Yesterday, I managed to post my first update from the recently concluded huge event here in Singapore, the Asian Festival of Children’s Content. Today, I will just share snippets from the Parents Forum, the panel on celebrating our stars here in Singapore, as well as a magical evening with one of the Philippines’ finest musicians, Noel Cabangon and the beautiful and multi-talented Candy Gourlay.
Keynote for the Parents’ Forum: Read me a story, Sing me to Sleep by Leonard Marcus
Despite the fact that it was a Sunday morning, I made sure I attended Leonard’s keynote during the Parents’ Forum as he shares how to choose “the best books for your young child.” In the introduction of his speech, he mentioned that bringing books to children is like feeding children, and he pointed out that this is not a metaphor. As he gave a list of books that can be introduced to very young children, he also provided very crisp and insightful commentaries about each of the books and his experiences with them.
This book was published in 1947 and is 300 words long. Leonard reminded his audience that what matters is not so much the actual words being uttered but the rhythm of the words of the storyteller (more likely the parent or the caregiver), the feeling in the voice, the physical contact – he noted that these are not incidental aspects of the storytelling experience. This book typifies a world where everything is in its place, and that there’s a quiet place of comfort for the young child to come home to. He noted though that parents should be alert to what the children respond to and that there is no book that is for every child.
In Helen Oxenbury’s I Touch, Leonard noted that what appears so simple really isn’t so simple at all in children’s lit. He prefers to use the word ‘distilled’ to describe the mindfulness and careful deliberation of the author in introducing words that would best describe what is so essential to children at this stage in their development.
I also couldn’t help but smile when he shared that Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar was initially viewed with suspicion by a lot of literary critics primarily because the pages are not all of the same size, there were too many holes, and that it looked too much like a toy. Other books he recommended are the following:
Leonard also pointed out that the purpose of a story is not so much to read to the end of the story. Most parents are overly-concerned with reading a book in a linear fashion, intent on finishing it with their child. While this is important, yes, Leonard also emphasized the significance of immersing one’s self in the visual imagery, appreciation of the sound of the text, the comforting touch between parent-and-child as the story is being read aloud as important components of the storytelling experience.
I was also glad to note that he recommended a book that Fats has already reviewed here in GatheringBooks: Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold.
Other must-read books that I am also excited to get my hands on:
Leonard shared that picture books can also be used to promote nation-building as could be seen in this lovely book by Jean Fritz with pictures by Margot Tomes: And then what happened, Paul Revere?
The book that I was very excited about though (and I am dying to find this in our libraries here in Singapore) is this one:
Little Lit: Folklore & Fairy Tale Funnies as edited by no other than Art Spiegelman & Francois Mouly. As a Spiegelman fan, I just know that I have to find this book!
Celebrating our Stars in Singapore
In the presentation entitled Fits & Starts, Leaps & Bounds: The Singapore Journey of Writing for Children, storyteller Rosemarie Somaiah, the librarian Er Lai Kuan and the bestselling author Adeline Foo (whom we have featured here as well in GatheringBooks) shared some of the children’s books that they enjoyed from the 1970s. Their selections consist of books that they enjoyed while they were growing up, some of those which they have read to their own children, and some of the recently-published books here in Singapore. They noted that books published from the 1980s demonstrate a gradual emergence of a local/Singaporean theme, particularly in the adult fiction genre.
Denysse Tessensohn also did a presentation entitled Rediscovery of Singapore’s illustrator, Errol Le Cain.
This one came as a total surprise for me since I didn’t know that Errol Le Cain actually came from Singapore. I have heard of him but haven’t really explored much of his works. Clearly, I need to be acquainted with it. Here are a few that Denyse has shared with everyone. Amazing amazing illustrations. Such brilliance!
Cupid and Psyche caught my eye. I really hope we have this in our libraries here. It looks glorious! I have a special affinity with illustrations in monochrome, like this one.
A Special Evening with Noel Cabangon and Candy Gourlay
I wasn’t able to attend the other sessions during the Parents’ Forum since I had to pick up Noel Cabangon from the airport, one of our finest musicians from the Philippines.
Given that the Festival’s country of focus is the Philippines, we thought that having Noel would render a different flavor to the festivities since his music speaks of love of country, preserving the environment, and narrates the stories of ordinary and marginalized voices of disadvantaged Filipinos among others.
For those of you who have been following our blog for the past year or so, you would know that I have initiated a research collaboration with Noel that has taken us to a number of places: Brisbane, Berlin, New Orleans, Penang Malaysia, the Philippines, and of course Singapore (here is a post that details our conference presentation in Brisbane).
I also invited the multi-talented and highly animated Candy Gourlay to watch Noel’s gig that Sunday evening since she shared that she is not that familiar with his music as yet. Plus, I also wanted to spend time with her, away from the buzz and the frenzied activities of the Festival. I am glad that Candy has enjoyed herself and has also fallen in love with Noel’s music. Candy has even created this fantabulous video clip of Noel’s gig that night: versatile, creative, indefatigable – that’s Candy Gourlay for you. Hope you enjoy it!