John Patrick Green
Bumbling Agents in Action
Hop right into the Gatorverse with illustrator John Patrick Green, creator of the bestselling InvestiGators series, as he brings us the second installation of the spin-off series, Agents of S.U.I.T.

Mar 2024 | By Felicia Chua
Q Walk us through your creative process when embarking on a new project.
Generally, it starts with a basic concept, like a character, title, joke, or setting. Next, I come up with how the story begins and ends. Then I try to populate the middle with funny gags, action scenes, and good and bad guys, writing down and doodling every idea or image I can think of. Eventually, I’ll have enough material and I just have to puzzle out what will fit and what order it goes in. Finally, with the story fully written, I’ll do the final art. While a lot of work is done digitally on the computer, such as the colour and lettering, I still like to draw the black and white art on paper with pencils and markers.
John Patrick Green
Bumbling Agents in Action
Hop right into the Gatorverse with illustrator John Patrick Green, creator of the bestselling InvestiGators series, as he brings us the second installation of the spin-off series, Agents of S.U.I.T.

Mar 2024 | By Felicia Chua
Q Walk us through your creative process when embarking on a new project.
Generally, it starts with a basic concept, like a character, title, joke, or setting. Next, I come up with how the story begins and ends. Then I try to populate the middle with funny gags, action scenes, and good and bad guys, writing down and doodling every idea or image I can think of. Eventually, I’ll have enough material and I just have to puzzle out what will fit and what order it goes in. Finally, with the story fully written, I’ll do the final art. While a lot of work is done digitally on the computer, such as the colour and lettering, I still like to draw the black and white art on paper with pencils and markers.
Q What is the most difficult part about putting together a graphic novel?
The hardest part is probably managing time. I usually have a good idea of how long it will take me to DRAW a graphic novel, but it’s a lot more difficult to know how long it will take me to WRITE it. For me, writing is a little like navigating a maze, and I don’t know where the exit is, so I can’t tell how long it’s going to take me to get there! But because I know how much time I need to do the art, sometimes I have to start drawing the book while I’m still in the maze!

Q Which character from the Gatorverse was the most fun to create?
This is possibly a tie between Dr Doodledoo and C-ORB. In Dr Doodledoo’s case, I had written a line where someone insults a room of scientists by calling them eggheads, and I thought it would be funny if one of the scientists happened to be a giant chicken, who would take great offence at the fowl phrase. And chickens, as it turns out, are just fun to draw. For C-ORB, I reached a point in the story where Mango and Brash were lost in a hallway and I didn’t know how to get them un-lost. I was stuck in that writing maze and couldn’t see a way out. And that just made me think about how we see with eyeballs, and balls are orbs. See orbs! A giant eyeball! So I had a giant eyeball find the gators. But instead of a literal eyeball, I thought a robot would be funnier, so I came up with the acronym C-ORB: Computerised Ocular Remote Butler.

Q Lastly, a word of advice for aspiring comic creators?
Practise! Also, start small, and finish what you started. It can be easy to feel discouraged if you’re unhappy with how your comic is turning out. But I think it’s better to just finish it instead of quitting, even if you don’t like it. Because then when it’s done, you can say you reached the finish line, which still gives you a sense of accomplishment. Then you can put it behind you and start making a new comic!
HAEMIN SUNIM: Life Teachings
When two roads diverged in a wood, he took the one less travelled by, and that made all the difference.
Nov 2023 | By Felicia Chua

As one of the most influential Zen Buddhist teachers and writers in South Korea, Haemin Sunim (which means “spontaneous wisdom”) is the author of two bestselling books, The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down ($23.76) and Love for Imperfect Things ($23.76). His upcoming release, When Things Don’t Go Your Way ($34.56), is highly anticipated and will be published in January 2024. Altogether, his books have sold over six million copies worldwide and have been translated into 38 languages, a reflection of the universal pursuit of a tranquil mind, no matter our differences.
When he isn’t travelling to share his teachings, Sunim lives in Seoul, South Korea, where he founded the School of Broken Hearts, a healing centre offering meditation guidance and counselling sessions, among other programmes. Its popularity led to the opening of a second centre in Busan, South Korea. Regardless of religious affiliations, Sunim iterates that anyone who is going through a tough time is welcome at the centres, and he hopes to provide practical help to those in need.

