child at the edge of your seat.

It's 1891 and Sherlock Hong is an intrepid youngster in Singapore dying to solve the strange mysteries that he encounters. In this book, he has to save a little girl, the Peranakan princess, from the evil Tan Yah Yah who wants her make a killing in the black market.

It turns out that the princess is in possession of the contents of The Book of Secrets that has been translated into song. As the last living descendent who is able to sing it, she is a very precious asset indeed.

The book is fast-paced and is written in such a way that makes it easy to read aloud. When I met the author, he mentioned that when he wrote the book, he kept that at the forefront of his mind as he wanted it to be a book that parents could easily read to their children. It is amazing that although the sentences are short and simple, it did not make the story any less interesting.

I read the book twice and felt that it would be really interesting to the target audience of primary school students. As an educator, I have half a mind of using this book as a text to engage some of my students who are reluctant readers. With supernatural elements of magic and more, it is a text that would definitely capture the attention of young readers.

The only negative feedback I have is how suddenly the character Idris White is introduced and the accompanying plot twist he brings. When I first read it, I thought it was rather abrupt and felt a little forced. However, on my second reading, I just zoomed past it without noticing it. I guess it depends on how immersed one is in the plot.

I would recommend this book to parents of primary school kids. They could read it independently or for slower readers, read to by their parents.

You can get your copy at Kinokuniya or order it online from the Marshall Cavendish website. In addition, for my international followers, you can order it from Book Depository or Amazon.

Reviews on Books #3 and #4 and coming soon!

Check out the review on the first book in the series, The Immortal Nightingale here.




Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, November 2, 2015

寻找 by 阿果


While browsing at the bookstore at the Singapore Writers Festival this past weekend, I chanced upon this book located under the "Picture Book and Graphic Novel" section, a tiny table in the middle of the bookstore. 

I was quite taken by the cover and began flipping through it just to get a look. Now, it's been years since I touched a book in Mandarin, but I reckon that if it's a picture book, my mediocre Mandarin would suffice. I was pleasantly suprised by the content. The theme seemed to be about loneliness. And that's not even a good translation. It's about looking for "不孤独" which would be "seeking escape from aloneness", I'm not the best translator, so bear with me. 

I'd only flipped through half a dozen pages before it was almost time for the next panel discussion: "Not just child's play: Why picture books matter" and I hurried to the room. 

Imagine my shock when the talk began in Mandarin! For a full minute I was wondering if I'd gone into the wrong room but was too embarrassed to stand up and walk out because it wouldn't be polite to do so. I'm glad I didn't. It was the correct talk. I must have missed the small print which indicated that the talk would be conducted in Mandarin. 

And to my surprise, I found out that the author of this book was one of the three panelists! How cool was that? He talked a bit about how he came to write his book and that was a big factor when it came to me buying it (on impulse) after the talk was over. 

Ah Guo told us that he did a series of water colours while on a residency in Korea. Every day, he'd just be inspired by the scenery and just drew and drew and drew. 

When he came back to Singapore, he felt that it would be a pity if the paintings were not used for something. Fortunately enough, he was able to craft a story out  of it. And what a story it was! 

The book is essentially a charming tale about a boy who is seeking to escape from aloneness. He meets a penguin and together, they went on a quest for just that. As they journeyed on, they discovered many other things such as "eternity" (in a tree), "freedom" (in the sky), and "trust" (through a friend). 

This really doesn't do justice to the book.

In any case, I thought this was a brilliant and poignant work of art. Reading it made me really calm and I wonder if this was the effect the author was going for. If you're feeling particularly anxious about life, or if your friend/family member is, this might just be the book for you. 

I went home and showed the book to my sister and she loved it too. She felt that it was really meaningful and noted the interesting use of the hourglass to mark time. 

It must be noted that the target audience the author was aiming for were adults. In the panel session, the author noted that many parents bought it to read to their kids because it was a picture book. But he get that "孤独" or "being alone" was a concept too abstract for kids. 

The story provides much food for thought and one can read it over and again without getting bored of it. And even though the language was relatively simple, the writing has a grace and nuance that is unrivalled. I've not read a book quite like this and must thank the Singapore Writers Festival for introducing it to me. 

You can order the book online at Lingzi Media's website or buy it from Kinokuniya at $18 a copy. It sold like hot cakes yesterday and I'm happy to report I snagged the very last copy! Hahaha. 

Check out more of the author's works at www.leekowfong.com and I'll leave you with one of the pages that I absolutely adore: