PICTURE BOOK REVIEW | Where are All the Birds?

The Extraordinary Mind of Dr Goh Keng Swee

by Darel Seow

© LocalBooks

Perfect Book for every age, even for parents themselves!


My three children were quietly reading this book when they suddenly and simultaneously laughed out loud.

What’s so funny in a book about a very serious man, Goh Keng Swee?

I took a peep. In big yellow letters on the page were the words “Who farted?”

Ah. Children and toilet humour go together like wine and cheese!

Concerned parents would at this point want to know what farting has got to do with Singapore’s first economics minister and whether the book is safe for consumption.

The answer to that question is “The tuba, of course!” and goes on to explain how Dr Goh, who had played the accordion as a child (who knew that?) was so passionate about music he went on to push for the formation of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.


The book on Dr Goh is part of a series of children’s books on prominent Singaporeans. It marvellously looks at Dr Goh’s life through a child’s eyes so the little ones, with their short attention spans, are never bored. How?

There aren’t many words, about fifty every two pages.

Every idea about Dr Goh is introduced through a simple question that even a child can understand. Like “Who farted?”, “How do soldiers see in the dark?” (on the topic of Dr Goh providing soldiers with night-vision goggles) and “How can we bring life to the dead island?” (on how Dr Goh transformed Pulau Blakang Mati – Island of the Dead – into Sentosa) Parents who read the book aloud could ask their children these same questions to get them thinking, before diving into the answers.

The book focuses on those aspects of Dr Goh which children (and even adults who might have only read thick library tomes on Dr Goh’s approach to economics…) would find interesting.

Like how he was a shy, quiet boy who was always asking questions. How he had few friends to play with growing up. How he loved animals but could not keep pets because his wife was afraid of them (my children who are not allowed to keep pets because mother says no, could fully identify with this).

A parent could read this book to a two or three-year-old and the child won’t run off halfway.

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The succinct, punchy language is a plus because parents all love a concise book which can be finished in 10 minutes or less, before bedtime.

An older child of six and above could also browse through it on his or her own.

When Junior is done, this is a great book to keep on the bookshelf for its friendly alternative version of the story of Goh Keng Swee.

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Sher is a writer and mother of three who is always on the lookout for healthy, yummy books for her kids. 




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