Little Lit Book Review: Chinese Picture Books [Part 3]

The Mother Tongue Language Festival, organised by the National Library, is held between 6 and 13 September 2014. So it is an opportune time to review some good-quality Chinese picture books, originally written in English, Japanese or French.

 

 Big Word Factory by by Agnès de LestradeTitle: The Big Word Factory by Agnès de Lestrade

Age Range: 5 years and above

Chinese standard: Intermediate

Availability: This book is available as an app, and has been considered one of the ‘Best Book Apps of 2013’. The English edition has a different title, ‘Phileas’s Fortune: A Story About Self-Expression.

 

 

 

The Big Word Factory by Agnès de Lestrade is an award-winning picture book. Originally written in French and translated into Chinese, it is a charming tale about the beauty and power of words, and the power of the heart to touch the hearts of others.

 

Synopsis

Big Word Factory by Big Word Factory by by Agnès de Lestrade

The reader is taken to a peculiar place where a factory produces words like consumer goods. Angry and elegant words are marked down as sale items. Worthless words are discarded in alleys.

In this peculiar place the people hardly speak. Speaking is too expensive and too laborious.

First they have to purchase the words. Next they have to chew and swallow each word. Finally they have to wait for an appropriate time to articulate the words.

Big Word Factory by Agnès de LestradeBut what if they can’t afford to buy words? They might be able to nab words printed on strips of paper floating by; words tossed away by those who used them carelessly and frivolously.

Phileas wants to tell Cybele, “I love you” but he cannot afford it. Instead we watch the resourceful and courageous Phileas woos Cybele with 3 other words: – Cherry, Dust, Chair.

 

My Thoughts – Heart of the Matter

Big Word Factory by Big Word Factory by by Agnès de LestradeThe Big Word Factory is a good picture book with intricate layers and textures that are waiting to be unpeeled and uncovered. Poetically written and translated, this book is a great resource for children to build their word bank [English and Chinese]. If you are a word-lover and enjoy savouring the texture and flavour of every word, this book is for you. This story is also a love story for romantics.

 

We often hear it’s not what we say but how we say it that matters. This story points to a fundamental truth: the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Phileas’ 3 words do not seem to stand a chance with rival Oscar‘s string of words. However, Phileas, heartfelt expression of each word, his gifting of these precious pearls he has struggled to gather finally tugs Cybele’s heart.

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Little Lit Book Review: Chinese Picture Books [Part 2]

The Mother Tongue Language Festival, organised by the National Library, is held between 6 and 13 September 2014. So it is an opportune time to review some good-quality Chinese picture books, originally written in English, Japanese or French.

 

It's a Book! by Lane SmithTitle: It’s a Book! by Lane Smith

Age Range: 5 years and above

Chinese standard: Easy to Intermediate

 

It’s a Book!, written by award-winning author-cum-illustrator Lane Smith, is about a book loving monkey, a tech savvy jackass and a straight talking little mouse. This book has been translated to over 20 languages.

 

 

 

Synopsis

It's a Book! by Lane Smith The jackass simply does not get it. He asks, “Can it [the book] scroll down?
Can it blog? Can it tweet? Can it text? Can it play back music? Can you play games with it? Do you need a password?” The monkey replies to every question, “No, you can’t”, but the jackass’ curiosity grows. He ends up reading the book and refuses to return it to the monkey. At the end of the story, the jackass still doesn’t get it.

 

 

 

My Thoughts – A very clever, satirical concept

It's a Book! by Lane Smith

Brilliantly conceived and a hilarious read. Today many children are familiar with ebooks, ibook, digital books, interactive books and computer games but are clueless about hardback and paperback books. This makes a perfect gift for screen-obsessed children. My K2 nephew finds the story funny and the jackass silly even though he does not fully grasp some of the concepts such as blogging [写博客], text [短信] and wifi [无线上网]. But he gets the story. He is no jackass. Phew!

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Little Lit Book Review: Chinese Picture Books [Part 1]

The Mother Tongue Language Festival, organised by the National Library, is held between 6 and 13 September 2014. So it is an opportune time to review some good-quality Chinese picture books, originally written in English, Japanese or French.

 

Parents who want their children to experience reading Chinese at an early age should try these books. The Chinese text in these books does not come with Hanyu Pinyin.

