Island of Legends – A Singapore Book Review and Giveaway

Island of Legends cover

Island of Legends is a really cool history-mystery-activity book. Third in local author Don Bosco’s book series Lion City Adventures, Island of Legends comprises 3 literary genres rolled into one: history (told through 8 legends); mystery (as the Lion City Adventuring Club members are once again sent on an adventure to solve the mystery of a treasure box); and activity book.

Vera really enjoyed the book. She said she learnt about Sang Nila Utama and how Singapore got its name. She also learnt that Radin Mas Primary School was named after a brave and beautiful princess! One of the first things she did after finishing the book was to draw a cute cartoon lion  – following the instructions and steps shown in the book!

island-of-legends-lion

What I like about the book is that it provides some puzzle or craft activity pages after each story. Like this turtle origami activity…

island-of-legends-turtle-origami

And this picture puzzle. It caters to all age groups – from emerging readers like JJ to independent readers like Vera.

Island of Legends puzzle page

This is the book to go to if your child is keen to read more about colourful folklore of Singapore’s past. The other 6 legends covered in the book are the legend of Pu Luo Cheng, a strong man called Badang, the angry swordfish, the magical turtle of Kusu island, the legend of pirate island, and enemies from the North.

Each legend is weaved into the chapters of the book, and is part of a bigger mystery that the Lion City Adventuring Club had to solve. I like that the author included history notes at the end of each legend – which presents simple facts and information about each of them.

History notes within the book Island of Legends

What I really appreciate about Don’s books is that he always packs in elements of surprise and mystery, and that always helps to intrigue and draw the attention of young readers. He shares a bit about his creative process and writing here:

Children love books where the message behind the story is something fun and reassuring. Like, be brave. Be curious. Be helpful. Be happy. Believe in your own wacky ideas.

So get together with other brave, curious, helpful and happy people, and see what sort of adventures you can have together. That’s how children learn best, by piecing together interesting bits of information and using all this to work out their own answers.

They like being detectives. They get a great sense of accomplishment when they can play an active part in figuring something out. That’s the simple pleasure of the Lion City Adventures series. And at the very end, the final page, through all the fun, everyone will have somehow learnt something good.

 ~~~~~ BOOK GIVEAWAY!~~~~~

I have one copy of Island of Legends up for grabs. To win, just follow the steps below:

  1. Check out Don Bosco’s Super Cool Books FB page for updates.
  2. Comment on this Facebook post: a) state why you’d like to win, and your email, b) Tag a friend for bonus entries.

Contest ends 11 October, 2359hrs. Open to SG residents only. The winner will be announced on this blog post, and on Facebook on 12 October. Good luck!

Island of Legends is available at all major bookstores. It retails at $15.80 (before GST).

**Thanks, Don and Marshall Cavendish, for giving us a copy of Island of Legends for this review!

 

 

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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!

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{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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