Sherlock Sam goes to America: Singapore children's fiction picked up by major US publisher

Adan Jimenez and Felicia Low-Jimenez (both left) are behind the Sherlock Sam series (above).
Adan Jimenez and Felicia Low-Jimenez (both above) are behind the Sherlock Sam series.

Singapore published children's series Sherlock Sam will be entering the American market.

It has been picked up by major United States publisher Andrews McMeel Publishing, which publishes mainly comics and books targeted at middle-grade readers, such as Peanuts and Calvin And Hobbes.

The Sherlock Sam series chronicles the adventures of 10-year-old Samuel Tan Cher Lock and his robot sidekick Watson. It was launched in 2012 and has sold more than 24,000 copies of the nine books in the series so far.

It is the brainchild of Adan Jimenez, 32, an American, and his Singaporean wife Felicia LowJimenez, 37. He is an assistant director at the National Book Development Council of Singapore, while she is a division manager of merchandising at Books Kinokuniya. The series is illustrated by Singaporean illustrator Andrew Tan.


Adan Jimenez and Felicia Low-Jimenez are behind the Sherlock Sam series (above). -- ZAOBAO FILE PHOTO

Two titles from the series, Sherlock Sam And The Missing Heirloom In Katong and Sherlock Sam And The Ghostly Moans In Fort Canning, will be published in the US in June.

A third title, Sherlock Sam And The Sinister Letters In Bras Basah, will be released in 2017. They will be included as part of Andrews McMeel Publishing's AMP! Comics for Kids line.

Speaking to Life, Epigram Books' managing director Edmund Wee says: "We hope this move gives another boost to local literature. So far, we've gotten a graphic novel out and, now, a book for middlegraders. Hopefully, we can get an adult-fiction book out there next."

He is not concerned that the local references will impede readers' understanding or enjoyment.

"It's just like reading a book about Brooklyn, for example. The location doesn't matter. What matters is that the story is good, fun and interesting," he says.

Jimenez says that he and his wife did not expect the series to take off quite like this.

"We knew it was difficult as not many Singaporean texts have gone overseas. But we hope the children who read our books over there will get an idea of what life is like here," he adds.

Singapore-published books have been making waves internationally. In the past two years, more than 17 locally published books - from graphic novels to children's series - have been either translated by foreign imprints or bought for translation and sale in markets from Taiwan and South Korea to Turkey and Germany.

More recently, The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, the story of a Singaporean artist who depicts the past 60 years of history through his comics, was bought by American imprint Pantheon Books. Written and illustrated by Singaporean artist Sonny Liew, the work will see its international edition released next year.

Jimenez and his wife are now working on another book for the series, which will be about Sherlock Sam's adventures in New York.

He says: "We will keep writing as long as people keep reading our works."

The Sherlock Sam series is available at major bookstores. Prices start from $9.90 each.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2015, with the headline 'Sherlock Sam goes to America'. Print Edition | Subscribe