Read the book, see the sights

Husband-and-wife writing team Felicia Low-Jimenez and Adan Jimenez at Rumah Kim Choo, a Peranakan boutique gallery and one of the stops on a literary trail they are leading.

Two upcoming literary trails will take participants on a journey of actual places found in two books by home-grown authors.

The walking trails, to be conducted by the authors, explore two areas, Katong and Changi Village, bringing to life the adventures as told in the books.

They are among the highlights of the inaugural Read! Fest, a festival held till July 20 to mark the 10th anniversary of Read! Singapore, a campaign that aims to promote reading.

With the theme Books That Moved Me, the month-long Read! Fest aims to encourage people to rediscover the pleasure of reading.

The line-up includes more than 100 programmes, such as screenings of book-to-movie adaptations, art exhibitions, workshops and book parties where participants can meet local authors and illustrators.

The first trail, to be held on July 5, will take participants on a tour of landmarks in Changi Village that are nostalgic to author Fanny Lai.

Based on the places featured in her graphic novel Nini In Changi Village published late last year, the trail visits some of Lai's favourite places such as Changi Creek, located to the north of Changi Airport, where there used to be a mangrove swamp, and the Paku Stone Bridge at Sungei Changi.

"I used to jump off the two-storey-high bridge into Sungei Changi with other children," reminisces the 57-year-old, who grew up in Changi Village during the 1950s and 1960s.

She lived in a wooden shophouse then with her parents and five siblings and moved to Marine Parade in the early 1970s when the construction of Changi Airport began.

The author will share the memories of her carefree days as well as Changi Village's history during the two-hour trail.

Other landmarks that will be covered include the Changi Point Ferry Terminal, Changi Chapel and Museum, the Changi Beach Massacre Site and Sree Ramar Temple.

To her, writing about the different places was a way to "preserve the layers of information about our lives and our ancestors" as Singapore is constantly developing.

"The village is a treasure chest of my childhood memories, a place where I can close my eyes and be transported back to the years of innocence," she says.

The other literary trail, to be held on July 12, is also a journey inspired by childhood memories. Felicia Low-Jimenez, 35, one half of the husband- and-wife writing team A.J. Low, grew up in Katong, which is known for its rich Peranakan culture.

It was the first book that Low-Jimenez and her husband Adan Jimenez, 31, wrote together.

The two-hour trail is based on their children's book Sherlock Sam And The Missing Heirloom published in February last year, about a boy who travels around Katong to solve the mystery of a missing cookbook.

Some of the spots on the trail, such as the Katong Antique House and Marine Parade Library, are part of the story.

"Katong is the place of my childhood, and I come from a Peranakan family," Low-Jimenez explains.

She reveals that the character named Auntie Kim Lian, who owns the missing cookbook, is named after her own grandmother. Her grandmother also owned a cookbook which is full of family recipes and secret ingredients.

Through the trail, the couple hope to share the Peranakan culture with children in a light and enjoyable way, and take them around the various places of interest in Katong.

Asked for their favourite stop on the trail, they say simultaneously that it is Chin Mee Chin Confectionery, which is more than 70 years old. They enjoy its old-school fare, such as the cakes and kaya, which Low-Jiminez says have stayed true to their traditional taste.

She has fond memories of eating at the coffee shop with her parents every Sunday morning after attending mass at Church of the Holy Family next door, and says the cupcakes are her favourites.

Her husband likes the cream rolls best. In their book, the cream rolls are also the favourite of protagonist Sherlock Sam.

Such literary trails, where authors let readers experience the adventures of their characters and learn about Singapore's culture, seem to be catching on.

Last July, there were two tours based on the Balik Kampung series, a collection of short stories by home-grown authors edited by writer Verena Tay.

The National Library Board hopes that the literary trails will let participants enjoy themselves in the original settings of the books.

Ms Joanna Zhang, senior associate of Reading Initiatives at the National Library Board, says: "The literary trails are designed to make books come alive in a fun and experiential way."

The two trails are fully subscribed but those who are interested to join can register for potential second runs by e-mailing

The Changi trail may run again in August, while the Katong trail may run again in September.

For more information, go to readsingapore.

This article was first published on May 27, 2014.
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