Seema Dalani-Ramchand and Harsha Dadlani-Dhalani, two ordinary sisters, as you are wont to think, until you discover a common passion quietly blazing in their hearts. Together, Seema the civil servant and Harsha the banker wrote not one but a series of six children’s books, all set in the local context. We were delighted to have the opportunity to speak with Seema recently.
1. What inspired both of you to write a book series for young children? Well, the journey actually started just less than a year ago when, over coffee one day, we talked about what else we aspired to do in our lives. We spoke about how nice it would be if we were able to write fun and easy-to-read books for children to help them understand the local scene better.
So we started to explore Singaporean themes which children could relate closely to and terms they are familiar with. We have been reading a lot to our own kids and would sometimes pen stories for them about incidents/experiences they are familiar with. We noticed that they always found it a lot of fun listening to these stories, so we thought it would be interesting to do it on a wider scale.
By chance, we learned about the SG50 Celebration Fund and saw it as an opportunity not to be missed. Thankfully our application was supported. Time just whizzed by after that and before we knew it, we were launching the Jayden and Janelle series!
As new writers, without any experience in the book industry, our objective was to contribute something memorable and meaningful for Singapore’s 50th birthday celebrations.
2. Tell us two things that are unique about your books.
The stories are targetted mainly at preschoolers, aged between three and five, and each storyline is simple and conveys a certain theme and value which can be easily understood.
·Each book comes with a specific value proposition that we hope to see in children Let's Celebrate! - embracing the different cultures and traditions in our multiracial home Happy 50th Birthday, Singapore! - nationhood and loving Singapore as home Now may I have some ice-kacang, please? - patience and eating together as a family Hello Aunty! Hello Uncle! - community support as well as being a responsible and honest neighbour Bus ride to the library! - considerate passenger when taking public transport Picnic under a Supertree - family togetherness and appreciating the beauty of Singapore Singapore sights and sounds All the stories weave in local sights and cuisine, transport and infrastructure system and, to a certain extent, colloquial terms such as uncle and aunty. Each scene was thoughtfully crafted to include very specific details, for example, Jayden and Janelle’s mummy tapping her EZ-Link card when boarding the bus, Singapore flags displayed at the windows of HDB blocks during National Day and neighbourhood playgrounds.
3. Is there anything else you would like to highlight about the books? It’s a very vibrant series that accentuates the Singaporean way of life in a light-hearted way. Speech bubbles are used a lot and they are fun to read aloud to children in a creative way. We also enjoyed reading the stories at various storytelling sessions. Our recent session at Popular bookstore at Bras Basah Complex was fun and interactive – the children role-played Jayden and Janelle, and also enthusiastically sang songs which were embedded in the stories.
4. Would you add more books to the series? We have received very encouraging and positive feedback on the Jayden and Janelle series. Parents have dropped us personal notes, sharing that their children really enjoyed the books. Yes, we would definitely explore writing more books in the future; perhaps more localised themes and experiences that can be incorporated into future Jayden and Janelle stories.