Discover more of Singapore with Lion City Adventures {Book Review and Giveaway}

We’ve been putting our explorer hats on, and learning some pretty cool stuff about Singapore through Lion City Adventures, a book by local author Don Bosco.

Lion city adventures

Did you know that …Geylang Serai got its name because lemongrass (known as “serai” in Malay) used to be grown in the area on a large scale?

Or that Gardens by the Bay is about the size of 140 soccer fields?

Or that Botanic Gardens is home to Singapore’s oldest tree called “Terminalia Subspathulata” (or Jelawai Jaha)?

Lion_1Vera enjoyed solving the little puzzle games littered throughout the book, especially spot the difference and word search puzzles. She also enjoyed reading the little mystery stories and cracking her head to solve the mystery.

I also admired the thoughtful details such as the instant expert pages, that gives you a quick snapshot of the facts of every area or points of attraction covered, as well as suggestions on what to do there.

Lion_2 Lion_3

I interviewed Don to find out more about his thought process and motivations behind the book.

1) What are you hoping to achieve with Lion City Adventures?

I really just want to create a simple but memorable experience for kids: give them a quick tour of Singapore, and introduce both its rich cultural heritage as well as its modern marvels. Get them all excited about this city, so they can feel like they’re living in a very special place.

As parents, we love it when our kids are fascinated by a subject. They get enthusiastic and start to ask all sorts of questions. It’s a lot of fun when we have the time and energy to engage with them. But sometimes we might not have all the information at our fingertips, or we might be too tired.

This book was designed to help parents with this. It doesn’t matter whether you take your kids to the ten locations. The book is a complete package, with an exploration guide for each location, colourful illustrations, child-friendly activities, pages for sketching and journalling, and also a role-playing challenge where readers help to solve a mystery. It’ll educate and entertain them for some time. And after that, you can have lots of interesting conversations about Singapore.

It didn’t feel like work at all, it was more like a cool family project.

2) How much time did it take to research and write the book?

It took us about three months to put the book together. There are 10 very different locations featured in the book, from the Singapore River to Little India, Gardens by the Bay to the Mint Museum of Toys.

We had to visit the locations and try to experience it from a child’s point of view. What would they be interested in? How could we convey the mood of the place? What could they do at each location? I also tested the ideas with my two sons. We picked the final 10 locations to reflect Singapore’s diverse cultural heritage, help parents plan their own outings, and also appeal to young tourists. Working out that balance took up most of the time.

3) Was there a point when you felt like giving up? What kept you going?

Not with this book! Once my two sons got involved, they were so excited and motivated that I felt energised too. How could I even consider quitting? They would be so disappointed! They especially loved working on the mystery segments in the book, which involved the Lion City Adventuring Club. Also, they enjoyed following the entire production process and seeing how the Marshall Cavendish team assembled the illustrations and page designs. It didn’t feel like work at all, it was more like a cool family project.

I hope kids are inspired by modern marvels like Gardens by the Bay and the Singapore Discovery Centre. And I hope kids feel the urge to go out and explore Singapore with their family and friends.

4) Are there any secrets behind the book that you’d like to share?

Sure, but please keep this a secret! The truth is that I got a bit emotional towards the end of the writing process. I had created this society for children, called the Lion City Adventuring Club, and it felt so wonderful, so inspiring and so real, that I wished desperately that my sons and I could somehow be members. I think we really need such experiences for our kids, so that they can feel a genuine sense of connection to their living environment. Since then, we’ve been talking to different people about actually organising such outings, and bringing the Lion City Adventuring Club to life. Will keep you updated!

5) That’s cool! Yes do let us know when that happens!

You’ve made the book a bit of a detective series with lots of mysteries for readers to solve along the way. What was the motive behind this?

We’ve tried to be a little more creative and engaging, and that’s why we added this role-playing aspect. There’s a background story about an old exploration society started by three children in Singapore back in 1894, called the Lion City Adventuring Club. In every chapter, the reader finds out a bit more about this club, and takes part in solving a puzzle or mystery. When you get to the end of the book, there’s an official Lion City Adventuring Club certificate waiting for you. In this way, young readers can feel like they’re taking part in something cool!

6) What did you learn from writing and publishing this book?

A lot of really profound lessons! One thing I realised early on was that I wanted to use the mystery segments to show kids that girls and boys were equally capable of solving mysteries, being creative, and leading their peers. It’s important to encourage this attitude.

I also learnt another interesting thing, about the old Singapura legend. As a student, I read about the prince who visited this island hundreds of years ago. The first creature he saw was a lion. This inspired him to name this place “Lion City”, or Singapura.

Zoologists now point out that all this was unlikely, as there couldn’t have been any wild lions in the region. But even today, our country continues to be known by this name. That shows you how powerful stories can be.

7) What do you want young readers to take home from this book?

