AFCC – The Celebration of Diversity!

Imagine it! You are sitting in a televised quiz show and a lot of money hangs on the next question and your answer. You wait with bated breath! “What is the difference between a conference and a festival?” Ah Ha! You smile. You have been to AFCC before and think that you’ve got a handle on it. “A conference is a formal meeting of people within a speciality or subject field whereas a festival is a celebration of diversity often associated with holidays and events.” Applause breaks out and the host smiles. He leans forward and passes over an envelope. “That will give me a free ticket to next AFCC 2013!” you grin.

That is the heart of the matter. The Asian Festival of Children’s Content is firstly a celebration of diversity across Asia where East meets West, North meets South, and Singapore is the hub. This is evident in the speakers, their languages and their careers, their stories as well as awards that are being given. Visitors undertake diverse journeys to get here. Books too travel the globe, being translated into multiple languages. We celebrate the local as much as the global. Let’s look at something of this diversity for 2013! For example, in the Media Summit, Alexander Smith is an expert at translation of English and Japanese across multiple media platforms. Charmain Kwan is Vice-President of Programming the Discovery channel across Asia and the Pacific, Ervin Han is involved in a local production company who “regularly pitches at international media markets” and Marc Checkley, who originally was from New Zealand, has worked in Beijing, UK and now Singapore! If the medium is the message, then the message is all about the transnational.

Secondly, the term “children’s content” seems a strange term at first in that it defies being fixed by a subject speciality. What the term signifies is that story today comes in many guises and that all have value: from traditional storytelling around the fire to that latest application downloaded on a smart phone; from an anecdote shared over a lunch to being huddled around a computer game; from sitting in a quiet space at home reading The Hunger Games series to listening to a friend read aloud in a shared reading class at school; from strumming a guitar whilst singing a lyric to nestling in the dark space of a cinema frightened out of one’s wits by the latest ghost story. We live and are surrounded by narrative; without story, we are nothing. This festival then is an umbrella organisation whereby the creators, the producers and the mediators of stories for children and about childhood can come together and learn from each other. Let’s look at what is special about 2013! For example, Kiran Shah is a professional storyteller who has shared her passion across Asia and in the US and is part of the Parents’ Forum; Lavina Chong  is skilled in reader’s theatre and uses music to engage early childhood children will be speaking in the Teacher’s Congress; Nicholas Mark, an Australian,  who is speaking at the Writers & Illustrators conference,  collaborated with an Indonesian illustrator Bambang Shakuntala to create a fantasy/adventure story written in Bahasa Indonesia; and Malavika PC who is a Workshop facilitator from India, uses theatre and music with Tamil children and, if you look closely at her blurb on the AFCC web page, likes being something of a quiz master too! If there is a common message in AFCC 2013, it is all about transmedia.

If you care then about children (and who doesn’t?) and you specifically care about the type and quality of stories that are told to them that speak of what it is to be, in the vast diversity of Asia in the world, this festival is the place to come. The organisers want to welcome you as an individual within a community.

The quiz master leans forward to the next contestant. “Who wrote Nim’s Island?” The nervous Irishman nimbly leaned forward and whispered, “Arr! Not sure. Must go and find out. Ah’ve hearrrd aboot a festival. When d’we go?” The quizmaster smiled and leant forward.

John McKenzie

As a Principal lecturer at the University of Canterbury College of Education, John McKenzie designed and implemented the graduate level Diploma in Children’s Literature. He has many conference papers to his credit and is involved in the development of literacy qualifications in South Africa. He received the Betty Gilderdale Award for services to NZ children’s literature.


Why I can’t miss AFCC2013

I am excited! I don’t know about you, but whenever I see a programme for a festival or conference, I am excited about two things. One thing is the new learning that the programme seems to offer and the second thing are the new people that I will get to know. Even at my ripe old age, I look forward to another learning journey, a journey where one never arrives! So, I want to share with you my excitement about AFCC 2013. Firstly, as a Kiwi who comes from a rather remote island “down under,” the idea of focusing on a particular country is great! My experience of Malaysia is limited (other than a brief journey 30 odd years ago) so I am eager to hear Cinthia Koeskal tell her story in becoming a young adult writer and to explore the degree to which there are universal dilemmas in her novels that speak to young people across cultural boundaries. In a similar way, I want to explore the art works of  Yusof Gajah and negotiate any cultural particularities that speak of national identity. I have to admit that I am passionate about picture books and will have enormous pleasure searching the book stalls for new treasures like Emilia Yusof’s picture books. I am particularly interested in representations of folktale  and I look forward then to the Malaysian focus during the Festival.

My love of the visual means that I always look for novels that include images as much as narrative, especially for an older audience. For example, when I read in the AFCC web-based review of Dianne Wolfer’s book Light Horse Boy that “the story is told via text and letters, interspersed with stunning charcoal sketches by Brian Simmonds, primary source documents and historical photographs,” I know I have to go knocking on the door The Plaza, National Library on 28th May at lunchtime and enjoy hearing about this book that is to be launched on this occasion. To add depth to my understanding of the picture book, the sessions on the art of the picture book by Patrick Yee and Julia Kaergel, the paper engineering session by Joseph Tan  and the exploration of graphic novels by Wolfgang Bylsma, Paolo Chikiamco  and Sonny Liew are all high on my agenda.

