I try to help BB embrace the vibrant culture here in his present home, Singapore, mainly through the books we read to him and by taking him around this small island-city. To BB, the best way to get from point A to B is via the local SBS or SMRT buses — he loves looking out the large windows and pointing at the things he sees (“Biddings! Tees! Canes!” [Buildings! Trees! Cranes!]).
As for books, Epigram Books has a lot of good selections for kids and adults alike. An excellent find of ours is There Was a Peranakan Woman Who Lived in a Shoe by Gwen Lee, a book BB has been asking us to read more of lately.
BB is now old enough to remember his favorite nursery rhymes. He even replaces the words sometimes, in an attempt to make us laugh (“Baa, baa black…BUS!”).
BB’s perfect for Ms. Lee’s book, which rewrites traditional English nursery rhymes in a Singaporean context, using local food, places and festivals.
For instance in “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Lights” (a recreation of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”), the focus is on the local Deepavali festival or ‘The Festival of Lights.’ Meant to symbolize light conquering the darkness, the Deepavali (or Diwali) festival has Hindus “waking up at dawn to bath in oil, dressing up in colorful clothing, and going to a local temple for prayers. At home, clay oil lamps are lit, doors are decked out with green mango leaves, and colorful designs called ‘rangoli,’ which are made of dyed rice or flours, are drawn on the floor. Homes are also thoroughly cleaned and adorned with flowers and other colorful decorations.” (1)
Other rhymes include ‘Hickory Dickory Dock’ (about the common house gecko instead of a mouse!), ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’ (about moon…cakes), and the titular poem, which instead of an old woman in a shoe with too many kids, is about a Peranakan woman in a shoe with too many nonya kueh (sweet or savory bite-sized snacks). Peranakan refers to Straits-born Chinese or Baba-Nyonya. They’re the masters of Singaporean staples like laksa, which “blend Chinese ingredients with cooking techniques and spices used by the Malay/Indonesian community.” Yum!
Beautifully illustrated by Cheryl Kook, the book is a lovely re-imagining of beloved traditional rhymes and humorous enough to merit repeat “Read, Mama!” requests from BB.
That’s good enough for me!
(1) Source: https://publicholidays.sg/deepavali/
There Was a Peranakan Woman Who Lived in a Shoe (Epigram Books)
By Gwen Lee, Illustrations by Cheryl Kook
S$14.90 + GST