New children's book by former Senior Minister of State Sidek Saniff tells of life in a kampung

Anak Kampung Bernama Sidek (A Kampung Boy Named Sidek) is based on former Senior Minister of State Sidek Saniff's memories of growing up in a kampung in the 1940s and 1950s.
Anak Kampung Bernama Sidek (A Kampung Boy Named Sidek) is based on former Senior Minister of State Sidek Saniff's memories of growing up in a kampung in the 1940s and 1950s.ST PHOTO: ZHANG XUAN

SINGAPORE - As a child growing up in a kampung, former Senior Minister of State Sidek Saniff sold kueh to neighbours, stood in line to use the communal toilets and collected water from a shared pipe, which he carried home in two tin containers on a pole balanced on his shoulders.

Now these memories will be passed on to children who have never seen a kampung, in his new illustrated bilingual children's book, Anak Kampung Bernama Sidek (A Kampung Boy Named Sidek).

The 36-page book, based on Mr Sidek's memories of growing up in a kampung in the 1940s and 1950s, was launched on Sunday (Sept 9) at Wisma Geylang Serai, with performances from children from Geylang Serai Community Club. President Halimah Yacob attended as guest of honour.

Mr Sidek, now 80, was elected a Member of Parliament in 1976. He was Senior Minister of State for the Environment when he retired from politics in 2001.

In his 25 years as a politician, he launched many initiatives to support the Malay community including the formation of Malay self-help group Mendaki in 1982 and non-profit organisation Tabung Amal Aidilfitri.

Earlier this year, he published a bilingual memoir, Sidek Saniff: Life Reflections At Eighty, which documented his journey from protester to politician. Anak Kampung Bernama Sidek is his fifth book.

Mr Sidek grew up in Kampung Radin Mas, a Malay village dating back to 1880s, which was demolished in 1973 for new development. He started teaching in 1965 and was popular and respected.


Mr Sidek had been a member of Parliament since 1976 and was Senior Minister of State for Environment when he stepped down in 2001. Anak Kampung Bernama Sidek is his fifth book. ST PHOTO: ZHANG XUAN

"It's very important for children these days to understand how lucky they are and how different life was back then in the kampung," said Mr Sidek, who has 12 grandchildren.

"The book also places emphasis on values such as honesty, diligence and never giving up. Always give hope a chance. Like my mum used to say, if people do something nasty to you, let them. You don't retaliate."

Based on true accounts of his life from six to 12 years old, the book follows the simple storyline of Mr Sidek as a young boy living in a kampung to reaching a position of power in the government.

Supported by the Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism, the book is written in both English and Malay, a conscious decision made by Mr Sidek to promote reading in both languages. It also uses a dyslexia-friendly font.

Accompanying illustrations were by Mr Md Samad Afandie, who opted for hand-drawn watercolour images to reimagine and capture the kampung spirit.

 

"I hope this book inspires kids to go outdoors, be more adventurous, read more Malay books and make friends out there in the real world other than just online," said the 54-year-old.

As Mr Sidek says in his welcome message: "Wherever life takes you, always be grateful for the good things and never forget where you come from."

Published by local publishing house Opus, Anak Kampung Bernama Sidek costs $18 (inclusive of GST) and can be purchased at all major bookstores across Singapore in October.