The Adventures of Squirky the Alien

A Children's Book Series on Adoption


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Review: A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza

choco

This story stuck to C. when he was one and he kept asking for the “Choco book” for a few months. Up till today, he knows that Choco is the “crying yellow bird”.  He likes to poke Choco’s chubby cheeks for one, but also, I think this author has done a great job with character and plot development with such a simple story.

Lonely Choco goes in search for his mother and asks a variety of animals like Mrs. Penguin and Mrs. Walrus whether they are his mother. Each time, he is told that he is not their child because he looks different from them. Finally, while he is crying about not finding a mummy, he meets Mrs. Bear, who is worlds apart from him, but offers to be his mother because she has love to give.

C. especially loves the ending when Choco gets to play with toy choo-choos with his new siblings Hippy, Ally and Piggy. That is the ultimate happily-ever-after for little boys.

It’s really a lovely tale (I consider it a classic really) and one that every child would love!

This book is available at the National Library and can be bought from Books Depository.

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And so it begins

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The first batch of Squirky books has arrived. It feels surreal to flip through my “debut” children’s book. It also means I have to begin something which I’ve never fancied that much: marketing (ironic since this blog here is also one of  the marketing platforms heh).

My past experience with book publishing has shown me that authors should never just leave promotion to the publishers. However, promoting this book in particular really terrifies me. It’s such a personal project, and I remember telling my husband, “I’m probably going to be very angsty about ‘pimping’ this book, so I’m telling you in advance to please bear with me because I’m feeling vulnerable for us as a family.”

At AFCC this year, I had a short chat with editor Stacy Whitman from Tu Books, an American publisher that does diversity books. “Help!” I told Stacey, “I’m doing a children’s book series on adoption but no one in Asia has really done children’s books on adoption. I feel like I have nothing to refer to and I have no idea how to promote it.”

She pondered for a while and then replied, “Well, for a start, you’ll have to be an advocate for adoption.”

Initially, I’d totally rejected that idea. I’ve just been an adoptive mother for just two years – what authority/credibility do I have? Also, as a conflict-averse person, I’ve mostly kept my thoughts on politics/current affairs/society away from social media because well, you know how things get.

As you can see with this post and that post regarding the NLB book ban involving a few adoption books, I did get quite opinionated. I felt my views should be heard even if they weren’t mainstream/of the majority/ “what proper Christians ought to think”. One of my friends who disagreed with my views, but who was open-minded enough to have a discussion with me about the various perspectives surrounding this issue, told me,  “If you don’t like what is happening, then you have to do your part to make the changes you want to see here.” And I finally agreed with him about something.

And so it begins. Lots and lots of Squirky promotion that is not just about pushing book sales but also raising awareness on adoption issues. And at the end of the day, it’s really for this story to reach the children who might feel a little less alone in the world after meeting Squirky.


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Review: We Belong Together by Todd Parr

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My family loves this book. C. has already identified the yellow boy on the cover as himself. His favourite part of the book is where there’s a boy and father baking a birthday cake together so he can sing the birthday song. He calls it “daddy cooking candles”.

I like how the characters are all of different colours, including purple, green and red.

I love the first line: “We belong together because you needed a home…and I had one to share.”

There are different types of families shown, including a family adopting pets, single parent families, one with two ladies and a child, and one with two men and a child. My husband and I did not see any issue with that. I have a friend whose older sister adopted a child as a single parent, and she is helping her sister raise this child together. Also, Simba in The Lion King was raised by a male meercat and warhog, wasn’t he? I believe it’s important C. develops an awareness that such family configurations exist. He zoomed into this couple and identified this as “daddy and mummy”. He was looking for characters to identify with in the book, and I imagine other young readers would probably be doing the same.

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This book is not listed in the library, and it probably will never be given how Todd Parr’s The Family Book was removed from NLB. However, it can be purchased from Book Depository.


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At the End of the Day

sleepAs a baby, C. used to be an angel when it came to sleep. We’d pop him to bed around 7pm each night. He’d make a few grunts, but would soon be fast asleep and wake up at 7am the next day (he’d sleep through the night milk feeds as well).

These days, he articulates plenty of demands and rituals which involves praying, telling stories, singing songs, saying goodnight to all his toys, being briefed about his programme the next day, petting his tummy, and saying goodnight repeatedly. It actually takes a good hour to put him to bed on some days.

One particular night, my husband tried to shorten the process by bypassing the tummy-petting and tucking the Squirky toy into bed with C. “Squirky is like a Daddymummy representative when we’re not with you,” he said. (Yeah, he’s one of those adults who talks in an adult way to kids.)

C. nodded and snuggled up to the stuff toy. “Squirky my best friend.” We were able to leave his bedroom without any toddler shrieks.

I started thinking about the friends he interacts with in school, about how the teachers say he is popular but likes to lead his classmates to do naughty things (heh), and started thinking about his future. I pray and hope with all my heart that he will find a few real-life friends of Squirky material to accompany him through this crazy, complicated life.


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The Representation of Adoption

Illustration by David Liew

It was my illustrator friend David who had come up with the idea of doing a book for Christian. However, what really got me to start working on the Squirky series was the fact that most adoption literature I came across provide a very Western perspective. Wouldn’t it be cool to have Asian adoptive parents portrayed for a change?