A Leap of Faith
Born in South Korea, Sunim went abroad to further his studies, choosing to major in film in the United States. However, his life trajectory took an interesting turn when he found himself having second thoughts about his choice of study. Taking a leap of faith, he made the switch to religious studies, which he had always nursed an interest in. It was this fateful decision that eventually found him pulled into the spiritual life at the age of 25. Educated at UC Berkeley, Harvard, and Princeton, Sunim also received formal monastic training in Korea and taught at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts for seven years.

In the beginning, Sunim simply responded to requests for advice on social media. By word-of-mouth, he soon garnered a massive social following online. This was the spark that then led to the publication of two books detailing his life teachings. Sunim’s books are popular as guides not only to meditation but also to overcoming the challenges of modern life. Combining his teachings with beautiful full-colour illustrations, Sunim’s simple messages speak directly to our everyday concerns, from self-compassion and courage to relationships and setbacks.

Drawing on Zen Buddhist philosophy and Sunim’s own experiences, When Things Don’t Go Your Way helps you navigate life’s challenges with resilience and grace. Whether you’re dealing with rejection, uncertainty, loneliness, conflicts in relationships, burnout, or simply seeking to improve your mental and emotional well- being, Sunim offers a new spiritual perspective, one that helps us face life’s challenges with greater ease and understanding, and offers solace and courage when we need it the most.
Thomas Erikson: People We Meet
Swedish behavioural expert Thomas Erikson dissects the kinds of people we may encounter in life and teaches us how to deal with them.

Aug 2023 | By Felicia Chua

In an unprecedented era where post-pandemic fatigue is rife, many are becoming hungrier for time and energy to themselves. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than achieved, especially when obstinate obstacles stand in our way. Having the wrong people hanging around as you go about daily life, for one. These people seem to thrive on going out of their way to sabotage you, waste your time, and drive you up the wall with toxic behaviour. Why do they do that, you may ask. Well, this is what Swedish behavioural expert Thomas Erikson is here for — to share his insights on this puzzling human behaviour and how to communicate effectively with them.
An active lecturer and bestselling author, Erikson has travelled across Europe to deliver lectures and seminars in Swedish and English to executives and managers from IKEA, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Volvo, KIA Motors, and more for over 20 years. His Swedish runaway bestseller, Surrounded by Idiots ($23.16), which has been translated into 52 languages, has sold more than 1 million copies in Sweden alone and over 3 million copies worldwide since it was first published in 2014.

Erikson has since gone on to publish a series of international bestsellers in line with the smashing theme, such as Surrounded by Psychopaths ($23.16), Surrounded by Bad Bosses (and Lazy Employees), Surrounded by Setbacks, and Surrounded by Narcissists. Percolated with Erikson’s witty and accurate descriptions of human behaviour, the Surrounded by series has enjoyed an incredibly positive reception everywhere. The latest instalment, Surrounded by Vampires ($23.16), ties in with the earlier books to identify idiots, psychopaths, bad bosses, setbacks, and narcissists as ‘vampires’ and sheds light on how to make sense of your interactions with them.

The Know-Hows to Thwart Vampires
Do conversations with certain people leave you feeling depleted or exhausted? Are there people in your life who diminish you through their words or actions? Or, do you have colleagues that take up a lot of your time and drain your energy, but don’t actually do or contribute much? You could be surrounded by vampires! In his latest release, Erikson pinpoints the four most common vampires in life: Time Suckers, Energy Suckers, Soul Suckers, and Habit Vampires. With the help of the behavioural model made famous in Surrounded by Idiots, Erikson will help you spot the Vampires around you and find your light to vanish their influence for good. Surrounded by Vampires releases on 5 October at all POPULAR Bookstores.
Diving Deep With Dav Pilkey
Get to know Dav Pilkey, creator of global hit series such as Dog Man and Captain Underpants!

