NOTE: Don Bosco is the author of the award-winning LION CITY ADVENTURES series, about a society of children dedicated to exploring Singapore, making new friends and solving mysteries. This post is part of a series about the creative inspiration behind the books, the publishing process, etc.

Through experience with my own children, I‘ve discovered that one way to bond with our young ones is to share with them stories about our own childhood, and help them appreciate our way of life back in earlier times. This is why you’ll find lots of childhood stories from past decades in Secrets of the Heartlands, Book 2 of the Lion City Adventures series.

Remember the fun

When we were younger, we had a really good time in Singapore. We played outside every day. We explored drains and climbed trees and chased one another in circles until we were out of breath, and then we would go searching for the old uncle who sold home made ice lollies out of a rusty box attached to the back of his motorcycle, and when we found him we would each buy a chunk of cold ice on a stick and suck on it happily until it was time to go home for dinner. And do all that again the next day. And the next. Bliss, I tell you.

But just look around you now, here in Singapore. There’s not much of our old city left. Many of the familiar buildings are no longer standing. Most of the streets have been stripped of their historical charm so that we can have better transport and more convenient shopping.

The playground games, the neighbourhood charms, the open fields, the heroic hawkers feeding hungry people by the side of the road. They have done a vanishing act and are simply no longer here. They are fading, fading, fading from our memories with each passing day.

How can we convince our children that they once existed? How can we share our joyful memories with our young ones, when even we find it hard to recall? That’s why we need books like these. That why I’m writing them.

Legendary landmarks

For Secrets of the Heartlands, I worked with the editor and illustrator to fill the book with charming illustrations of the familiar buildings and landmarks that used to stand tall and proud all over this island. Places that we would always look out for and talk about.

There’s the Katong Bakery & Confectionary, which some of you may know as the Red House Bakery (can you guess why?), where families enjoyed fresh kaya toast and cakes, curry puffs and swiss rolls.

There’s the Thye Hong Biscuit & Confectionary Factory, at Queenstown, which was the very first of its kind on this island, such an impressive technological marvel it was. Remember that yummy biscuit with the sticky jam in the middle? Not to mention the endless tins of sweets that it manufactured and shipped all over the region. It’s our own Chocolate Factory, I tell you.

And also there’s a special mention of the Matilda House in the book, that old bungalow at Punggol, which was built by the Cashin family in 1902 and at one point became reportedly haunted.

We have so many precious memories attached to these landmarks. When we remember them, we can feel a sense of joy. Our children can share this too. Through stories like these.

Home in the heartlands

Life today can get a little stressful for children. We need to always remind them how much fun they could be having. And provide good examples from our own childhood. Connect with them through these stories. A happy childhood helps them lead a wholesome and productive life later on.

So what were your hobbies when you were younger? What happy memories of the old heartlands do you have? What crazy things did you use to do after school? Read this book, connect with your children and take them back in time on a most fun and vivid journey to see the charms of the old Singapore neighbourhoods for themselves.

All this will give them a solid sense of belonging and connection, and when they’re older they can pass on their stories to their own children too. And their children’s children. And their children’s children’s children. And their children’s children’s children’s … ok, you get the idea.

Happy reading! And remember our heartlands forever.


Book 1: Lion City Adventures

Book 2: Secrets of the Heartlands

Book 3: Island of Legends

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Yes, SECRETS OF THE HEARTLANDS (Lion City Adventures, Book 2) has been nominated for this year’s POPULAR READERS’ CHOICE award. Please take some time to vote for your favourite books, and you might win a $50 voucher plus 1 year Popular card membership. For readers in Singapore only.

Vote and win here:

For updates about Don Bosco’s new book projects, visit the Super Cool Books website here.