Singapore author's boo-boo was almost published

SINGAPORE - Home-grown children's author Adeline Foo is best known for her best-selling series, The Diary Of Amos Lee, which has sold about 120,000 books in Singapore.

The 42-year-old mother of three will be turning a fresh page with a new book next month, titled One Boy's Quest To Learn What It Means To Be Singaporean.

In this third part of a series on good role models for English, My Paper speaks to the author to find out why reading should be an essential part of one's life.

You used to work in the advertising industry. How different was writing then compared to writing children's books now?

Handling consumer goods while in advertising and public relations is actually very similar to writing for children's books.

I learnt how to write for the average consumer and make the product relatable; it's the same with writing children's books and making (the readers) happy. The language used has got to be direct, simple and succinct.

One of the tips for the Speak Good English Movement this year is "Read as often as you can, even on the go". How often do you read, and how has it improved your grasp of the language?

Very often. My family and I visit the library once every week, sometimes even twice. Each time, we leave the library with at least five books each.

I read the newspapers every day when I was in secondary school. It became a daily habit to read the papers first thing in the morning, even when I was very busy with work.

I found a different kind of world through reading and it really helped feed my imagination.

Reading also gives people depth and quality in thinking. As people progress in seniority at work, it shows if they are lacking in general knowledge or if they are shallow thinkers.

What is your pet peeve when it comes to the use of English?

Teenagers tend to use a lot of crutch words and fillers when they are speaking. They use words like "seriously" and "basically" unnecessarily.

It also annoys me when my son, Benjamin, uses the word "whatever" all the time!

Was there anything you had written that you were glad never made it to print?

I created a list of commonly misspelt words in my book, Whoopie Lee: The Big Spell Off, and there was a header that read: "A List of Commonly Misspelled Words".

My daughter, Tessa, then nine, was reading the manuscript and she asked me why I had used "misspelled" (with an "-ed") instead of what she had been taught in school - "misspelt".

After multiple checks, I realised that I had used the American spelling instead of the British one.

It took a nine-year-old to point that out to me, and the book was that close to going into print!

Another tip for the Speak Good English Movement this year is "Make it a point to improve your English with a loved one". How do you do that as a family?

We have movie-club and bookclub nights together as a family, where we discuss movies and books we've watched and read together.

These sessions are usually fun learning experiences. I read a lot of chapter books with my kids, which really opened our eyes to the savvy and age-appropriate use of language.

Do you have anything lined up in the coming months?

I have a book that will be released next month: One Boy's Quest To Learn What It Means To Be Singaporean. It's the first of a series called The Awesome MRT Diaries.

The book chronicles the coming-of-age story of Amos Wee, a boy who calls himself Awesome. It's about his journey of self-discovery (via the train, hence the "MRT" in the title) that speaks to the Singaporean child in all of us.

The series will be published by the National Library Board in support of the Singapore Memory Project.

The Say It Right series is brought to you by the Speak Good English Movement. For more information, visit

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