Mar 2023 | By Felicia Chua

Mastermind of several popular children’s book and graphic novel series, Dav Pilkey is best known as an American author and illustrator of children’s literature, including global favourites Dog Man and Captain Underpants!. This year, the publication of Dog Man #11: Twenty Thousand Fleas Under the Sea marks Pilkey’s 35 years of writing and illustrating award-winning and bestselling books for children, a milestone not unlike his many triumphs in the past.
Life & Literary Milestones
As a child, Pilkey was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia. He was so disruptive in class that his teachers made him sit out in the hallway every day. Instead of glancing forlornly into the classroom or staring into space to pass time, as many of us are prone to do, Pilkey spent his time in the hallway creating his own original comic books — the very first adventures of Dog Man and Captain Underpants.

In college, Pilkey met a teacher who encouraged him to write and illustrate for children. He took her advice and created his first book, World War Won, which won a national competition in 1986. From there, Pilkey went on to make many other books before being awarded the California Young Reader Medal for Dog Breath (1994) and the Caldecott Honor for The Paperboy (1996). His first-ever graphic novel, The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby, was published in 2002, 14 years before the release of the first Dog Man book.

Appeal & Inspiration
Semi-autobiographical in essence, Pilkey’s stories explore universal themes that celebrate friendship, empathy, and the triumph of the good-hearted. The values imbued in these stories help to shape a child’s development, mindset, and outlook in life, and make for invaluable learning traits. Simple as they seem, such values can, however, be tricky to impart and comprehend, especially for young children. To bridge the gap, Pilkey combines striking art and humorous text to illustrate his key messages, boost reading comprehension, and deliver his point succinctly. Through his books, Pilkey hopes both children and adults can spend an enjoyable time reading together.

As a successful neurodivergent author, there is certainly much about Pilkey from which aspiring writers-to-be with similar conditions can draw inspiration. Breaking the stereotypes that people with ADHD are unable to sit still and focus long enough to complete a project, and that dyslexia impedes creative writing and makes for poor writers, Pilkey’s longstanding works over the decades speak for themselves. As the saying goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way. And Pilkey’s will is fueled by the fact that he is an avid reader, as he was empowered by his supportive parents who encouraged him to read from young and never limited his choice of books. His choice (and defining) style of storytelling — graphic novels — also allows him to work around his impediment. A graphic novel provides the most conducive space for Pilkey to lay out his work, one where he is able to switch out huge chunks of text, as is the standard for novels, with illustrations. Contrary to the belief that dyslexia hampers his ability to write, Pilkey is of the opinion that it actually helps him become a more effective writer as he pays closer attention to the ease of reading in his works.

Dog Man: Genesis & Latest Buzz
With millions of copies sold and translated into countless languages worldwide, the popularity of Dog Man cannot be denied. What’s uncanny, however, is the appeal of Dog Man himself. Part-man, part-canine, and all-time hero, Dog Man’s genesis is as strange as it is grim. His story unfolds in the eponymous debut graphic novel, where a police officer and his dog are injured on the job and undergo a life-saving surgery to become one entity. With the head of a dog, the body of a human, and visible stitches at the back of his neck, Dog Man is thus born.

It is interesting to note that while Pilkey is the author behind this comedic, crime-fighting comic series, he chooses to frame the story as being written by fifth-graders, George and Harold (who also happen to be main characters of Pilkey’s other comic, Captain Underpants). This deliberate creative undertaking helps inject child-like humour into the action- packed, heroic adventures led by a dog-man hybrid, tickling every child’s fancy all over the world. With man’s best friend here to enforce justice with goofy antics and victorious results, what’s not to love?

In the latest installation of Dog Man, Piggy is back, and his newest plot is his most diabolical yet. Dog Man and the rest of everyone’s favourite characters must join together in this heroic, hilarious, and all-new adventure. What new villains are on the horizon? Where are they all coming from? And who will step forward to save the city when scoundrels sabotage our Supa Buddies?
Jeff Kinney: Wimpy Kid Goes Rock ‘n’ Roll
Strap in for a bangin’ time in Diper Överlöde, the 17th title of the bestselling Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. And for the last time, it’s a journal, NOT a diary.

