New children's picture book uses Mr Lee's red box to tell his story

Ms Phua San San (above) hopes her book What's Inside The Red Box?, the first fully illustrated book about Mr Lee Kuan Yew for very young children, will inspire kids to do their part to make the world a better place.
Ms Phua San San (above) hopes her book What's Inside The Red Box?, the first fully illustrated book about Mr Lee Kuan Yew for very young children, will inspire kids to do their part to make the world a better place.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Many consider the red box owned by the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's first Prime Minister, as a symbol of his unwavering passion and dedication to the country.

He used it as a briefcase when serving in political office, putting in it his speech drafts, letters, notes and cassette tapes with his recorded instructions.

It has been on display at the National Museum of Singapore since his death in March this year.

Now, it will continue to inspire in a new book launched yesterday by the Straits Times Press - the book publishing arm of the Singapore Press Holdings.

Titled What's Inside The Red Box?, the 32-page book is the first fully illustrated one about Mr Lee for very young children. It tells Mr Lee's story, focusing on his dreams and how he made Singapore what it is today.

"It may be difficult to explain Mr Lee's legacy to young children, who may perceive him as just another historical character," said the book's author and illustrator Phua San San, 44. "But Mr Lee's red box held his dreams, and using it to tell his story could allow children to understand him better and inspire them to make meaningful contributions of their own."

To capture the imagination of young readers, the book is written from the perspective of young children, who often wonder what lurks inside adult briefcases or laptop bags, Straits Times Press general manager Susan Long said.

She said: "It captures vividly the legacy of Mr Lee and how he worked daily towards achieving the big dreams he had for Singapore.

"Most importantly, we hope this book will inspire kids to do their part to make the world a better place."

In 2008, Ms Phua also illustrated another children's picture book, I Don't Want Mei Mei Anymore!, which won the First Time Writers and Illustrators Publishing Initiative in that year.

What's Inside The Red Box? is sponsored by Mapletree Investments. The company's group chief executive Hiew Yoon Khong said: "Through this book, we hope that from an early age, Singaporeans will know that what they enjoy today stems from the vision of a man who dared to dream big and that they, too, should not be afraid to have a bold vision and work hard to turn it into reality. "

•What's Inside The Red Box? is available at leading bookstores at $16, including GST. It can also be purchased from the STP online bookstore at www.stpressbooks.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 10, 2015, with the headline 'New children's picture book uses Mr Lee's red box to tell his story'. Print Edition | Subscribe