 


GreatGrandPasGrandPaTitle:
爷爷的爷爷的爷爷的爷爷 [Grandpa’s Grandpa’s Grandpa’s Grandpa] by Yoshifumi Hasegawa

Age Range: 3 years and above

Chinese standard: Easy

 

Grandpa’s Grandpa’s Grandpa’s Grandpa is multiple-award winning author-cum-illustrator Yoshifumi Hasegawa’s first book. This comical and creative book makes learning Chinese fun.

 

Synopsis: 

A 5-year-old boy introduces his 38-year-old father and his 72-year-old grandfather to the reader. He asks his grandfather, “What is your father like?”

GreatGrandPasGrandPa-Inside2Grandpa introduces him to his great-grandfather. His grandpa exits the page. The boy spends time with his great-grandfather and asks, “What is your father like?”

His great-grandfather introduces his father as “great-great-grandfather”. His great-grandfather exits the page. Now the boy spends time with his great-great-grandfather and asks, “What is your father like?” His great-great-grandfather introduces his father as “great-great-great-grandfather”.

The beautiful cyclical structure of this story follows the boy as he traces his lineage through each historic period and finally wonders whose grandfather he will be in the future?

 

My Thoughts – Shared Moments with Loved Ones

GreatGrandPa2

The bold, quirky illustrations add humour and depth to the boy’s story—imagining the boy sharing a meal, travelling or conversing with his ancestors—reminds us to cherish shared moments with our loved ones.

 My K2 nephew reads with glee as he keeps adding yet another “great” to the preceding “great”. Try saying “great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great- great- great- great- great- great- great- great- great- great- great- great-grandfather.” It is a ridiculously funny and non-threatening easy read for children learning Mandarin.

 

 

 

Title: 尿尿是什么? [What is Pee?] by Kyo Yamiwaki

Age Range: 3 years and above

Chinese standard: Easy

 

WhatisPee-CoverOriginally written by a Japanese writer, this book is perfect for potty training children, especially boys. But it is also a fun read for non-potty children learning Chinese.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

The story starts when Yu Yu graduates from diapers to undies. His undies is so comfortable Yu Yu discovers he can do a series of forward rolls.

Pee-Guide3

Pee-Guide5

Yu Yu shares a moment with his imaginary friend, a frog print motif on the curtain that springs into secret life, just for him. Yu Yu explains to the frog what pee is, what causes someone to pee and how to pee. The story has a funny, final twist.

 

My thoughts – Peek into Peeing Guide

Yu Yu’s step-by-step guide on how to pee into a toilet bowl is perfect for little boys.

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Little Lit Author: Adrian Pang [Part 2]

This is part of my “Little Lit Author’s First…” series. We continue with Part 2 of Adrian Pang’s interview. He shares about his first children’s picture book, Hansel and Girl Girl, his writing process and his next writing project.  

 

~ SYNOPSIS: HANSEL AND GIRL GIRL ~ 

Adrian - Hansel and Girl GirlIn Hansel and Girl Girl, a brother and sister live in an Ang Mo Kio HDB flat with their stepmother who thinks them a nuisance. She keeps sending them out on errands, hoping they would get lost and never return. And one day, they really do not come home!

Adrian Pang has teamed up with world-renowned Singaporean artist and Cultural Medallion winner, Milenko Prvacki, to create a surprisingly heartwarming Singapore fairy tale. Hansel and Girl Girl is Adrian’s first children’s picture book.

Hansel and Girl Girl costs $16.9. You can purchase it online or at major bookshops.

 

Linn Shekinah: How involved were you in the illustration process? What was your reaction when you first saw Milenko Prvacki’s art for your book? 

Adrian Pang:  I was not involved in the illustration process at all. But his work is beautiful. I am not worthy.

 

Linn Shekinah: What advice would you give to someone who is an aspiring or emerging children’s author?

Adrian Pang: You must really LOVE writing for children. And it helps to understand that children’s tastes are evolving as we forge into this century.

 

Linn Shekinah: What is your next writing project?

Adrian Pang: Part of my job as co-Artistic Director of Pangdemonium, I am in charge of content for all our collaterals, and I’m currently working on our programme for our upcoming production FROZEN – not the children’s Disney one, our production is a drama about a serial killer. Which I play. Told you I have a dark side.