Nov 2022 | By Felicia Chua

Mention American author and cartoonist Jeff Kinney or his #1 New York Times bestselling Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and children around you might start jumping in the air, yelling, “Wimpy kid! Cheese Touch! Ew!” Indeed, with over 275 million books sold internationally, Kinney’s Wimpy Kid series has taken the world by storm. To top that, Kinney is also a six-time Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award winner for Favourite Book and has been named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.
With the many accolades for his works in children’s literature, it may come as a surprise to many that Kinney did not aspire to be a children’s author growing up. His initial dream was to be a newspaper cartoonist, and he even ran a comic strip called “Igdoof” in the campus newspaper during university in the early 90s. It was not until 1998 when Kinney started writing ideas for Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and his hard work eventually paid off as the first Wimpy Kid book became an instant bestseller upon release in 2007.

Two aspects set Kinney apart from the writer archetype: a perpetual underdog protagonist and his insistence that jokes take precedence over the story. Unlike the typical underdog-to-popular- hero character development, Greg Heffley starts off as the underdog and stays the underdog till the very end. Through Greg’s awkward yet hilarious adolescent shenanigans, Kinney presents a far more relatable representation of the lived experiences of children that age, though not as exaggerated, and thus greatly enhances the series’ relatability to his target audience. After all, being the “cool” kid at school doesn’t come as easy as the movies make it out to be. In addition, of the nine months Kinney takes to create a new Wimpy Kid book, he sets aside a majority of six months to come up with approximately 350 jokes per book. His manuscript even revolves around the jokes instead of the story — solid proof of his commitment to creating books to entertain children.

In the latest instalment of the Wimpy Kid series, Greg finds out that the road to fame and glory comes with some hard knocks. When he decides to tag along with his brother Rodrick’s band, Löded Diper, Greg doesn’t realise what he’s getting into. But he soon learns that late nights, unpaid gigs, fighting between band members, and money troubles are all part of the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. Can Greg help Löded Diper become the legends they think they are? Or will too much time with Rodrick’s band be a diper överlöde?
Shannon Messenger: Truths and Lies of the Lost Cities
Conspiracies, alliances, sacrifices — what is the truth of the Lost Cities, and who shall prevail in the battle?

Nov 2022 | By Felicia Chua

With over 2.5 million books in print and counting, Shannon Messenger is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the award-winning middle-grade series, Keeper of the Lost Cities, as well as the Sky Fall series for young adults. Her books have been featured on multiple state reading lists, published in numerous countries, and translated into many different languages.

Messenger graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, where she learned — among other things — that she liked watching movies much better than making them. She studied art, screenwriting, and film production in her schooling years, but belatedly realised her real passion was writing stories for children.
Despite her efforts, Messenger’s artworks in college could not match up to her own expectations, as she deemed them poor replicas of the vivid visions swirling in her mind. Deciding to take a respite from drawing, she tried her hand at a writing class in college, and that was the stimulus she needed to nudge her in the right direction.

Writing proved to be a well- matched outlet for Messenger to express her creativity. With words, she found she could transpose the magnificent worlds in her imagination onto paper right down to the fine details, much to her satisfaction. With this discovery, Messenger has never looked back since, and thus the Keeper of the Lost Cities series was brought to life. Although her career path has long diverged from her childhood dream of becoming a Disney animator, Messenger has since hit a gratifying milestone — in 2021, Disney announced its upcoming adaptation of Keeper of the Lost Cities into a live-action film, helmed by Ben Affleck as the director.

The rousing saga revolves around the mystery of Sophie Foster, a telepathic elf deliberately hidden in the human world and the game-changing series of events she sets off upon her return to the Lost Cities, a hidden civilisation where fantasy species reside. In Stellarlune, the long-anticipated 9th title of the series, Sophie and her friends discover the true meaning of power — and evil. Although the rebel organisation Black Swan wants Sophie to focus on their projects, her instincts are leading her somewhere else. Stellarlune — and the mysterious Elysian — might be the key to everything. But finding truth in the Lost Cities always requires sacrifice, and as the Neverseen’s plans sharpen into terrifying focus, it appears that everyone has miscalculated. The Lost Cities’ greatest lie could destroy everything, and in the battle that follows, only one thing is certain: nothing will ever be the same.
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