The Adventures of Squirky the Alien

A Children's Book Series on Adoption


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Squirky Wraps Up

Here’s what we’ve been up to these past few weeks, in a somewhat chronological order:

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“Tested” the final Squirky book with a storytelling and craft session at the Bukit Timah Community Club’s Reading Club with around 30 children. Squirky stuff toy almost got stolen, one girl cried upon realising there would be no more Squirky books, and one boy said the leaf skirt craft activity was dumb because “I am not a girl”. Realised while helping the nth toddler to string leaves that I am really not a craft person, but hey, some kids pulled off the Gardener skirt pretty darn well.

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A few days later, Squirky got a half page story in The Straits Times for winning the Crystal Kite Award (read full story here). The photojournalist, Marcus Tan, was absolutely meticulous about styling Squirky, and so even though I really don’t like being photographed, I like this image very much because Squirky was given due limelight.

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It was fun to be more involved in the Asian Festival of Children’s Content this year, moderating sessions with all these intelligent and experienced editors and writers really made me appreciate these steely women (they all happened to be female) negotiating the challenges of book publishing. The highlight was co-presenting a talk on “Being Honest About Difficult Issues Through Stories” with Professor Ruth Wong (we’d been discussing it since late last year). I was really excited to present all of Buddy’s favourite adoption books as case studies for my part of the presentation. Confession: I actually choked up a little during my part of the presentation, mostly because it really hit me how potentially significant children’s books can be. During the Q&A, I was actually taken by surprise when so many educators were asking about how to introduce a topic like adoption in the classroom. I think that’s a great sign!

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We also launched Squirky Book #6 during AFCC with a little art jam. There’s David doing his thing while also snuggling with Squirky. His “art jamming” always delights the children, and what’s more important, he is always so generous with his art and that big-heartedness always gets kids to open up (whether through the things they say or through their own art).

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A few days after AFCC, I went up to Kuala Lumpur to do a “Squirky Party” at the MPH Bookstore in 1 Utama shopping centre. For some strange reason, this event attracted older kids, but they were totally sporting and loads of fun.

PHEW!

This is not the end end though! Squirky will still be popping up here and there throughout the year, though with far less frequency now that the book series is over.  I felt it was necessary to launch the last book with some oomph, and in some strange way, it did, in ways I would not have expected.


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Squirky #4 wins 2nd Prize at Samsung KidsTime Authors’ Award

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The Adventures of Squirky the Alien #4: Who is My Mama? was one of the Second Prize Winners at Samsung KidsTime Authors’ Award 2016!

This came as such a lovely surprise as well, especially since I wasn’t sure the books qualified for this competition since they do not have explicitly Asian settings.

It was especially heartwarming to receive a note from one of the judges, Adeline Foo, who took the time to drop us a line.

“Your heartfelt stories together with the quirkiness of the artistic renditions have really touched the judges’ hearts. And kids’ hearts too, especially those who are looking for answers…”  

I haven’t quite processed this unexpected, if somewhat sudden, show of appreciation for Squirky. But once I do, there’s a big reflection post coming up.


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Squirky Book #3 Wins Crystal Kite Award!

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[This post is adapted from my frenzied FB update after we heard the news.]

“The Adventures of Squirky the Alien #3: Who is the Red Commander?” has won this year’s Crystal Kite Award (Middle East/India/Asia division)!

The annual Crystal Kite Award is given by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) to recognise great books from 15 SCBWI regional divisions around the world. These books are chosen by other children’s book writers and illustrators.

“Who is the Red Commander?” is essentially about a flawed, fearful grown-up who gets told by two kids to face his personal monsters and get with the programme. It is the Squirky book closest to my heart as it parallels my journey in trying to get this book series out – an insecure, publicity-shy writer with zero experience writing children’s picture books trying to come up with not one, but SIX picture books on an uber-niche, kind-of-taboo-in-Asia topic like adoption. Can you imagine the amount of whining I put my husband through these past few years?

But like the Red Commander, I’ve realised that there are just some things I can’t sort out on my own. There would be no Squirky series without David’s evocative illustrations and MPH Group Publishing. The stories would have been a lot more convoluted without beta reader feedback from trusted writer friends. Practically no one would know about Squirky’s existence without the relentless shout-outs from  supportive buddies who are parent and book bloggers.

