Asian Festival of Children’s Content

Singapore's The Little Durian Tree wins picture book award

From far left: Students Melodie Edith James, Kylen Ho, and Shona Adisri Menon, all 19, are part of the five-member team that produced The Little Durian Tree (above), winner of the Scholastic Picture Book Award.
From far left: Students Melodie Edith James, Kylen Ho, and Shona Adisri Menon, all 19, are part of the five-member team that produced The Little Durian Tree, winner of the Scholastic Picture Book Award.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

The Asian Festival of Children's Content (AFCC) kicked off its eighth edition on Tuesday at the Central Public Library.

Organised by the National Book Development Council of Singapore, the five-day festival offers a slew of free and ticketed events including conferences, panel discussions, workshops and masterclasses.

It will feature 157 speakers from 18 countries, with notable speakers including Ireland's children's laureate P.J. Lynch and English film-maker Leslee Udwin, whose films include Peabody award-winning documentary India's Daughter (2015) and East Is East (1999), which won Best Film at the British Academy Film Awards.

The festival was opened by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, who emphasised the need to support Asian content in children's literature in her speech.

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"Children respond better to stories with characters, places and daily settings that they are familiar with and they identify better with stories that reflect our culture," she said.

In keeping with the festival's goal to promote exceptional children's content, the winner of the biennial Scholastic Picture Book Award was also announced at the ceremony. The award, which acknowledges outstanding, unpublished picture books that incorporate distinctly Asian themes, was given to The Little Durian Tree.

Chosen from 137 entries across Asia, the book was the brainchild of a five-member team comprising students from Singapore Polytechnic and is about a durian tree's quest for friendship despite the thorny exterior of the fruit.

 Students Melodie Edith James, Kylen Ho, and Shona Adisri Menon, all 19, are part of the five-member team that produced The Little Durian Tree (above), winner of the Scholastic Picture Book Award.
Students Melodie Edith James, Kylen Ho, and Shona Adisri Menon, all 19, are part of the five-member team that produced The Little Durian Tree (above), winner of the Scholastic Picture Book Award. 

Ms Shona Adisri Menon, 19, a member of the group, said: "For a lot of people in our course, the dream is to get a book published so the fact that this happened to the five of us is surreal and a dream come true."

As this year's country of focus is Indonesia, the festival will feature 19 sessions and performances on the country's literature and culture. In particular, visitors can expect talks on Indonesian fiction and storytelling sessions depicting traditional Indonesian folktales.

Other highlights include a Writers And Illustrators Conference, a Cross-Platform Summit and a Teachers Congress And Parents Forum, which will provide parents and teachers with tips on improving children's literacy skills.

On the chief purpose of the festival, Ms Claire Chiang, chairperson of the National Book Development Council of Singapore, said: "We believe in the content that our authors and illustrators produce. The stories written and illustrated by Asians are as good as those from the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, where there are mature and vibrant children's publishing industries.

"We want to build our own local market as well as tap into the broader Asian market."

•For more information, visit afcc.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2017, with the headline 'Singapore's The Little Durian Tree wins picture book award'. Print Edition | Subscribe