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What's Across The River

All the kids in the village were terrified of the unknown world across the river, except for one boy who had been across and back.

Author / Artist : Josef Lee



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"What's Across The River is a rehash of a one-page chinese comic that I did almost 20 years ago.

The comic was done for a monthly newsletter of a student group that I was in. And the theme for that month was 'childhood'. In the original version, the ring of water that encircled the village was not a river but instead a big canal. And it was largely inspired by the old Rochor Canal situated to where I stayed when growing up.

I loved the premise behind this comic and always wanted to adapt the story into a picture book. What's Across The River is hence an updated, picture-book version of this story.

The original one-page comic that What's Across The River was based on

Set in the early 60s in Singapore, during a transitional period when people start to move from kampungs (villages) into the city, in a village surrounded by a river, the kids living there were constantly frightful yet fascinated by what lie across. Only an older kid has ever travelled out to the city and returned. And from him, the other children were introduced to the world across the river.

For children, the world is a vividly frightening yet magical place. Through the fragment of stories shared by the older boy (including traditional sayings from adults like 马路如虎口), the protagonist conjured up a world of magical consciousness that is terrifying, dangerous and thrilling."

- Josef Lee


ACTIVITIES TIME Watch this video interview of Mdm Sari Terimo sharing her experience of life in a kampung (village) and how it was like to move into a HDB flat (high rise public housing in Singapore).



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