However, what I really appreciate about AFCC is the chance to go in depth as part of the AFCC Seminars and Master Classes where a full day can be spent on professional development. This year, a newish door is being opened up to me through the work of Kate McCallum and the idea and practices of transmedia productions. We live in an age of multi-literacies whereby story is presented though many platforms thanks to digital technologies. From film to computer games, web pages to phone applications, story is now visualised as moving images. The questions that are in my mind are, what is gained and what is lost though this complex interweaving of media; how can children become active creators as well as engaged participants? I am sure Kate will passionately share her knowledge and perspective on this.

I look forward to my return to Singapore. The warmth of the hosts (as much as the weather), my sense of safety and comfort in wandering around the many shops and spaces of Singapore and above all the friendliness of previous visitors as much as strangers makes all the difference. If you see a slightly balding old fella with a Kiwi accent, say hello!

by John McKenzie

John McKenzie
As a Principal lecturer at the University of Canterbury College of Education, John McKenzie designed and implemented the graduate level Diploma in Children’s Literature. He has many conference papers to his credit and is involved in the development of literacy qualifications in South Africa. He received the Betty Gilderdale Award for services to NZ children’s literature.

Book Illustrators Gallery 2013

night in city

Call for Submissions!

The Book Illustrators Gallery (BIG) is part of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) from 25 – 30 May 2013. BIG aims to showcase the work of local and regional illustrators and artists, across genres and borders, to promote them to a wider audience.

You are invited to submit artwork that has appeared in children’s books, audio/video products, comics or graphic novels, or games, published between January 2012 and March 2013. You should submit a maximum of 5 pieces of artwork. Please do not re-enter artwork submitted to BIG in previous years.

Please send digital copies in jpeg/jpg format to for consideration, with “AFCC BIG 2013 Submission” as the email subject.

Please include the following information in the submission:

1. Name

2. Designation / Company name (if applicable)

3. Mailing address

4. Phone number / Mobile number

For each illustration please include:

5. Year of production

6. Title of the illustration

7. Title of the work in which the illustration appeared

8. Actual size of the illustration (in cm)

9. Thumbnail sized picture of the work in which the illustration appeared

If your work is selected, you will be contacted and asked to send a printed copy of the artwork, printed on good quality paper, to Singapore. The organisers will also request for selected pieces to be in certain sizes. Please do not send the original artwork, the organisers will not be responsible for any loss or damage to the artwork.

The sizes to be exhibited in the BIG range mostly from A5 – A3, with very limited spaces for A2 and above sizes. Illustrations will be mounted or framed by the organisers for display. The cost of resizing, printing and mailing to the organisers will be borne by you. Mounting, framing and display costs will be borne by the organisers.

By submitting your artwork, you agree to allow the organisers to use a reproduction of the artwork in marketing and publicity materials for AFCC, either online or in printed materials.


The closing date for submission of digital copies is 14 March 2013.

Selected artists will be contacted by 28 March 2013.

The closing date for receipt of printed copies of artwork is 23 April 2013.

Download the above information.


National Book Development Council of Singapore

Faith / / (65) 6848 8295

AFCC Book Club: Dim Sum Warriors

Exciting news! We are having an AFCC Book Club!

The Arts House, the National Book Development Council of Singapore and the Asian Festival of Children’s Content Book Club present The Singapore Launch of DIM SUM WARRIORS 点心侠.

After creating the satirical website and winning international awards for their movie Singapore Dreaming, the husband-and-wife creative team of Colin Goh & Woo Yen Yen have a brand new project – DIM SUM WARRIORS, a critically-acclaimed comic series for the iPad that also supports the learning of Chinese and English!


“Sodding brilliant!”

– Chris Claremont, legendary writer, Uncanny X-Men


“What a great app!”

– Gene Luen Yang, Eisner Award-winning writer, American Born Chinese and Avatar: The Last Airbender – the Promise


“Fun and witty… brilliantly designed”

– Rob Salkowitz, digital media expert and author, Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture


Come and meet Colin and Yen Yen and learn more about their foray into the exciting new field of digital transmedia entertainment and get a sneak preview of what they’re planning next…

WHEN: Wednesday, 11 July 2012

WHERE: Living Room, The Arts House, 1 Old Parliament Lane, Singapore 179429

FREE ADMISSION – Kids Welcome!

To register, click here.

Download the brochure.


About the Creators

Colin Goh and Woo Yen Yen are the husband-and-wife creative team behind Dim Sum Warriors, the critically-acclaimed comic app for the iPad that also supports the learning of English and Chinese.

Together, they also founded the satirical website, and made the movie Singapore Dreaming, which won the prestigious Montblanc New Screenwriters Award at the San Sebastian International Film Festival, and the Best Asian Film Award at the Tokyo International Film Festival, and has even been screened at the Smithsonian Institution.

