Everyone thinks it's easy to write a children's picture book. I mean it's only between 600 to 1000 words, so how hard can it be? Wrong. With picture books, pacing, plot and word choice is paramount. You've got to engage your audience. With any bilingual book, the author has to be very careful with their word choice; in fact, an author has to be careful with word choice with any book that he/she writes. It is very difficult!
The National Book Council Development Council of Singapore has been trying to promote the children's literary scene here for some time. To that end, they decided to publish bilingual books in conjunction with the annual Asian Festival of Children's Content. As I am an author, I will be focusing on the books that were written by the Singaporean authors or Singapore based authors for this blog.
Japan was the AFCC's country of Focus in 2016, so a Singaporean author was paired up with a Japanese illustrator. Multiple award-winning best-selling author Emily Lim was chosen to write the first AFCC bilingual book. Emily's published around 30 books and sold her book rights overseas to Korea and Europe, so she was an ideal choice to wrote this inaugural bilingual book - Benji, Yumi, Origami! From the title alone, the reader can already tell that the book features Japanese origami.
The story starts with Benji receiving a package from his new neighbor, Yumi - An origami set. Benji quickly sets out trying to make paper animals that, unfortunately, do not turn out as he had hoped. Lim has fun with her play on words. "The poor insects really bugged Benji. He sent them flying across the table."
When Benji finally meets Yumi, he expresses his frustration at not being able to make very good origami animals. So while both their mothers busy themselves preparing a tea of Japanese cheesecake and Singaporean pineapple tarts. Yumi puts a positive spin on Benji's less than perfect Origami animals.
The author deftly weaves cross-cultural elements into this charming and heart-warming universal story of encouragement, fun, and friendship. The illustrations are delightful and the English and Japanese text placement make for easy reading.
Benji, Yumi, Origami! is available at all major bookstores.v