Epigram Books in the running for Bologna Prize for Best Children’s Publisher of the Year

Mr Edmund Wee (above), founder of Epigram Books, is surprised that his five-year-old company was nominated.
Mr Edmund Wee (above), founder of Epigram Books, is surprised that his five-year-old company was nominated.PHOTO: ST FILE

The Singapore publisher is one of the five Asian nominees in the running for the Bologna Best Children's Publisher of the Year

Singapore publisher Epigram Books is in the running for the first time for the Bologna Best Children's Publisher of the Year.

The awards are given to publishers around the world who specialise in children's books or who have an extensive number of titles catered to young readers.

The prize, now in its fourth year, is organised by the Bologna Children's Book Fair in partnership with the Italian Publishers Association.

The book fair, which has been around for 53 years, is considered the leading professional event dedicated to children's publishing. It will take place from April 4 to 7.

There will be six awards given out during the awards ceremony on April 4, one for each of these six geographical areas: Africa, Asia, Central and South America, Europe, North America and Oceania.

Epigram Books is one of five Asian nominees.

Speaking to The Straits Times, Epigram founder Edmund Wee says he is surprised that his five-year-old company was nominated, admitting that he does not know what the nomination process is like or who nominated Epigram.

He will be attending this year's fair as an exhibitor, as he has done for the last three years.

On Epigram's chances of winning the award, Mr Wee, 64, says: "I don't expect to win. I think we're the underdog. But we're honoured to be among the rest of the nominees."

He calls the nomination "a David and Goliath situation", with fellow Asian nominees such as 80-year-old children's publisher Kaisei-Sha Publishing from Japan.

The other Asian nominees are Japanese publishers One Stroke and Bronze Publishing; and Kalimat from the United Arab Emirates.

Epigram has published nearly 90 Singapore children's and young adult titles, such as the Amos Lee series by Adeline Foo, which has sold 240,000 copies; and the Harry picture book series by Singaporean illustrator Patrick Yee, inspired by Singapore's first prime minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, which has sold 20,000 copies.

With its titles that focus on Singapore characters and settings, Mr Wee says that he hopes "we're doing something good for Singapore" by helping children learn about Singapore culture, rather than being fed a literary diet of titles from the United States or Britain.

In Singapore, books published by Epigram have won awards, such as the 2015 Hedwig Anuar Children's Book Award, which went to The Rock And The Bird (2013), a tale about an unusual friendship by Chew Chia Shao Wei and illustrated by Anngee Neo. In 2014, quirky short story collection The Ministry Of Moral Panic (2013) by Amanda Lee Koe won the Singapore Literature Prize.

According to the fair's website, the award aims to honour publishers "who have most distinguished themselves for their creative and publishing excellence over the year, showing originality as well as professional and intellectual skills".

Nominations come from the 2016 exhibitors at the fair, international publishers' associations and cultural institutions that represent publishing.

The winners will be determined by votes from fair exhibitors and winning publishers will have a showcase dedicated to them at the book fair.

Previous Asian winners of the prize hailed from China, Taiwan and India.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2016, with the headline 'Epigram up for publishing prize'. Print Edition | Subscribe