A former lawyer, Colin has been cartooning professionally for over 20 years. He also recently ended a well-regarded column for the Straits Times and continues to write the highly popular Last Page for 8Days. Recently, he illustrated the New York Times international bestseller ‘Search Inside Yourself’ by Google’s Chade-Meng Tan.

Yen Yen received her doctorate in education from Columbia University’s Teachers College in New York, where she was awarded the prestigious Spencer Research Fellowship.  She is now an Associate Professor at Long Island University’s College of Education and Information Sciences, teaching courses in curriculum development and the social foundations of education. She has also worked as an education consultant and an instructional designer for an education software company.



Tel: (65) 6848 8290

Project Splash Asia! AFCC 2013

Next year will be the United Nations International Year of Water.

Community and school programmes in many countries will include reading, performing and creating water-themed stories.

Share your favourite stories that have water as a theme, such as Wave by Suzy Lee (California US: Chronicle Books, 2008), Amansinaya-Goddess of the Sea, by Eugene Evasco and Jomike Tejido (illustrator) (Philippines: LG&M, 2007), The Wakame Gatherers by Holly Thompson and Kazumi Wilds (illustrator) (California US: Shen’s Books, 2007), and Water Tales From Around the World (India: Tulika Publishers, 2010).

Project Splash Asia! aims to publish a bibliography and collection of favourite water-themed children’s stories from or about the region for AFCC 2013.

The National Book Development Council of Singapore (NBDCS) hopes the compilation of a bibliography of children’s stories around a universal theme will be a regular project for AFCC to showcase the diversity of talents and children’s literature in the region.

For suggestions and enquiries, please email

Starry Starry Night

Children’s book industry professionals and the public gather for a night of celebration.

More than 80 people assembled at The Arts House Gallery on May 26 to celebrate a night dedicated to the children’s book industry.

According to the event website, the National Book Development Council of Singapore and MediaCorp jointly organised the event “Celebrating Our Stars” on May 26, as part of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content – in its third year – which lasted from May 26 to May 29. The event participants included various children’s book industry professionals worldwide, and members of the public. It aimed to provide an opportunity for these participants to converse with one another, network, and explore the possibilities of working together in the growing Asian publishing industry.

Ms Adeline Foo – author of  “The Diary of Amos Lee” – was invited as a guest speaker to kick off the night with an overview about local children’s books’ journey through time, along with professional storyteller-cum-teacher-cum-writer Ms Rosemarie Somaiah, and Ms Er Lai Kuan, a seasoned librarian with 15 years experience.

During the overview, Ms Foo brought up several trends in the local children’s book industry, such as the emergence of many writers self-publishing books, and children’s books containing more moral values. She also said “e-books, as well as print books” have to coexist while on the topic of e-book publishing being on the rise.

Ms Denyse Tessensohn, a Singaporean writer living in Johor Bahru, pitched for people to pre-order her biography about an obscure Singapore-born Eurasian illustrator-cum-animator named Errol Le Cain. “Tell me why we don’t know him in Singapore? It’s astounding that we don’t,” said Ms Tessensohn. During her pitch, she presented many artworks that Errol Le Cain painted when he was alive. “I think the ‘Errol Le Cain’ presentation was really good, and the feedback was really good,” said Ms Faith Huang, one of the event facilitators.

Ms Ethel Tan from MediaCorp introduced a new digital initiative called “”, which is an e-bookstore. Mr Francis Teo, a member of the audience, said he had gotten more insight into the future of e-books and hopes to learn more about the e-book market.

The audience included members of the public who were interested in being part of the children’s book industry. Mr Alex Wong, a member of the audience, said he attended “Celebrating Our Stars” partly because he thought of becoming a writer. He also said the presentations that night were engaging, and was surprised to see a number of local authors he knew about in the flesh.

Ms Faith Huang said the organising team is considering to initiate a session which allows authors to meet readers directly next year, giving the readers a chance to know them better.


Audience filling up the seats at the start of the night.


Ms Adeline Foo (right) giving the opening presentation, with Ms Er Lai Kuan (centre) and Ms Rosemarie Somaiah (left).


Ms Denyse Tessensohn at her booth displaying scanned versions of Errol Le Cain’s artworks after the presentations.

My day at AFCC

*This article is written by our youngest student journalist who is 9 years old.
On Saturday, 27th May 2012, I went to the Asian Parents Forum in the Asian Festival of Children’s Content at The Arts House in Singapore. I attended two programs and spent three hours in the Arts House. 
The first program I attended was the Story-telling Session from 11am-1pm, hosted by Sheila Wee. There were about 30 people there and the program was successful as everyone enjoyed it. My favorite story was an American folklore about a Coyote and a bird. I liked it as it was funny. 
The second program I went to was a book launch. The book was called “Dumbcane and Daffodils” written by 14 year old R Viknesh. The story was about a boy named Timmy Tim and his ups and downs in life. I enjoyed the presentation. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I ended up buying the book. My mum told me it would help me in my English Exams, but to be honest, I think just reading and re-reading a book is more fun than using it for an exam, cause that’s not what I feel a storybook should be used for. 
My last comment or compliment is to the lads who made the food at the lunch-break, not to mention the lime juice. ( Or the lad who chose the food and drinks.)
Written by Judah Kan