 

~ADRIAN’s MULTIPLE ROLES AS ACTOR, PRESENTER, WRITER ~

Linn Shekinah: You are a versatile actor and an engaging host, what steps did you take to ensure your story will keep children engaged?

Adrian Pang: Always move the story forward, keep the characters interesting, and have they speak good dialogue. I can’t promise that the finished product adheres to that.

 

Linn Shekinah: Among all the different art forms you are familiar with, which art form brings out the best and the worst of you as an artist? Why?

Adrian Pang: I absolutely love being an actor because I get to vicariously live other lives. Especially as a theatre actor, there no more liberating feeling of being on stage in front of an audience, hoping they don’t throw something at you.

 

Linn Shekinah: Do you have any plans to write, act and direct your own play, especially a children’s play? 

Adrian Pang: Nope, I leave that to the experts.

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Little Lit Author: Adrian Pang [Part 1]

This is part of my “Little Lit Author’s First…” series. This interview offers a sneak peek into a celebrity’s first children’s picture book

 

Adrian Pang - Author of Hansel and Girl Girl

Adrian Pang – Author of Hansel and Girl Girl

Many people know Adrian Pang as the funny man on Mediacorp TV programmes.  Sure, he has the knack of making people laugh with his deadpan facial expression; however many people do not know Adrian as a multi-talented, versatile and an award-winning theatre director-actor-presenter-screenwriter & playwright.

Recently, Adrian—currently the Artistic Director of Pangdemonium, a theatre company—has added another feather to his cap.  He has teamed up with world-renowned Singaporean artist and Cultural Medallion winner, Milenko Prvacki, to create a surprisingly heartwarming Singapore fairy tale. Hansel and Girl Girl is Adrian’s first children’s picture book which has just been published.

I caught up with Adrian to chat about his latest endeavour. He shares his thoughts on his book with us, his writing process, his current writing project, and the multiple professional roles that he juggles.

 

~ ADRIAN LOVES LITTLE LIT~ 

Adrian Pang ~ Something we don’t know about you as an author ~ 

I am very sentimental, but I also love dark material.

 

Loves ~ Something that you’ve always loved since you’re a kid ~ 

My mum’s poh piah.

 

Little Lit ~ Your favourite children’s book ~

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

 

~ SYNOPSIS: HANSEL AND GIRL GIRL ~

Adrian - Hansel and Girl GirlIn Hansel and Girl Girl, a brother and sister live in an Ang Mo Kio HDB flat with their stepmother who thinks them a nuisance. She keeps sending them out on errands, hoping they would get lost and never return. And one day, they really do not come home!

Hansel and Girl Girl costs $16.9. You can purchase it online or at major bookshops.

 

 

~ADRIAN PANG’s NEW BOOK & WRITING ~

Linn Shekinah: As a professional actor, you never acted or involved in a children’s play / TV show. So what motivated you to write a children’s picture book?

Adrian Pang: I’ve written short plays and short films and an entire tv series, and some songs before, but a children’s story is an entirely different challenge. I was approached some time ago, and I’m always up for a challenge, so I said yes!

 

Linn Shekinah: What is the story behind your picture book story?

Adrian Pang: Very simply, I was asked to choose among a few classic children’s fairy tales, and Hansel & Gretel appealed to me because it had a dark streak to it.

 

Linn Shekinah:  You used “Hansel and Gretel” as a starting point. Can we expect the story to be close to the classic fairy tale?

Adrian Pang:  In my version, I subverted the whole story and made it quite absurdist and satirical. But the publishers felt it would go over the kids’ heads and they wanted a proper and neat ending, so I left it to them to amend.

 

Linn Shekinah:  What was the writing process like for you?

Adrian Pang: I usually have the germ of a idea, either the bigger concept for a story arc, or sometimes it starts with just a small idea, maybe a phrase or even a word that hooks me in. And then I make the difficult step of starting to write, and I find that once I get over that hurdle, I have to allow myself to just be spontaneous and let the words pour our, edit late when it’s all done.

 

Linn Shekinah: What did you enjoy most in the creation and writing process? What challenges did you encounter?

Adrian Pang: I do like writing, but I don’t like censorship. Well, after this experience, I know that I have to know my demographic when I’m writing.

