INTERVIEW, PERSPECTIVES

Elephants Live Upstairs!

An interview with author, Melissa Ong, on empathy and kindness

Shawn Seah
4 min readNov 3, 2023

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Melissa Ong and her book, Elephants Live Upstairs! Photograph graciously provided by Melissa Ong.

You might have come across the picture book, Elephants Live Upstairs! written by Melissa Ong and illustrated by Javon Chan. The book was so successful, it was even translated into Korean and other languages!

As a Singaporean writer who has published stories for children, I was delighted when I first came across this book and even more delighted that I know the author.

In this story, I interview my friend and author Melissa Ong and share her inspiring story with you.

“Melissa, could you introduce yourself to my readers?”

She replied, “I’m an adjunct lecturer teaching critical thinking and communication skills in Singapore Polytechnic’s School of Life Skills and Communication, and before this I was teaching the General Paper at Temasek Junior College.

“I was trained in Journalism at NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, but apart from an internship at an investment magazine, I have been in the field of education ever since I graduated.

“Other than that, I’m enthusiastic about helping children to learn how to read, having benefitted from reading from a young age myself — I currently volunteer about twice a month at a neighbourhood children’s phonics and reading programme.”

“Yes, I believe in encouraging reading among children too. With respect to your book, Elephants Live Upstairs!, perhaps you would like to tell my readers a bit about the book and what it is about.”

She replied, “Certainly! Elephants Live Upstairs! is a book about a girl and her family who have animals as neighbours.

“Elephants, however, have moved in upstairs and create a lot of noise and trouble for the family.

“One day, the girl’s mother decides to finally do something about it. How do they deal with the problem? Read the book to find out!”

(Clue: It involves some homemade kueh-kueh.)

“Thanks for sharing, Melissa. What motivated you to write the book?”

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Shawn Seah

Singaporean writer and public speaker, passionate about education, social issues, and local history and community stories.