Kids and their Books

That's what took up our weekend.

Kids made up to be adults, from Ah Zheng

J spent the Saturday making a video for a friend's childcare centre. The kids were performing for their graduation show. And I was at a junior college class reunion where there were as many kids as adults. We don't have any complaints because, I guess you may know by now, J and I are pretty fond of kids and enjoy teasing them.

Maybe we both have romantic notions of kids = innocence...or whatever misconception people with no kids obviously have. And for this reason, making children's books is one of those things I really enjoy.

Undeterred by my failed attempt at the GoldenPoint competition, I decided on Friday - the closing date - to submit this book I made many years ago for the "First Time Writers and Illustrators Initiative" organised by the Media Development Authority. I thought hard about the category it should go under...and decided on "Fiction for Young Adults/Teens (aged 12-18)". Someone younger would certainly understand the story, but I think someone older would better appreciate the ambivalences in the book towards growing up, the city, youth and experience.

my first woodblock print was for the Cover of the book

Titled The Adventures of Ah Zhang (A Poor Boy), the book's made up of 4 short stories, each illustrated in a slightly different style. Ah Zheng is a boy the narrator finds one day seated beside an old man on a park bench in a HDB estate. From the start, I guess we never quite know if Ah Zheng's age or if he really exists - or is the narrator's own imagined, romantic image of the "poor boy" (ooh, yes, I'm the narrator!). So the 4 stories are explorations of Ah Zheng's entry into the real world that the narrator has imagined him into. And also Ah Zheng's slow descent.

The last image of the 3rd story

I like the last 2 stories best (aiyoh, I am so not modest, but this is the favourite of all the books I've made). The 3rd is about the narrator's dream, in which Ah Zheng (or a boy like him) appears in school. It's a little story about education and knowledge - and, of course, dreams. The last one is about those horrible children's karaoke competitions they have on television! Ah Zheng is lured into taking part in one by a talent scout, who had thought Ah Zheng would make a good news story. But I shan't give away the ending here.

An image from the last story, which had all kinds of "fake" woodcuts derivative of either the Japanese woodblock and the modern Chinese woodblock style that was also popular with Singapore artists in the 30s-50s

If I don't get the $8000 from this "First Time Writers & Illustrators Initiative" to publish Ah Zheng, which is most likely the case, I just might join the world of vanity publishing (see Straits Times' Saturday Special on vanity publishing. Some lady actually forked out $23k to publish her own children's book about squirrels! wah, must be very rich.). And when that happens, friends, please play along with my shameless peddling of the The Adventures of Ah Zheng (A Poor Boy).


Unknown said…
i saw that book at times! squeaky the squirrel who's more than a squirrel! or something like that *groans* your book looks much more fun. when can we read it?

good with with the comp !!

i tried writing a childrens story once. but i was told it was too depressing.
monk said…
i like it, too -- but i like the woodblock from the cover even better.

cut the english off, and it's another t-shirt. i'll pre-order now.
Anonymous said…
Hey! i have the feeling that Ah Zheng will grow up to be a great man.

And that goes too for your illustration and stories!!
ampulets said…
sbunny - i saw it too at Kino! hmm, you don't seem the sort to write depressing children's stories, but i guess something dark must lurk in the samurai blood.

40calibernap - ooh, how do you know my mind's already working out the merchandising possibilities for the book? sly.

l- ah zheng, I suspect, will always linger around parks. Unless, of course, he gets grasps the ways of the jiang hu and meets kind sifus along the way. Ah Zheng's my Guo Jing! ;>

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