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Little Lit Book Review: My Naughty Little Sister Collection by Dorothy Edwards

 

 

My Naughty Little Sister [FC]My friend recommended I read one of her favourite childhood books, My Naughty Little Sister by British author, Dorothy Edwards. This timeless children’s classic by Edwards captures the nuances of a child under the age of five very well. You can’t help but smile at the little sister’s spunky spontaneity and charming innocence. You can find the naughty little sister in this story in every child.

Take one glance at the cover and the drawings peppered throughout, and you’ll get the hunch that this book is written eons ago. The retro pen and ink illustrations are done by multiple award-winning illustrator cum author, Shirley Hughes.

 

Story Behind the Story

My Naughty Little Sister is based on the author’s younger sister, Phyllis. Edwards conceived the stories in 1950 to keep her daughter quiet whileMy Naughty Little Sister [S] they were on a family vacation. Edwards went on to write five more books under the same series. This series sits well with independent readers between 7 and 8 years old, and pre-schoolers if their parents read to them. I bought the collection of five books – fifty-two stories – bound in a paperback from Woods in the Book for only S$24. What a steal!

 

This Book Reminds me of….

Edwards’ stories usually start off with “A long time ago, when I was a little girl, I had a little sister…” or “A long time ago, my naughty little sister….”.  This writing style reminds me of Lauren Child’s Charlie and Lola where Charlie is the narrator and describes his little sister’s antics.

 

Not So Naughty

The naughtiness of her naughty little sister is very mild compared to the wicked deeds of Horrid Henry by Francesca Simon.

My Naughty Little Sister [Inside]Her little sister comes across as an inquisitive, curious, precocious child with an independent streak. She charms the milkman, the baker, the window-cleaner and the grumpy neighbour.

Sometimes, her little sister can be spiteful when she does not have her way – Like how she tosses her older sister’s fairy doll out of the window and it lands on a muddy puddle.

 

Sometimes, her little sister can be silly and funny. One day, she has a chance to join her older sister to school. When the teacher does an attendance check, the little sister is surprised that everyone replies by saying “Present”, so she shouts out, “I want a present, I want a present!”

 

The little sister’s best moments can be very touching. When her aunt reads her a story about a poor little boy with no breakfast, dinner and supper, she becomes very pensive. At supper, she leaves her piece of buttery bread on top of the little book boy’s picture. For a normally greedy child, her unexpected thoughtful deed shows she has a kind, tender heart.

 

I thoroughly recommend My Naughty Little Sister. Read it to your children or your little sister if you have one, and watch their faces light up, or enjoy it with a cup of tea and scones. It is indeed, a very good read!

 

 

 

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Little Lit Author: Ildasolha Jamari [Part 2]

This is part of my “Little Lit Author’s First…” series. Today I continue with Part 2 of my interview with Ildasolha Jamari, the author cum illustrator of Singapore’s first children’s Board Books in Malay.

 

Photo Credit: Ildasolha

Photo Credit: Ildasolha

Ildasolha Jamari, a Math and Science school teacher,wrote, illustrated and self-published two Malay board books for children 3 years and below. 

 

 

 

 

Linn Shekinah: Board books usually cover basic vocabulary or concepts such as numbers, alphabets, colours, shapes, sizes and family. One of your books focuses on an original concept – patterns. Any reason why you chose this concept? How longdid you take to conceptualise and write two of your board books? Did you consult anyone? 

Ildasolha: I chose to focus on patterns because…

  1. Pattern recognition is a concept that children should be exposed to at an early age because it is essential in Mathematics.
  2. Patterns are all around us – Dots, stripes and so on. Teaching them the names of patterns will enrich their vocabulary.

I took about 1 month to write and illustrate. I showed my script to a friend who is a Malay language teacher to get her opinion. I also showed my drafts to my sisters, who are also parents of young children to get their feedback. I’m not sure how many times I rewrote, but I remember adjusting the artwork many times. The good thing about digital illustration is that that you can easily amend the illustration digitally as many times as you like. However, I will be using painting in my next book, so it may take a slightly longer time.

 

Linn Shekinah: What are the joys and challenges encountered in self-publishing as well as distributing and promoting the books by yourself?

