Here on Daily (w)rite, as part of the guest post series, it is my pleasure today to welcome Melanie Lee, a Singaporean author and blogger friend who has already been on this blog once before. This blog has spoken about travel experiences, and children’s writing.
Moving that forward, Melanie takes over Daily (w)rite today to talk about writing a travel guide for children.
She was commissioned by her publisher Marshall Cavendish to work on an illustrated travel book on Singapore for children ages 7-12, and Out & About in Singapore was the result.
Take it away, Melanie!
As someone who has written for travel magazines and children’s books, I thought working on a project like a travel book for children would be a fun combination of previous work experiences. However, it turned out to be quite a different creature altogether!
Here’s what I discovered:
A travel book for kids has to consider how kids travel.
While conceptualizing the book’s content and structure, it immediately became apparent I was tapping upon my parenting experience much more than my magazine and book publishing experiences. I recalled the numerous family travels and playdates over the years and the moments and places which brought on the bored tantrums or spontaneous delight. For example, when I wrote about Singapore Botanic Gardens, I focused on its 200-year-old Tembusu Tree as I recalled how my son and his friends had spent hours climbing it and looking for insects within its crackled bark.
A travel book for kids is mostly about the visuals. The text is there to support it.
Travel is about sightseeing, and I would say that the most wonderful thing about “Out & About in Singapore” are the whimsical color-pencil illustrations of Singaporean artist William Sim. Right from the beginning, I knew that the visuals would have to shine before even getting young readers interested in reading the text. To give William’s artwork prominence, I chose to write the text for the travel guide in brief chunks so that a variety of his beautiful illustrations could be featured within a page or a spread.
A travel book for kids could have some (fun) scaffolding.
In this travel guide, I included craft activities related to aspects of Singaporean culture. This was done so that readers could get a bit of “firsthand” experience in commemorating festivals such as Lunar New Year, Hari Raya Puasa and Deepavali (or Diwali). At the same time, I included bite-sized fun facts about Singapore and local folktales so there would be more context given to the featured travel destinations of this book.
A travel book for kids enables armchair travelling.
While “Out & About in Singapore” was originally envisioned as a book that children might bring along as they explored the island, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about unexpected uses for this book. I hear from readers and their parents that this travel guide has become a nostalgic memory trigger for places they have visited in the past. At the same time, it has also spurred them to plan visits to places they have not been to yet. This has made me realize, how, to some extent, travelling is a state of mind. While this book is meant to be non-fiction, it provides some sort of virtual reality to happier, more carefree days of exploration.
Melanie Lee is a writer and lecturer. She is the author of the award-winning picture book series The Adventures of Squirky the Alien. She is also the author of Imaginary Friends: 26 Whimsical Fables for Getting on in a Crazy World. She tweets at @melanderings.
What travel books have you bought for your children? Would you like to travel with your kids to Singapore?
Would you like a copy of Out & About in Singapore? Melanie is giving away a copy of this fab travel book (open internationally) to one of the commenters, so drop by with your questions and comments!
It is available in India here.
Reviews are appreciated–please get in touch if you’d like a review copy.