The realisation that we live in a fascinating place, and there’s so much to appreciate about our local history, geography and culture. I hope kids read about the Singapore River and imagine how it enchanted Sir Stamford Raffles so much that he wanted to create something great here. I hope kids learn about the early settlers and how people came up with ideas to make money. I hope kids are inspired by modern marvels like Gardens by the Bay and the Singapore Discovery Centre. And I hope kids feel the urge to go out and explore Singapore with their family and friends.

8) Can you share with us how you got started writing and creating books?

In 2011, I was making weekly trips to our neighbourhood library because my two sons were reading picture books and chapter books at a crazy rate. For every 10 books that I borrowed, they might enjoy maybe three or four. I quickly learnt to be a lot more discerning about children’s books, and I got better at understanding what they liked.

Later on, I tried to explain to them how the international publishing industry worked, and why there weren’t that many interesting children’s books being published in Singapore. Instead of feeling discouraged, they were actually inspired, and wanted to start creating their own books based on local experiences.

I used to write magazine articles, TV shows, educational books, and so on. I contacted a few friends in the industry, and with their help we started Super Cool Books. I honestly thought we would last maybe a
year or two, just long enough for my sons to learn something. But it’s been four years already. Now we joke that Super Cool Books is like our third child, the baby of our family. Just thinking about this makes me smile. 🙂

Thanks for sharing your behind-the-scenes story with us, Don!


{GIVEAWAY} We have two copies of Lion City Adventures to give away. To win yourself a copy of the book, just hop over to this facebook post, and leave a comment.

Just answer the question: What are your top 3 places in Singapore to visit with children?

Good luck! Contest closes 11.59pm on 19 July, Sun. Open to Singapore residents only.

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  1. says

    This sounds like a really cool book! We’ve been accumulating books on Singapore this year and I hope to add this one to the collection. I would love to know if the Lion City Adventuring Club becomes reality too!
    Mummybean recently posted..Brunch at District 10My Profile

  2. Candy Ham says

    Dear Don

    I happen to single out this book, while thinking through how to vote for the Book Fest Singapore 2015, from Popular Readers Choice Award 2015. Just for Fun. I am inspired by the way the book came about, just by reading the Q&A here.

    I have some thoughts dashing across my mind, I thought I would be helpful to pen them down.

    I think it would be very interesting if this book, considering the quality of the learning experiences, can be implemented or interjected in the primary school social studies. Sounds really more fun to find out about Singapore – as a mystery, and upon reflection, write as a class (one key place), and put together as a school: “The Lion Adventures by the new generation”, but given the space to be a writer of their own rights, developing their own character plots; considering the way you had started this book – from an adventure.

    Perhaps one day, you will be going from school to school, and like an ambassador of the lion adventure, bring out the lions of Singapore; inspiring children, teachers, schools together, one nation, one Singapore, inspiring a sense of community like the way our founding father L.K.Y loves us, and gave his life to serve his life to the full.

    A story, a book written by the children – for the children; where our hearts can be knitted together.

    Perhaps a cartoon series on the Lion adventures.

    Just as Jack Neo first Movie of a local taste went world wide. Your book has that dynamic too. You have started something really sweet. I see more of your character in it. Is that living legacy of who you are that u wrote what u wrote, and speak the way you speak : the way you feel about the importance of being engage with the audience, for the audience, from book to life; from life to book.

    There is no limits the book can reach far, wide, deep .

    I can even imagine a second book with greater graphic effect, given now 3 dimensional pictures makes things look so real.

    U are Blessed .
    And You and Your family is surely, a blessing to the nations.

    A mother of 3.
    Candy Ham

    In that way, just as the book brings your family together;

    • says

      Dear Candy,

      Wow, thank you so much for this note!

      Really appreciate your generous sharing, your warm encouragement, and most of all, your extremely powerful vision of nurturing all our young Lions in Singapore. (Actually, I find the idea a bit scary, because I’m more of an introvert, and I’d rather just stay home and write stuff, heh! But yes, it’s still something I hope to do.)

      Also, my two sons were thrilled to see this. You’ve helped them understand the bigger picture, that stories are for bringing people together (like on this blog) and creating nice experiences that the community can share.

      Sometimes it’s hard to believe that the book was only launched in June this year. And it has already found a life of its own. We’re all still in a bit of shock about the response so far. In a good way! 🙂

      We hope to get a proper Lion City Adventuring Club going for real. And organise events for children. Currently we’re tied up writing Book 2 of this series, Secrets of the Heartlands, and I think it will be available before Christmas this year. I’ll be doing some events for kids during the December holidays. The National Library Board is also planning something. They’ve been very supportive. So I’m looking forward to meeting parents and teachers, and getting more people involved.

      Meanwhile, please do consider starting your own Lion City Adventuring Club group with your family! Like, this very weekend. Treat it as a role-playing game. Make your own badges, organise outings, even create your own stories. Give your kids a chance to run it. And tell them it has been approved by Uncle Don. 🙂

      I hope we can look back one day and see how all these things you mentioned really came true. Thank you again.


      Don recently posted..I know you’ve been busy, but what on earth have I been up to?My Profile

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