Ildasolha: Well firstly, we need to raise awareness in the Malay community on the importance of young children’s exposure to Malay books to help them acquire the language. As we all are aware, nowadays, children in Singapore speak mainly English at home. Therefore we need to encourage parents to also immerse their children in Malay language so that they are proficient in both. Bilingualism has a lot of benefits on children’s brain development so we cannot see our native language as less important than English. In addition, we don’t want to lose our Malay language in generations to come as language is part of our heritage and in a way, it defines our roots and our identity.

 

Linn Shekinah: What are your future writing plans? Do you plan to write venture into books for older children?

Ildasolha: First, I will continue to improve the quality of my books. In the next few years, I will concentrate on board books in Malay language and bilingual board books. I’m looking into working with overseas publishers/distributors to help distribute the content of the books in other countries. In future, God-willing, I hope to publish Malay picture books with other authors and illustrators to enrich our children with high quality books and wonderful stories.

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More about Ildasolha’s Concept Board Books at http://www.facebook.com/babyncapbooks

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Little Lit Author: Ildasolha Jamari [Part 1]

This is part of my “Little Lit Author’s First…” series. Today I feature the author cum illustrator of Singapore’s first children’s Board Book in Malay. 

 

Ildasolha, Malay BoardBook Author

Ildasolha, Board Book Author

Ildasolha Jamari, a Math and Science school teacher, wrote, illustrated and self-published two Malay board books for children 3 years and below.

She launched her books at Asian Festival Children’s Content 2014 in June. Her board books have been well-received, with parents and bookshop owners expressing admiration for the innovative appeal. There are very few imported Malay board books, so Ildasholha’s titles are a refreshing change to the Malay-speaking community.

 

 

 

 

Ildasolha’s Board Books ~

This board book is about patterns and where these patterns are found.

 

Malay BoardBook-Cover-Patterns

Photo Credit: Ildasolha

This page is about dots – ‘bintik’. ‘Badan ikan ini berbintik’ on the next page describes the dots found on the fish. This simple text encourages children to read and relate to the illustrated picture.

BoardBook-Patterns-InsidePages

Photo Credit: Ildasolha

 

The second board book, ‘Mengapakah Awak Tersenyum?’ is about feelings

Malay BoardBook-Cover

Photo Credit: Ildasolha

BoardBook2 - Inside Pages

Photo Credit: Ildasolha

This book introduces children to various facial expressions, taken from the circumstances the child is experiences and the emotions triggered. The concept,  presented in a question-and-answer format, teaches children to express their feelings and explain why they feel and behave in a certain way

 

 

Linn Shekinah: What motivated you to do board/concept books in Malay and why did you choose to self-publish your books? 

Ildasolha: I decided to self-publish board books in Malay language partly because there is a lack of variety of such books in Singapore and partly because local publishers do not publish board books. As a mother of young children, I see a need for more Malay board books for babies and toddlers. As fewer Malays are speaking Malay language at home, we should encourage parents to read in Malay to their young children and expose their young children to Malay books.

 

Linn Shekinah: How has the Malay-speaking community responded to your books?

Ildasolha: So far, parents who have bought my books have given a lot of positive feedback and encouragement. For most of them, my books are their children’s first Malay books. That’s good news for me. I believe that if the quality of the product is good, people will come to know about my books eventually. Also, I hope that more parents will understand the need for early exposure (at infancy stage) to books in both languages.

 

Linn Shekinah: Share with us your self-publishing experience? How long did the whole process take, from conception to print? 

Ildasolha: I went through some trial-and-error processes and read up online on how to self-publish. It’s not easy, but hey, nothing is easy right? Even eating can be difficult at times right (laughs)! The whole process took about 3 months.

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More about Ildasolha’s Concept Board Books at http://www.facebook.com/babyncapbooks

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Little Lit Author: Edmund Lim [Part 2]

This is part of my “Little Lit Author’s First…” series. Today we feature Part 2 of the interview with Edmund Lim, author of Singapore’s First Jewish-themed children’s chapter book, “Jacob Ballas”. He tells us more about the Jewish community in Singapore.  

 

Linn Shekinah: What are some of the legacies of Jacob Ballas?

Edmund Lim: His philanthropy has benefited schools and organizations inJacobBallasCentre Singapore and overseas. For instance, he donated generously to St Andrews and the various charities. His trust fund facilitated the building of Jacob Ballas Centre and the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden.

