Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Book Review: Get Your Kids Reading with "Sherlock Sam and the Missing Heirloom in Katong"

While reading "Sherlock Sam and the Missing Heirloon in Katong", the first book of Epigram Book's new children's series by A.J. Low, Red Dot Diva found herself hurled back in time to when she was a long-haired little girl, devouring book after book that were investigative in nature.

Her love for investigative novels started early with Enid Blyton's "The Secret Seven", followed by "Famous Five", and progressed to a little of Hardy Boys/ Nancy Drew. Later on as a pre-teen, she especially enjoyed reading "The Three Investigators" series, relishing the more intricate plots and their witty dialogue.

These detective-mystery novels brought her farther along her book journey towards Dame Agatha Christie's works and inevitably, to one of her favorite writer of all time - Arthur Conan Doyle and his creation - the wonderfully eccentric master detective, Sherlock Holmes.

So it was of little coincidence that the Chinese name of "Sherlock Sam"'s main character is Cher Lock ("It's SHER-Lock!!!"). An intelligent, precocious young boy who's also growing up to be the typical Singaporean foodie, Samuel considers Sherlock Holmes (and Batman) to be his detective heroes.

With the desire to follow in his heroes' footsteps - to be the best investigator he can ever be - Sam decided to name himself "Sherlock Sam" and even invented a sentient, smart-ass, battery-nomming robot sidekick called Watson.

Together, Sherlock Sam and Watson enthusiastically embark on their investigative adventures, with their child-like curiosity and simple yet logically deductive skills intact. Both abilities that turn out to be extremely useful when helping Aunty Kim Lian, an elder Peranakan, find her lost family heirloom - a precious book of Nonya dish recipes.

Being of strong Peranakan descent and a Katong-nite since she was born, Red Dot Diva found the references to various landmarks in the heritage area (...a loud mmmmmmmm sedap to Chin Mee Chin) and dishes like ayam buah keluak, ikan gerang asam, chap chye and kueh pietee to be of immediate relevance. Painting Katong as the map for the introductory book series also helped put its stamp down as something very local.



The characterization of Sherlock Sam was immediately likeable and identifiable. Red Dot Diva certainly approved of the geeky and comic references inserted here and there. (Red Dot Diva sees what you're doing there, A.J. Low....). At the very least, perhaps the kids reading "Sherlock Sam and the Missing Heirloon in Katong" might set out on their own inner geek journey and do some self-research on Logicomix.

Watson the robot sidekick is still a bit of mystery at the moment. How did Sherlock Sam learn to put a walking-talking robot together? But there's no denying that Watson provides the much needed stretch of assistance, and the right touch of snarky wisecracks. 

In the midst of all the excitement is Sherlock Sam's family, which consists of wise mom, absent-minded engineer genius dad and Wendy, his strong-minded elder sis with artistic inclinations. Red Dot Diva would love to see just a little more of Wendy in action. At least to have a dash of girl power.

Despite being a relatively jaded adult, Red Dot Diva (who still loves detective-mystery novels) found "Sherlock Sam and the Missing Heirloon in Katong" captivating enough to read till the last page. The slightly localized dialogue - although simple - was smart and catchy, and one cannot help mentally dashing around together with Sherlock Sam and Watson on their quest to search for Aunty Kim Lian's book of recipes. All whilst munching on cupcakes. 

In addition, there are those bold and whimsical illustrations by drewscape (Andrew Tan) interspersed within the book's pages, which adds a few notches to the "So Adorbs-Ifeellikechubityourface" scale. 

All in all, "Sherlock Sam and the Missing Heirloon in Katong" is a clever, funny and entertaining children's novel. It's a promising start to a new book series, and Red Dot Diva hopes that, by picking up the book, more children will discover the love of reading.

And if you have already fallen in love with Sherlock Sam and Watson, it won't be long before another adventure is set to begin.

Book 2 "Sherlock Sam and the Ghostly Moans in Fort Canning" is due to be out by March!

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"Sherlock Sam and the Missing Heirloon in Katong" is currently available in local bookstores in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, and also online at Amazon.

Website: http://sherlocksam.wordpress.com/
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/SherlockSamSeries

Graphics taken from official "Sherlock Sam" website.

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Come celebrate the official launch of "Sherlock Sam" at Kinokuniya, Ngee Ann City on  Saturday, 16th March from 2:00-3:00PM!

FB event page: http://www.facebook.com/events/549796588375014/

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Specially for those non-local folks:
Chubit - pinch in Peranakan.

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