Children’s books by local writers: HoneyKids reviews The Island in the Caldera by Lin Xueling

A story for kids with a fantastical, local twist: The Island in the Caldera by Lin Xueling
Looking for a great new adventure story set in Asia for your kids and tweens? We just read The Island in the Caldera, and here's what we thought...

A fabulous new adventure book, written by local author and veteran journalist Lin Xueling and illustrated beautifully by Stephanie Raphaela Ho, recently landed on our desk, and we couldn’t wait to rush home and share it with a panel of critics always on the lookout for a gripping new tale: our kids! A new release by Math Paper Press (the publishing arm of one of our fave bookstores in Singapore, BooksActually), this is the first #BooksActuallypick for HoneyKids: hand-chosen local stories for the kids and grown-ups worth shouting about. Here’s what we, and the kiddos, thought about The Island in the Caldera

Ferocious tree dragons, a talking cat, stinky giants and adventures all around Asia: these were the promises made in the synopsis of new kids’ fantasy tale, The Island in the Caldera by Lin Xueling, and so hopes were high indeed as we settled down with the small listeners to share this cool new read. Pitched as a young adult fiction book, aimed at the six to 15 age bracket, the story tells the tale of intrepid sisters, Min Rui and Chloe, as they journey around real and imagined places in South East Asia, with a huge dose of local mythology and Asian history thrown in for good measure.

Join Min Rui and Chloe on their adventures around Asia. Illustration by Stephanie Raphaela Ho

Join sisters, Min Rui and Chloe, on their fantastical adventures around Asia. Illustration by Stephanie Raphaela Ho

We instantly loved the brave young sisters, and couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to keep up with the adventures that took the girls to bubbling volcanoes and indigenous tribes, while meeting new friends like Horbo the buffalo and Ketupa Ketupu the owl along the way. But what made the characters so memorable and lovable? They’re oh so familiar. Any child who has lived in this part of the world will absolutely adore (and laugh heartily) at the references to HDB blocks as well as local favourite foods and drinks within the story, including Milo and nasi lemak. Kids can imagine themselves in this incredible story too.

Our children really felt part of the magic as they journeyed alongside Min Rui and Chloe (slight quibble that their names, for sisters, were so polar opposite in style and origin!) on the often perilous adventure that sees them facing adversaries including giants and monsters. We also loved that the story proves wonderfully that being brave isn’t always about not being afraid, and that if one keeps on trying, despite the odds, then that is what real bravery is all about.

The Island in the Caldera is beautifully written, and the illustrations a treat. More of these, please – they really made the tale come to life for our younger audience. One thing’s for sure: as the first in a trilogy, we now can’t wait for the second instalment to hit the shelves, and very much hope that it brings with it more of the The Fried Chicken Song (now how could you resist a tale that includes a song like that?)

Pick up a copy of The Island in the Caldera from BooksActually and all good bookstores. Want updates on the sequel? Follow The Island in the Caldera on Facebook.