What were you doing when you were 10?
Probably not making a children's book for publication, I'll bet.
Yet that's exactly what 10-year-old Eden Teoh, has been up to for the past three months, authoring the children's book "Ekor's Tail".
Published in August, the book is about a mousedeer and lion's adventures around Singapore, as the latter searches for his missing tail as well as a sense of belonging.
It is a joint effort with her younger sisters, April, 8, and Quinn, 6, who are the book's illustrators.
Pretty impressive, if you ask me.
After the book was published, the three co-creators also presented a copy to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who told them he would read it with his grandchildren.
Inspiration for the book
An avid reader herself, Teoh told Mothership that she and her sisters were inspired to write the book during a family vacation to Perth in June, where they came across many fascinating books.
One rainy day during the trip, when the trio was stuck in a hotel room, they decided to write "a fun and interesting story about Singapore".
As for their choice of characters? Teoh said they opted for animals they felt were iconic to Singapore.
For instance, mousedeers are native to our country.
Teoh also chose the lion as a central character as it turns into a Merlion — probably Singapore's most iconic mythical symbol — by the end of its search.
As a homage to local food and places, Teoh featured them as part of the animals' adventure, in the form of catchy alliterations, like eating chicken rice at Changi, and kambing soup at Kranji.
The book's rhymes, on the other hand, are inspired by Australian children's book author Mem Fox, whom her youngest sister Quinn is a big fan of.
And when Teoh emailed Fox to tell her how much she liked her books, the writer responded by saying "you should write a treasure of your own".
Making the book
Teoh and her sisters quickly got to work creating the story's characters.
Their illustrations were drawn with magic markers, to emulate the style of Roger Hargreaves, the creator of the "Little Men" and "Little Miss" books.
And the girls made use of rice paper left over from an online Chinese calligraphy course, as the base to express their imagination.
They also experimented with colours to get the exact shades desired, such as "French vermilion" for the lion's mane.
Based on the draft sketches included in the final book, it took a few goes before the sisters finalised the design for their main characters.
April, who has a talent for art, was a big help in this regard.
Nevertheless, one challenge was to ensure the illustrations were consistent even as both her sisters worked on it.
"The book is about a lion without a tail, but accidentally a few times [my] youngest sister drew on a tail!" Teoh recalled.
And just like any other team project, it wasn't always easy to reach an agreement on what the book should look like.
"But most of the time it was good, and it was a lot of work so it was good to share it around as a team," Teoh shared.
But while the writing of the book might have come naturally, getting it published was another matter altogether.
Teoh admitted that most publishers that she pitched the story to did not give her a reply.
With their mother's help, they managed to self-publish a small print run for family and friends, and also deposited a copy of the book with the National Library Board.
Teoh told Mothership proudly that Amazon is now printing their book, and that "Ekor's Tail" was recently recognised as the best-selling book in the "multicultural stories for children" category.
In the future, she hopes that her favourite local publisher, Epigram Books, will take on the book.
The trio also plan to publish Chinese and bilingual versions of the book, and possibly in Braille and audiobook form as well.
Presented book to PM Lee
On Sep. 3, the three girls got the chance to present their creation to PM Lee during a citizenship ceremony event at Teck Ghee Community Club.
PM Lee also posted about the short encounter on Facebook later that day.
He wrote, "I spoke with Mr Teoh and his lovely family. The trio of Teoh sisters gave me a book they had written called Ekor’s Tail. It tells the tale of a lion who explores all around Singapore with his trusty mousedeer companion, trying to find where he belongs. I thanked them and told them that I would read it to my grandchildren!"
Another book in the works
Though happy with the book's publication, Teoh is not resting on her laurels.
She has already started on her next book, although this time it won't be a picture book.
Additionally, she is working towards getting into the school of her dreams, School of the Arts (SOTA) come 2025.
And in her own way, she hopes to encourage other children who dream of writing and publishing their own stories.
"I would like to tell [them] that you can write about anything, but make sure it's something that you would want to read yourself."
Where to find the book
Top image from Eden Teoh.
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