It's not normal to have another book launch just a month after your last one, surely! But that's what happened!
Snazzy socks are worn to commemorate World Down Syndrome Day. Freshly Pressed Socks, a local sock vendor, was on hand to ensure everyone was well-socked.
It was World Down Syndrome Day on 21 March, and it was the perfect day to launch I Can Help You, the second title in the series A Place for Us commissioned by Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS). The story features a girl with Down Syndrome, who is trained to run her school's minimart. She later helps the provision shop owner in her neighbourhood when he has a fall.
So it was very apt that after the book launch, the guests got to tour the minimart at MINDS Lee Kong Chian Gardens and the thrift shop at MINDS HQ next door to witness for ourselves the capable students of MINDS in action.
The book was launched by MP Joan Pereira and Dr Cheong Choong Kong, Patron of MINDS. Here are some photos from the launch and first reading of I Can Help You! (Photos in this gallery courtesy of The Hearts Collective).
More about the book
This second title from the series A Place for Us, is close to my heart because it is based on research that I collected on my very first visit to a MINDS school. It was at MINDS Lee Kong Chian Gardens, where I shopped at the school’s mini mart, bought some snacks and enjoyed a coffee prepared for me by the student on duty. It created a deep impression. Right away, I knew that this had to be the setting for one of the six titles in the series. Not only did I want to show how capable students of MINDS were, and how the skills they picked up at school could be translated to the real working world, I wanted to show how eager they were to execute their duties with excellence and to help whenever they could.
For this title, I chose to feature a character with Down Syndrome. In my research prior to writing this series, I had found that there were very, very few children’s picture books depicting children with Down Syndrome. Down Syndrome children need to be given the opportunity to shine and show their abilities, and I wanted this story to carry that message. The title I Can Help You will take on a different meaning if you emphasise the “I”, “Can”, “Help” or “You”. I’ll leave you to decide which is the most appropriate emphasis for this story.
One of the guiding principals for the series was that we (the illustrator, publisher and I) had to be truthful in our portrayal of persons with special needs, and to let these children see themselves in storybooks. In this story, when it came to deciding how Eliza, the protagonist, would be illustrated, it was an easy decision once we fell back on our guiding principal of being truthful in our storytelling. I think the illustrator, Nicholas Liem, has illustrated the main character, Eliza, with accuracy but also with sensitivity.
Illustrator for the series, Nicholas Liem and I, at the launch of I Can Help You