And to every one of you who bought these books for your kids or friends’/relatives’ kids even if you’re not from the adoption community: thank you for being open, for recognising that an adoption search story is still a story that any child can enjoy and relate to.

Ack, didn’t mean for this to sound like some sort of cheesy acceptance speech! But I felt I had to get this out just so you know that any reward star the blue alien underdog Squirky gets is really because of ALL your help. I am so grateful.


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All Things #AFCC

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We’ll be pretty busy at Asian Festival of Children’s Content this year! If you’re coming, do drop by and say HI :))

*** 1. Launch of The Adventures of Squirky the Alien #6: When Does the Search End? [Note: This event is FREE and anyone can come!]
Date: Sun 29 May 2016
Time: 3-3.30pm
Venue: NLB Building, L1 Plaza

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2. Squirky author Melanie will be co-presenting a talk on “Being Honest about Difficult Issues with Stories” with NIE Associate Professor Ruth Wong [Note: You will need to have signed up for either the Parents Forum or Preschool & Primary Teachers Congress]
Date: Sun 29 May 2016
Time: 1.15-2.15pm
Venue: NLB Building, L16 The Pod

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She will also be moderating two panels discussing themes close to the Squirky book series:

‪#‎weneeddiversebooks‬. Really! [Note: You will need to have signed up for the Writers & Illustrators Conference]
Date: Wed, 25 May
Time: 2-3pm
Venue: L5 Possibility Room

– To S.I.R. (Socially Inclusive Reads) with Love: A socially inclusive picture book for kids, with or without special needs [Note: You will need to have signed up for the Preschool & Primary Teachers Congress]
Date: Sun 29 May 2016
Time: 11.15-12.15pm
Venue: NLB Building, B1 Multipurpose Room

3. Meanwhile, Squirky illustrator David “Wolfe” Liew will also be out and about quite a bit. For those of you inspired by his art, do check out:

– Portfolio Review [Note: You will need to have signed up for the Writers & Illustrators Conference, and submitted your sample art to AFCC]
Date: Fri, 29 May 2016
Time: 10.30am – 12.45pm
Venue: NLB Building, L16 The Pod

– The Fabulour Fear Factor [Note: You will need to have signed up for the Writers & Illustrators Conference.]
Date: Fri 29 May 2016
Time: 10.30-11.30am
Venue: NLB Building, B1 Multipurpose Room

– First Look: Illustration Critique [Note: You will need to have signed up for the Writers & Illustrators Conference, and submitted your sample art to AFCC]
Date: Thurs, 28 May 2016
Time: 3.15-4.15pm
Venue: NLB Building, L5 Imagination Room

For more information on this action-packed festival dedicated just to children’s content, do visit http://www.afcc.com.sg


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Six things to know about Squirky #6

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We’re launching the final Squirky book later this month at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (more details to come soon) and we’re so glad (yet sentimental) that this series is coming to an end.

Here are six things to look forward to in this book:

1. Quentin (aka Red Commander) meeting Squirky’s Daddy and Mummy back on Earth!
2. A few gorgeous doublespreads illustrated by David (we played around with the layout a little for this last book)!
3. A sneak peek at what Squirky and Emma look like when they are older!
4. Tying up (most of the) loose strings after Book #5!
5. An adoptive parent resource on how to disclose with sensitivity with insights from adoption counsellors.
6. Re-visiting the earlier Squirky books again to see how Squirky has evolved during this awesome space adventure and appreciating the story as a complete tale!

We hope you are just as excited about the last book as we are!


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Social Squirky

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Squirky was out quite a bit this March with two store events and two stories out in the papers (see our media page). Meanwhile, the final 6th book also went through design and layout during this period, and right now, we’re taking a breather before promoting the complete series in May at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content and an MPH event in KL in the first week of June (more details to follow soon).

It was lovely to share these stories again, and while Book 5 ends on a rather emotionally intense note, the events were pretty fun as kids dressed up as little Gardeners in DIY leaf skirts.

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Squirky 5 Events

Just dropping a note to let you guys know about upcoming bookstore events for The Adventures of Squirky the Alien #5: How Do You Get to the Garden Galaxy?

There’ll be storytelling, craft and a special Squirky art lesson during these sessions! Feel free to drop by if you’re in Singapore 🙂

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