Gently Subversive

After the tornado of visitors, we went back to Singapore for two weeks as I was celebrating a, ahem, major school-leaving anniversary. Anyway, at the time there was public uproar over the removal of three children’s books from the National Library and the National Library Board’s (NLB) subsequent announcement that the books would also be destroyed. I shan’t go into too much detail but you can read more about it here http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-28243356 and here http://news.asiaone.com/news/singapore/and-tango-makes-it-big-book-debate.

My main grouse with NLB was three-fold.

1. Why, when other government agencies are happy to ignore the public, do they have to get in a tizzy over one ridiculous, outspoken twit?

2. By removing the books they are displaying a weakness and lack of competence. The book was previously reviewed and allowed in 2009! To then retract that earlier decision damages their future credibility as an authority.

3. Did they have to have such an absolutely unnecessarily extreme initial reaction as to not only remove them from the shelves but to want to destroy the books as well?! This, in my mind, is what caused the most upset. After all, the government had not actually banned the books, the NLB just deemed them unsuitable, so why not offer them to someone else or put them in a reserve section?

Thankfully, for the sanity of everyone involved, the NLB revoked the decision to destroy the books and put them in the “adult” section. This incident, however, is quite representative of my birth country. Yes, many, many “daddy issues”. It was thus very amusing and refreshing for me to find this gem of local children’s writing when I visited one of the very, very few indie bookshops in Singapore, Books Actually.

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Juno by Lynette Wan and Dexian Feng is about a race of creatures called Kummies who lived in a Clementine tree on a fruit farm. Every Kummy was just like the other and they did the same thing every day: collect pretty seeds to display and ugly ones to keep in the backroom.

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All except one Kummy named Juno. He not only looked different from all the other Kummies, he also did something very strange. Instead of keeping the seeds, he buried them in the ground! The cheek! Although he became a social outcast and the subject of much whispering, Juno remained meek and resolute, hoping that some day the other Kummies would understand him.

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Then Juno fell very ill. The other Kummies only noticed his absence when the farm began to deteriorate and there were no more seeds to collect and needed someone to turn to for an alternative voice. Once Juno got all the Kummies planting seeds instead of keeping them in jars, the plants started growing and everyone was happy and happy to change.

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I think more Junos are needed, not just in Singapore but in the world. Less beating of breasts and shouting from hilltops and more working quietly but steadfastly to change the status quo. Of course, at the moment, I have some doubts as to whether Iris will be such a Kummy. She is after all prancing around the house belting out Disney’s latest earworm-inducing composition at the very top of her surprisingly large voice.

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