Earlier this week, the finished copies of Bo Bo and Cha Cha and the New Year Gift were delivered to the Epigram Books office, which means that the book is now out! If it’s not already, it’ll be on bookstore shelves all over Singapore very soon. Here I am signing copies:
This is the third book in the series, and I’m quite proud of it; I introduce a couple of new characters (Kevin the red panda and Saloma the orangutan), incorporate many Singaporean Chinese New Year traditions, and open a discussion on the importance of friendship (from wherever it may come), empathy, and open-mindedness. There are a few echoes back to Book 1, but it’s also very much its own book.
My editor Sheri Tan and I had initially thought to do a CNY book all on its own, as Book 4 in the series, and have Kevin’s visit be the major thing about Book 3, but when the book got delayed because of illustrator Patrick Yee’s many commitments, we decided to combine the two into one that celebrates both CNY as well as the friendship the pandas have with Kevin.
Here’s the synopsis:
It’s Chinese New Year, and Bo Bo and Cha Cha’s artist friend, Kevin, has come from China to celebrate with the pandas, as well as show his work at a special New Year exhibition. The pandas’ friends at the Mandai Zoo are eager to meet Kevin, but when they do, Kevin is mean and nasty to them! He’s not happy that some of the New Year customs are different from the ones in China. He even tells Kera’s daughter, Saloma, that her painting is awful. Bo Bo and Cha Cha try to convince their friends that Kevin can be really nice … but it takes a little orangutan to show Kevin how to be a good guest and an even better friend.
Seow Kai Lun at The Straits Times interviewed me about the book for a special Chinese New Year supplement that appeared in the 12 January Sunday edition:
How would you share Chinese New Year (CNY) customs in Singapore with friends from overseas? This is the exact situation that pandas Bo Bo and Cha Cha find themselves in when their red panda friend Kevin pays them a visit from China in Bo Bo and Cha Cha and the New Year Gift, a book which will be released [by Epigram Books] during this festive season.
Author Jason Erik Lundberg says that the book was conceptualised as CNY celebrations are a big part of Singaporean culture. Though the customs are not explicitly explained, ‘they are shown as a natural part of both the book’s setting and plot, and hopefully invite discussion between parents and children who are curious about which traditions are shown,’ he says.
In the interview, I was asked what the “general objective” of the book was; my answer wasn’t used in the article, but I’d like to reproduce it here:
I do not believe in picture books as mere teaching tools. They are not pedagogy; they are literature. Yes, children may learn a lesson by the end of it, but it is not my place as the author to tell them what to think. Above all, they should be entertained, and done so in a manner that could not have been accomplished in any other medium; the combination of written text and colorful illustrations appeals to both sides of the brain, and has been scientifically shown to be the best method of retaining information. But in the end, I hope that I’ve been able to tell a story that children enjoy and want to make a part of their lives.