Young families who stepped into Bookaburra @ Forum Galleria on 18 May 2013 afternoon might be excused for thinking that they had missed the story they had come to listen to.
After all, instead of hearing tales of Dolphins being Trapped in the Ocean, they heard a tall-like-a-giraffe, white hairy man dramatizing a bizarre encounter-on-bikes with a scary wild boar on an island off mainland Sexy Singapore.
Alas, fear not! Neil Humphreys was merely thrilling an atrium packed with excited children and accompanying adults, mimicking the gruffly huffs of the wild hog that he and his daughter Abbie Rose once chanced upon at Pulau Ubin.
The Neil-Abbie-Rose-Ubin-Boar Face-Off provided fodder for his second children’s book in the Abbie Rose and the Magic Suitcase series. His 5-year-old muse’s choice of adorable Dolphins sealed the deal for Dad and Daughter to co-write I Trapped a Dolphin But It Really Wasn’t My Fault.
Humphreys held up the book high as kids were glued to their seats, some with heads capped with hand-crafted, sea-blue, Dolphin-shaped paper hats.
No one quite tells “tall tales” like Humphreys does!
He read in his tale-spinning voice, then (deliberately) ‘misread’ at certain junctures, triggering shrieks of protests from children – experts at “picking out a storyteller’s missteps”.
Delighted with his lovely bunch of attentive audience, Humphreys continued to entertain, educate and engage the children with the quirky adventures of Abbie Rose, transported via her best-(magic)suitcase-in-the-whole-cupboard.
It was heartwarming to see Dads carrying young kids high on their strong, broad shoulders and Mums rocking babies in sarong slings or toddlers in strollers to the rhythm of a funny, good story. Others hugged their children sitting comfortably on laps, gently fingering words from left to right, flipping one colourful page after another.
The dynamic artistic strokes of illustrator Cheng Puay Koon gave birth to a multi-dimensional lease of life to the amusing dialogues between Dad and Daughter and hilarious exchanges between Abbie Rose and Best Friend Billy.
Kids were also enchanted by charming names of Swordfish (the Scissors-Saviour), Bottlenose Dolphins implanted with drinking straws, their Squeaks and friendly Click-Clicks!
As parents and kids formed long but orderly queues and patiently awaited Humphreys’ autographs at the end of the session, Dads for Life caught up with a few Daddies before speaking with The Man himself.
Paul, 37, a father of three kids, aged 7, 5 and 2, thought the Humphreys’ co-writing project a fantastic idea. The Dad who works in information technology may consider creating a blog to involve his kids.
A. Mohammed, 35, a Singapore Permanent Resident and father of a 4 year- and 8-month- old, came with his wife Madam Aishah. They shared how their daughter always picks up books and loves to be read to. Mohammed also makes it a point to update his daughter daily on the happenings (both good and bad) of his work day. His daughter reciprocates with similar snippets about her school day.
Books and conversations surely, are building blocks of a strong Parent-Child bond.
Humphreys himself can attest to that.
Story-telling is now a two-way street in the Humphreys’ household. The couple reads to Abbie Rose one night; she reads to them the following. This mutual exchange provides meaningful interaction for the tightly-knit family.
To Humphreys, being a Dad is a privilege and a joyful experience. Parenting is not a ‘chore’, at all. He enjoys his daughter’s company immensely and makes time for her – happily and willingly. Having the right attitude and prioritizing time for what truly matters is key.
As much as he loves and dotes on his daughter, he strives to ‘toughen’ her up – she has been making her own bed and taking her clothes to the laundry basket ever since she could walk! He is determined to cultivate qualities of fortitude, resilience and independence – for her own good.
The affable down-to-earth family man declares unabashedly that his family’s “whole mission in life” is to get back home to each other, at the close of each day.
How Sensibly Sweet and Sound!
On that note, the astute interviewer glanced at the watch and politely ‘released’ Humphreys from more Q&A. And off he darted happily. Looking for Abbie Rose, of course!
About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.
First published on 21-05-2013