Eight children’s books have been shortlisted for the Hedwig Anuar Children’s Book Award (HABA), the prestigious biennial award recognising the best Singapore children’s literature in English. For the first time since its inception in 2011, HABA will feature two prize categories: Picture Books and Middle Grade Books. The winners will be revealed at the awards ceremony, which will be held in-person during the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) and livestreamed on AFCC’s social media on 27 May 2022. The guest-of-honour will be Mr Ng Cher Pong, Chief Executive Officer of the National Library Board Singapore.
All the authors and illustrators are first time short-listees, whose books contain “strong imaginings… thought-provoking insights and observations, and portrayals of beauty,” as described by the HABA 2022 judges. The short-listees include former secondary school principal J.H. Low; School of the Arts (SOTA) faculty Priscilla Tey; Singapore musician Adia Tay; former advertising executive Linda Locke; media licensing professional Daryl Kho; former financial journalist Vivian Teo, as well as AWARE founding member Margaret Thomas.
William Phuan, Executive Director of the Singapore Book Council (SBC), which organises HABA, says: “We are heartened by this year’s submissions and the new crop of shortlisted writers and illustrators. It shows that the children’s books scene is growing and maturing. Many of the creators come from diverse backgrounds, highlighting the appeal of children’s books as a viable creative medium.”
From loss and dementia to the environment, the shortlisted books showcase a range of themes that are both universal and relatable to children. They include Mist-Bound: How to Glue Back Grandpa which evocatively portrays loss and dementia, as well as Mr Roll Finds New Life’s compelling theme of environmental sustainability.
Incidentally, AFCC 2022 will be also be tackling some of these current topics. Sessions include climate change, mental wellness and translation. Former Young People’s Poet Laureate Margarita Engle will conduct a lecture on the importance of children’s books as a remedy for grown-up troubles. Engle will also feature in festival session “How to Talk to Children About War”, where the depiction of war and its consequences in children’s books will be examined.
The HABA judging panel for both categories comprises National Institute of Education (NIE) lecturer Dr Donna Lim, who serves as the Chief Judge; Sydney Smith, an award-winning Canadian children’s book illustrator and author; as well as bestselling Singapore author Adeline Foo.
In the lead-up to the hybrid awards ceremony, SBC is launching an online contest, “Guess the HABA Winner”. The contest will be promoted on AFCC’s Facebook and Instagram and run on the AFCC website, where the public is invited to guess the shortlisted books that will win the awards in both categories. Three participants who guess the winners correctly will stand to win a S$50 book voucher to AFCC’s official bookstore, Closetful of Books. The winning participants will be announced on 1 June 2022 on AFCC’s socials.