Imaginary Friends: 26 Fables for the Kid in Us by Melanie Lee (An E-book Review)

Written by Melanie Lee and illustrated by Sheryl Khor

Written by Melanie Lee and illustrated by Sheryl Khor

Imaginary Friends: 26 Fables for the Kid in Us is a cheeky A to Z compilation of short stories written by local writer Melanie Lee, and illustrated by Sheryl Khor.

If these names look familiar, you’ve probably seen them both online before. Melanie is also known in Internet Land as Tea Lady Mel, and Sheryl is a freelance writer and owner of the online fashion store, Bricolage Boutique. But, to me, they are both dear friends from my childhood and I am so proud to be able to review their published work!

The 26 fables are inspired by memories from Sheryl and Melanie’s primary school days together, when they used to make-believe that their water-bottles had names [1] and went on magical adventures. I can even see one of the games that Sheryl and I used to play using stationery and pencil boxes [2] in the story ‘E is for Elly Eraser‘.

Despite the cuddly cover and whimsical full-colour cartoon illustrations, Imaginary Friends is a highly irreverent and impudent little book written for grown-up-children like myself. The stories are full of sardonic wit, interspersed with the occasional tender moment. I especially like the life lesson at the end of each tale (because all fables must come with a pithy moral or you will learn nothing, NOTHING, I say) which can be surprisingly meaningful and relevant in our modern society.

Although there were a few little stories that seemed to end rather abruptly, I still think that it’s a superfun e-book to read, and would make very good company during the daily commute! If you liked other children’s books for grownups like Avery Monsen’s All My Friends Are Dead or Adam Mansbach’s Go the F*** to Sleep, you will definitely enjoy Imaginary Friends!  Imaginary Friends: 26 Fables for the Kid in Us is priced at a mere US$4.99 (a real bargain!) and is available in a range of e-reader formats on AmazonKindle, Kobo and MPH Online.

Debs G rates Imaginary Friends: 8 out of 10 stars! 

If you’re still not convinced of the brilliance of this book, you can listen to excerpts from the book here:

Imaginary Friends – B is for Bertie Butterfly

Imaginary Friends – K is for Kip the Kingfisher read by Sheryl Khor

Or you can watch this little cute music video here:

ebook-smspaces-1aBy the way, this is Melanie’s second anthology of short stories written in the A-Z format, the first one being Small Spaces: An A-Z Story Squeeze, which is 26 stories about the thoughts and responses of people who live in constricting circumstances. This book is available on iBook and Kobo at the embarassingly low price of USD$0.99 so it’s worth checking out too!


1.I remember Melanie had a water-bottle with a cute cover that had a Little Twin Star print on it that was the height of fashion at the time. It called Janet. I only remember this because I was terribly envious of Janet, which I felt was a particularly imaginative name for a water-bottle. My water-bottle was called ‘Ellie’. No prizes for guessing what my water-bottle cover looked like.

2. The hardcore kind with multiple layers and buttons for secret compartments.

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Lightsaber Bow – Droo’s Notes

Okay, so Droo saw my post on the Lightsaber Bow and decided that it was so very technically incorrect that he needed to write his own to correct my completely inaccurate depictions of his skill and craft. I believe the phrase used was, “Some kind of lightbulb? Some kind of lightbulb?! I’ll have you know that I had very specific lightbulbs in mind!” So, without further ado, Droo’s notes:

I am fascinated with the manipulation of light for the purposes of display and quite often forget that what I see as normal physics is usually never known or seen by most people that do not need to understand the inner workings of the universe. I envy them, because mostly, I have found the only reason to know the inner workings of the universe is because you need to oil the gears turning the crystal spheres.

The design has gone through several iterations, even before I pulled out my notebook to work out which ones would require a Mr Fusion to be strapped to a violin. The “laser bow” is currently in the grey area of engineering, between prospecting for parts and calculating the various requirements to decide which of the two current contenders is less likely to result in personal injury. I have at all times tried to use a continuous light source. Although I love LEDs, I think that this project requires more than a string of dots. The person who is going to enjoy the bow the most is James, so if it breaks the illusion of a light sabre, then the project is a failure.

Castor and his cane.  But mostly Castor.

Castor and his cane. But mostly Castor.

The original idea was similar to the Castor’s light cane from Tron Legacy, made from Perspex. This was doomed to failure from the start, as mentioned by Becky, due to the requirement that it has to be able to play a violin.

The second iteration (and currently under development system) is a regular violin bow, bound with Electroluminescent tape. This is a thin sheet of plastic with a layer of phosphorescent material that is excited to the point of illumination by an alternating electric current. Since it is essentially a long, small capacitor, it can be paired with an inductor to make a tuned resonator, oscillating at the operating frequency of the electroluminescent tape. The major problem is the size of the inductor is in the ball park of 2-16mH, which needs about 500 metres of copper.

A new idea, suggested by Becky, is a fibre optic bundle, finely sanded to emit light. This goes back to the problem of flexing the bow, as there are few adhesives that would last under such circumstances and still hold glass. I have modified the idea and I am now looking for a hollow braid rope, made out of fibre optic plastic. This will allow me to slip a cover over the bow and not need me to worry about individual fibres peeling off. The ideal braid would be similar to the very cheap hobby rope, such as:

Twisty rope stuff

Cheap Nylon Braid

This will allow me to go back to the Mk1 version, but allow the bow to flex. It would also allow the colours to change (just in case J pulls a Samuel L Jackson and demands a purple light bow[1]). Currently this version is in the parts prospecting stage, as I am looking for a hollow braid rope, about one and a half metres long, of fibre optic plastic. I may have to make a rope braiding loom and weave one myself[2], but that just means that I can start selling them.

