Six children’s books have been shortlisted for the Hedwig Anuar Children’s Book Award (HABA), a biennial literary award recognising the best children’s literature in English written by a Singaporean or permanent resident. The winner from this shortlist will be revealed at the award ceremony, which will be held online for the first time and will be live-streamed on the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC)’s Facebook on 4th October 2020, 6pm.
The authors and illustrators who are shortlisted for HABA for the first time are Eisnernominated comic artist Andrew Tan, publisher Goh Eck Kheng, film director Ken Kwek, animator Lim An-ling, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts student Lolita Chiong and Singapore Literature Prize winner Peh Shing Huei. Author-illustrators Ben Lai and Quek Hong Shin complete the shortlist.
HABA 2020 Nominee Panjang: The tall boy who became Prime Minister, by Peh Shing Huei, illustrated by Drewscape
The shortlisted books showcase a range of themes that are distinctly Singaporean and relatable to children. We Can and Panjang: The Tall Boy Who Became Prime Minister portray Singapore’s icons and culture and second Prime Minister respectively while Kelly and the Krumps addresses the pressures of PSLE.
The winner of HABA will join the ranks of former recipients Xie Shi Min (2018), Hidayah Amin and Idris Ali (2015), Chew Chia Shao Wei and Anngee Neo (2015), Edmund Lim and Tan Zi Xi (2013) and Yixian Quek and Grace Duan Ying (2011).
HABA 2020 Nominee Jun And The Octopus, by Goh Eck Kheng and illustrated by Lim-An Ling
The six shortlisted works were selected from a record number of 87 submissions for the award—representing a remarkable 33% increase since the award’s last edition in 2018. Since the award was established in 2011, the number of submissions for the award has increased with every edition. For HABA 2020, close to a quarter of the 87 submissions were first-time submissions, and four of the six shortlisted authors have been shortlisted for the first time for HABA. These trends reveal a heartening observation—that Singapore’s children’s literature is a growing genre, with new players in the scene writing and illustrating books for children with fresh, quality perspectives.
HABA 2020 Nominee Kelly And The Krumps, by Ken Kwek and illustrated by Lolita Chiong
There have also been changes to the prize for the winner of HABA necessitated by the impact of the pandemic on its organiser, the Singapore Book Council (SBC). The cash award of S$10,000 has been reduced to S$3,000. The writer and illustrator of the winning book will each receive S$3,000.
HABA 2020 Nominee We Can, written and illustrated by Ben Lai
The judges for HABA 2020 consists of chief judge Dr Donna Lim, a lecturer at the National Institute of Education (NIE), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. She is joined by illustrators Charles Santoso and Lee Kow Fong, aka 阿果 (Ah Guo). They jointly praised the quality of the entries that were submitted, and expressed faith in the development of children’s literature in English, stating: “It was not an easy deliberation with so many entries of such high quality. We considered each entry in its appeal to its intended audience and how it would measure up in its own genre. The shortlisted books stood out from the rest in their masterful narration of original subject content with a strong interplay of text and visuals.”
HABA 2020 Nominee The Incredible Basket, written and illustrated by Quek Hong Shin
“We are indeed privileged to have read and viewed such a wide array of children’s books that are locally written. We are heartened that among us exist such promising writers and illustrators that are on their way to making a mark not just locally but also internationally. We look forward to a rich and vibrant scene in children’s literature especially in a world we can call our own.”
HABA 2020 Nominee ‘X’ and ‘O’ are B.F.F.s!, by Lynette Teo and illustrated by Xinnie Ng
In the lead up to the virtual award ceremony, SBC has launched an online contest, “Guess the HABA Winner” on AFCC’s Facebook and Instagram, encouraging the public to guess the shortlisted book that will win the award. Participants who guess the correct book will stand to win a book voucher to AFCC’s official bookstore, Closetful of Books. The contest will end on 29th September, and the winning participants will be announced after the HABA 2020 award ceremony on 4th October 2020.
The 2020 Hedwig Anuar Children’s Book Award (HABA) ceremony will be live-streamed on the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC)’s Facebook on 4th October 2020, 6pm. For more information, visit their website here