 

 

Linn Shekinah:  Why should Singaporeans know about the Jewish culture and the small community living in our midst? How has the Jewish community contributed to Singapore? 

Edmund Lim: Lots to know. We have a special and small community of Jewish people. Though the community is small, they have contributed significantly to our nation. Our first chief minister, David Marshall is a Jew.

The Jewish people contributed to the legal (David Marshall, Prof Pinsler, Joseph Grimbery, Harry Elias), medical (Prof Yahya Cohen) and economic (FJ Benjamin & family, Sassoon’s Coffee Bean Tea Leaf), among others.

 

Linn Shekinah: What advice will you give us to get to know this small community better? 

Edmund Lim: When we interact with the various communities in Singapore, it helps to do so with thoughtfulness, sincerity and a heart of caring friendship.

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Little Lit Author: Edmund Lim [Part 1]

This is part of my “Little Lit Author’s First…” series. Today we feature the author of Singapore’s First Jewish-themed children’s chapter book

 

Edmund Lim

I was pleasantly surprised and very excited to discover a few months back that Singapore had her first Jewish-themed children’s book written a few years ago.

Having a Hebrew name and a deep respect for all things Jewish, I was thrilled to speak with the author, who is none other than award-winning author and former school principal, Edmund Lim. Edmund Lim won the Hedwig Anuar Children’s Book Award for his children’s book, “Where’s Grandma” in 2013. I caught up with him to discuss his chapter book, “Jacob Ballas”.  

 

~ About “JACOB BALLAS” ~

 EdmundLim-JacobBallasJacob Ballas, targeting children 7 years and above, is a non-fiction chapter book about the Jewish man himself. It is an easy read for adults too who are interested to learn more about this Jewish personality.

Synopsis: Jacob Ballas traces the rags to riches story of Jacob, as well as his contributions to the community, country and society, along with the history and development of Singapore.

The book contains illustrations and personal photographs of Jacob & family. In addition to the story of Jacob Ballas, there are stories at the end of every chapter, featuring information on the Jews, Early Singapore, World War II and other aspects of history & culture.

 

~ EDMUND LIM AND JACOB BALLAS ~

Linn Shekinah: What inspired you to write a non-fiction chapter book?

Edmund Lim: The outstanding life of Jacob Ballas inspired me to write this story.  I feel that we need to know more about our local role models and remarkable pioneers in our history.

 

Linn Shekinah: What makes the subject matter a worthy read?

Edmund Lim: Jacob is an amazing and great man who succeeded in life, amidst the challenges. He then went on to contribute actively and generously to society. Young and old can learn from him and his experiences.

 

Linn Shekinah: How did you gather and verify information about Jacob Ballas? Did you consult the Jewish community? How long did your research take?

Edmund Lim: I did research at the archives and oral history research. I interviewed various people who knew him, including people in the Jewish community and his close friends. The research took more than a year.

 

Linn Shekinah: Tell us a little about the man himself. Name one character trait about Jacob Ballas that you admire most, one charming trivia about Jacob Ballas as a young boy and share one fascinating anecdote as a leader in the business community. 

Edmund Lim: Jacob had the capability to make the best of the opportunities in life. He persevered and progressed.

When Jacob was young, he was plump. When a girl dismissed him as a “fat lump”, his heart sank but he responded positively by exercising regularly and eating healthily. He replaced khubz with healthy lemons. He ran and cycled and soon, he became an athletic and trim youth.

Jacob gave huge bonuses (up to 18 months) to his staff and took good care of them. As a business leader, he had a caring heart for the less fortunate. When he was approached to donate to a nursing home for the elderly, he generously donated half a million.

 

Linn Shekinah:  What do you think contribute to the success of Jacob Ballas?  

Edmund Lim: In addition to God’s grace, Jacob’s desire to make the best of opportunities in life and his personality contributed to his success.

 

Linn Shekinah:  How did the Jewish community respond to the book? Do you have plans to write about other prominent Jewish settlers and leaders [eg David Marshall] in Singapore? 

Edmund Lim: The community was responsive to the book. Yes, it will be worthwhile to write a book on David Marshall and others. In fact, I have written about David Marshall and it was published in another book commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Chesed-El Synagogue.

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