The next challenge will be the electronics on the bow. If I can power the lights, then I can move on and start to do very small scale electronics to control the light source (although the thought of soldering components that are 0.2mm to a side scares me. I can only do down to 0.8mm at the moment)


Becky’s Addendums:
[1] J does want a purple bow ala Mace Windu. Purple is his favourite colour.
[2] Y’know, I can weave. I own a loom. Just saying.

KidsFest 2014 – A Preview

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J with King Henry VIII and Little E with KidsFest cupcakes!

Last weekend, we were very privileged to be invited to attend a sneak peak of the upcoming KidsFest 2014, which is an annual theatre festival (organised by ABA Productions) that showcases the top theatrical productions in children’s theatre.

KidsFest has been running in Singapore since 2012 and the upcoming season is going to be the biggest one yet, with nine different stage shows spread over two venues. All the productions in the 2014 season (which will run from 15 January – 9th February 2014) are adapted from popular children’s novels or books and have had highly successful, sell-out performance tours. Judging from J and Little E’s reactions to the preview, I think that any kid will be superexcited to see their favourite storybook characters come to life!

There will also be opportunities for backstage experiences and Q&As (with KidsFest+) where fans can interact with the cast and directors, which I think is a great way for children to find out more about what goes on behind the scenes!

The line up of performances in 2014 looks really good, and I’m particularly interested in the production of We’re Going on A Bear Hunt, which is supposed to be a wonderful, interactive, musical experience. That was one of J’s very first books and it’s a family favourite, so I’m really looking forward to seeing it!

The KidsFest party started off with a meet-and-greet with King Henry VIII from Horrible Histories: Terrible Tudors. The Horrible Histories book series by Terry Deary is such a fun way to introduce the subject to kids, and I’m not surprised that it has evolved into a BBC TV series and a series of live musicals. I was agog with anticipation, waiting for King Henry VIII belt out one of the songs from the play (or the BBC adaptation), but he was only there to give us all the royal wave and handshake. I can’t believe he flew in all the way from the UK just for that!

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Little E and J get gussied up for the party

After stuffing their little faces with KidsFest decorated cupcakes, Little E and J both made a beeline for the face-painting booth. Little E had flowers and hearts painted on her hands and face, which she seemed very pleased with, whilst J opted for to have a radioactive spider painted on his arm. Once they had their warpaint on, they were both ready to party!

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Gruffalo Games with Gemma from Faust!

The kids were then treated to a round of rowdy games with Gemma, the programme coordinator from the youth drama school, Faust!  J and Little E warmed up to Gemma straight away and were soon giggling and wiggling with delight.

After this, they all sat down on cosy cushions for a lovely storytelling session, where Gemma read The Gruffalo’s Child by Julia Donaldson. This is the sequel to the best-selling children’s classic, The Gruffalo, which is about a tricksy little mouse who fools hungry predators away with tall tales of the monstrous Gruffalo.

I personally prefer The Gruffalo’s Child, which I think has a much sweeter storyline of how the Gruffalo’s Child ventures into the woods in search of the fabled Big Bad Mouse and meets lots of other creatures along the way. My children really enjoy both books, having received them as gifts from their grandparents, so I can imagine that they would also enjoy watching the stories come to life in the stage performances!

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Storytelling Time: The Gruffalo’s Child

The highlight of the party was when The Gruffalo’s Child actually entered the room to say hello to all the children. She (together with King Henry VIII) had flown in from the UK especially to meet the kids, who were all stunned into awed silence by her sudden appearance, with their bright eyes getting rounder and rounder as she made her way around the room. The Gruffalo’s Child showed us her little Stick-friend and sang us a very nifty little ditty from the musical adaptation which was met with enthusiastic applause.

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Growling with the Gruffalo’s child (and Stick!)

I really liked the Gruffalo’s Child’s costume, which had all the relevant elements of a Gruffalo from the terrible claws and purple prickles on her back. Character costumes have really come a long way since the massive plush cartoons with perpetually open mouths!

Little E kept whispering in my ear that she wanted to go up to The Gruffalo’s Child to give her a cuddle…but she got so nervous and tongue-tied when she got close that all she could do was peer shyly up at her!

Finally, after watching some of the other children taking photos with The Gruffalo’s Child, Little E was encouraged to give a Great Gruffalo Growl!

GRAARRRRRR!

By the way, not all the shows are going to be aimed at pre-schoolers, although most of them are suitable for kids aged 3 and above.

The two Horrible Histories stage plays (Terrible Tudors and Awful Egyptians) are probably better for primary school-aged children and if you enjoyed the movie, War Horse, you’ll probably love the inspiring play, Private Peaceful, which based on another Michael Murpurgo children’s novel about the First World War. Private Peaceful is recommended for slightly older children (the guide says 8 years old and up) who are more likely to appreciate its wit and intensity.

If you’re interested in one (or more) of the KidsFest 2014 performances, tickets are on sale now at any SISTIC outlet with prices ranging from S$35-62. There’s also a 10-15% discount if you use your VISA card or if you book more than one show!

For more information on the shows, you can also visit the Kids Fest website here.

(Thanks to Emily Cham and the PR Team from Asia PR Werkz for inviting us and Heather Riley of ABA productions for hosting the party!)