This is why I was  disappointed when I heard that the National Library Board (NLB) in Singapore had removed The White Swan Express: A Story About Adoption because of a mention of a lesbian couple. It narrowed the representation of adoption even further in a society that has so much ignorance and misconceptions on this subject. A lot has been written about this controversy of NLB removing children’s books, and I think the best summary can be found here.

When I expressed this disappointment with the book ban and pulping these past few days, I was questioned by some friends as to why I am against this library book ban when I am a parent and I am a Christian. I would like to think that it’s because I’m a parent and am a Christian that this ban does not sit well with me. And for the record, here’s why.

1. As an adoptive parent...

– I already found the range of adoption literature in NLB limited.

– By removing this book, the government and the library has sent a secondary message that adoption is not pro-family either.

– Just like how I feel it is important to show Asian adoptive parents, other types of adoptive families should be reflected as well in children’s books. The White Swan Express has made it a point to reflect a variety of adoptive families in society today.

– How would a child raised by same-sex parents feel if adoption books refuse to acknowledge the existence of his or her type of family? Or if libraries only carried adoption books featuring “conventional families”?

– I believe that parents should be the ones deciding what books are appropriate for their young children.

 

2. As a Christian…

– I have been blessed with certain spiritual mentors in my life who are NOT related by blood but who have selflessly been my emotional caregivers during my adolescence. I know that family goes beyond a biological father and mother and siblings.

– It disturbs me as to how some people from the same religion as me are expressing so much distaste for people with different beliefs from them. To me, Christianity should never ever be about that.

– Besides, didn’t Jesus grow up in a rather non-traditional family if you think about the circumstances surrounding his conception?  i.e. a single mother and an adoptive father?  (Mary was not a single mother soon after, so I’ve removed these words to express my point more accurately)

– My husband and I feel blessed to be in Singapore, a country with one of the most efficient and painless adoption processes in the world. But we are also saddened that we have met fellow believers who think that something is wrong with us for not being able to have our own biological children, for thinking that adoption is shameful and should be hidden at all costs, for not really giving two hoots that adoptive families barely get a voice in this society.

And that is why I am against this book ban. However, that being said, I have been talking to people from both sides of the fence and am realising that it’s not such an us vs. them issue. I would always want to listen to what my friends have to say. And for whatever it is worth, I’m glad people in Singapore are starting to open their mouths and express themselves. The next step perhaps is to express these differences with respect.

 

 

 


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“I Love Squirky!”

Hugging SquirkyWhile trying to conceptualise this book series this past year, C. has been kept in the loop about Squirky. He took an instant liking to Squirky when he saw David’s first sketch from my laptop (bobbed about and smiled), and instinctively pressed the star on Squirky’s tummy.

C. has been a lot more talkative these past few months so now, I get a better idea about what’s going through his head when I read out random Squirky snippets to him.

“Don’t like Squirky sad.”

“Squirky needs mummy.”

“Squirky is happy! Heeray!” (heeeray is his version of hooray)

Recently, I got a Squirky stuff toy specially made, thinking that it would make a good prop for storytelling sessions when Book #1 comes out. But before the book has even been launched, C. has appropriated the Squirky stuff toy as his best friend. He tells me:

“Squirky is not monster. Squirky is friend.”

“Squirky is going to have picnic with me.”

“I love Squirky!”

I’ve just realised that besides daddy and mummy, Squirky is the only other “person” he has declared a love for.

Like many writers, I often question whether spending so much time on books which don’t bring in the bacon (maybe a few cans of Spam) is really worth it. But to see C. really connect with a character I created specially for him…that means the world to me. And I hope that Squirky will always have a special place in his heart.


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Li Ka Shing and Little Ka Shing

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You may wonder how Li Ka Shing, Asia’s richest man, is related to adoption. To me, he plays a HUGE role in how C became part of our family.

One day, I was daydreaming in a bus when it passed by the Li Ka Shing library at Singapore Management University. Now this is one of my regular bus routes, and this library has been around for a while, so I’ve seen this building many, many times. However, on that day, I thought to myself, “Wah, this Li Ka Shing quite a generous dude hor?”

At that time, we’d just had our home study report approved and our home study officer had suggested we start calling a few adoption agencies to put ourselves on a waiting list. The day after my Li Ka Shing library pondering, I called an adoption agency and was greeting by a guy with a loud, salesman type voice who talked about babies like property and how we had to bring our chequebook if we wanted to “view”. Immediately, I was put off and felt like hanging up until:

Adoption agency salesman: Eh, you wan girl issit? Girl waiting list very long leh. 

Me: My husband and I are ok with boy or girl. 

Adoption agency salesman: Liddat ah. So you also ok boy ah? I just got one baby boy come in last week. You sure like wan! Fair fair plump plump and look like Li Ka Shing

I  froze when I heard that.

Me: Sorry, who does he look like again?

Adoption agency salesman: Li Ka Shing lah! You know the Hong Kong tycoon? Yah this boy got cute old man face, prosperous look! You must come see! 

And so I arranged to “view” Little Ka Shing the day after, and though my husband was appalled at how we were expected to bring a chequebook, I told him that I had a “very strong feeling” that we were meant to meet this baby boy.

And that was how we met C. When we first saw him, he was watching a Hong Kong drama serial from his rocking chair. The foster nanny was already calling him “Jia Cheng” (the hanyu pinyin name of Ka Shing) and that eventually became his official Chinese name as well.

As a Christian, I believe that our adoption journey was a divine blessing. I just find it incredibly hilarious how God’s sign came through a balding Hong Kong magnate.