It's the end-of-year school holidays, and I know parents are looking out for books to keep your kids occupied. So I'm assembling a mega list of recommendations to help you along. I have close to 40 interviewees already, and expect a few more to come in. I’ll put up a few interviews every week. Do come back and check them out. Remember to introduce their books to some young readers in your life!
This link will get you the latest updates.
What exactly is Super Cool Books? A blog, a publishing studio, an imprint, a manifesto for creating kidlit inspired by Asian legends and pop culture, a parenting experiment.
How Super Cool Books started. In 2011, I remember carrying loads of books home from the public library every week, very excitedly, for my two sons. But each time, they would only finish two or three of the books. I’d have to carry the lot back to the library. They were so very heavy. Week after week, I felt like an idiot. So I started a home project: my sons and I, we would write stories and make cool books together. So I could figure out how to pick stories that would really get them engaged. It took a while. But eventually my sons were reading 9 out of the 10 books that I borrowed.
As a result of trying so earnestly to understand what makes a story appealing to my two boys, and trying to create original stories with these same qualities, I developed a creative approach to fiction that was different from everything else I had learnt about writing and publishing up to then. And after that I started producing new kidlit books at a crazy rate. I couldn’t help it.
Some highlights from this journey so far. The first books we created were part of the Time Talisman series, published by Select Books as ebooks. Then we self-published a few paperbacks, including the Sherlock Hong series in very early 2012. We also launched the Super Cool Books e-bookstore, as an iPad app. (No longer available.) In 2015, we started publishing books with Marshall Cavendish, most notably the Lion City Adventures series. Marshall Cavendish also acquired and expanded our Sherlock Hong series. In 2017, Armour Publishing acquired our My Blade Quest series, and this was expanded into a 6-book series. In 2019, I applied everything I had learnt so far to create the Last Kid Running interactive fiction series, published by Penguin Random House. (For a full list of available books, do check out the Catalogue section of this blog.)
How has all this changed my life? I’m still getting used to sometimes walking into bookstores, or public libraries, and seeing rows of books with my name on them. All containing stories that I wrote with help from my two sons. Sometimes I’m introduced to complete strangers, and they recognise my name and they say, “Children’s book author!” or “Super Cool Books!” Also, I regularly get emails and messages from people asking for publishing advice, inviting me to give talks, sharing their manuscripts with me, etc. I’m not getting recognised because of an important job title that I might hold temporarily, but because they’ve heard about this person that I’ve become through making books with my kids. It makes me see the whole world differently. After 8 years, it feels like I’m just getting started, and there’s a lot more I can do here. My sons are much older now. They still love to read. But they’re also passionate about playing games. So we created our first interactive fiction (also known as a gamebook, where you play as a character and choose what happens in the story, as you try to complete an adventure) two years back, The Secret of the Chatter Blocks. It’s a free ebook download for now, and will be available as a paperback soon. We hope to develop lots more story-based games, all with the same objective, to entertain young readers and inspire them to create original stories.
When I registered this Super Cool Books domain back in 2011, it was to showcase our home-made stories. I thought it would last maybe a year. Two, at best. But as you can see, things kept rolling on. And this blog has evolved beyond my expectations. Over the years, I’ve featured lots and lots of other kidlit writers and illustrators. I’ve shared writing resources, tips for nurturing happy readers, photos from my book events, and more. Sometimes, people are puzzled. Especially those in the publishing business. They want to know: why do I spend time sharing my secrets and promoting my “competitors” and “rivals”? First reason, I have no idea how business marketing or brand strategy really works, so yes, I can see that this looks totally incompetent to the professionals. But second reason, my original inspiration for Super Cool Books was not to compete with publishers, but to use thrilling stories to connect with my kids. And so I’m genuinely happy to promote everyone else who might have any interesting experience or insights to share about this.
People sometimes ask about the Super Cool Books logo. There’s a nice story. For the first few years, my sons would design a new logo now and then. Whatever I felt like using, that was the official logo. Until the next one came along. And then in 2014 Xobon magazine wanted to feature my books. Xobon was a magazine for kids, with creative tips and craft projects, published independently as a passion project. The editor asked for a bunch of photos and book cover images, as well as the Super Cool Books logo. I sent her a few versions, and asked her to pick one. She was baffled. How could I operate without a proper brand identity? Or something like that. She gave a brand design crash course over email. And in the end, she offered to help me design a logo, so that I could look more respectable in Xobon. I tried to superimpose the letters S,C and B, and eventually came up with the symbol that you see now, which resembles a $, quite auspicious. Next, I was thinking about whether to put this symbol in a circle, or a square, or a triangle, or an oval. But all those options felt too ordinary. I had a dream about this, which inspired me to pick a tesseract instead. It’s sometimes called a fourth dimensional cube, and it’s a significant concept in science fiction. When drawn, its outline sometimes looks like a hexagon. That’s how the Super Cool Books logo came to be, $ + tesseract + kind support. And since that day we've used this logo with pride. Yay!
Basically, we’ve been truly lucky and many people have very generously supported us along the way. Thank you! A million times.
Thanks to all the writers and illustrators who took the time to participate in the interviews. Thanks also to their respective publishers for facilitating. Thanks to all the publishers, bloggers, librarians, educators, parents, literacy activists, young readers, everyone who helped or encouraged us along the way.
And if you don’t happen to fall into those categories, thanks to you, too, just for taking the time to be interested.
Back when Super Cool Books started, we had a tagline that my sons really liked, I remember we used to say it a few times a day, but we haven’t used it much recently. I think it’s an especially appropriate reminder for these times, so here it is again:
“The future belongs to the young and brave!”
Summary: enjoy the GREAT KIDLIT SHOWCASE 2019, do check out all the kidlit creators I'll be featuring, and recommend their books to the young readers in your life. I wish us all many more years of happy reading.
GREAT KIDLIT SHOWCASE 2019
Get the latest updates here
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+ Why should we make new books for young readers? My blog post from last year.
+ Check out my latest series LAST KID RUNNING, published by Penguin Random House
+ Follow Super Cool Books on Instagram, for exclusive behind the scenes photos