Malaysian Picture Books – a snapshot

Malaysian Picture Books

by Inda Ahmad Zabri

Growing up, I read books in my native tongue, Malay or Bahasa Melayu, as well as English. Eventually, it was English literature that I fell in love with, but my search for Malay books resurged when I was home for the holidays a couple of years ago. My daughter was turning two, and I wanted to her to have a shelf full of her Malay heritage in books.

I presented  a small selection of these books, most of which I sourced from a lovely publisher-bookstore called Oyez! in Kuala Lumpur, at the February meeting of The Last Tuesday Book Club. This is a book club for adults who enjoy reading and discussing a wide variety of children’s books.

I started with a set of books written and illustrated by Emila Yusof. They exist in both Malay and English formats, so I brought one of each: ‘My Father’s Farm’ and ‘Taman Bunga Emak Saya (My Mother’s Garden)’. The stories are simple – a list of activities, observations and favourite things – and perfect for introducing everyday vocabulary to very young children. Both versions are accompanied by a bilingual illustrated glossary of objects found in the book. I noted that in the Malay version, the syllables are marked out in alternating colour. I assume the purpose is for ease of reading, but it doesn’t agree with me and I find it jarring.

Emila’s illustrations are vibrant and perfect for young children. She is a talented artist, whose work I enjoy following on social media, where she creates beautiful, whimsical portraits and fine art illustrations, either as zines, large artworks, or awe-inspiring sketches in her notebook. She is certainly prolific, and a power house in the Malaysian picture book scene.  @emilayusof on Instagram.

Where The Stars Come To Play,’ by sisters Lim Lay Har and Lim Lay Koon is a sweet story of a boy who declines an invitation to watch a firework display with friends in order to help mend his father’s fishing net. He’s rewarded with a trip upriver with his father, where fireflies glow by the thousands among the mangroves. I’m reminded of my own childhood, skimming along the night river in a sampan, treated to an incredible light show. The Lim sisters have won several awards for their picture books. www.thesisterslim.com

By The River Borneo’ by Gwen Hew and Evi Shelvia is a look at the traditional customs of the indigenous people of East Malaysia.

There are many tribes, but the characters Toobi and Ehvan in the book belong to the Kadazan-Dusun people. They live in long houses and are accompanied by a sun bear, a proboscis monkey and an orangutan. I love seeing the Malay fauna come to life in these books. There is an emphasis on endangered animals as the gang come across a baby rhinoceros. Evi Shelvia’s website – http://epit-at-home.blogspot.com

Another example of a book on endangered wildlife in the beautifully rendered narrative non-fiction, ‘Puteri Tioman – The Green Turtle.’ Written by Rossiti Aishah Rashidi, a conservationist and founder of Green Hopes Eco Warriors, and illustrated by Farah Ashiela Samsuri, an artist and architect, it tells the story of a turtle’s life, drawing attention to the many dangers they face, from seagulls to light pollution, plastic waste and oil slicks, and being caught in net. We ooh-ed and aah-ed over the magnificent illustrations.

It was lovely being able to share a small part of my culture through one of my favourite mediums – picture books! I really hope that books from other cultures, both neighbouring and far-flung, can bring about a greater, and more pleasurable, understanding of how beautifully diverse our world is.

Inda Ahmad Zabri believes in a world of wonder. She lives in Brisbane where she writes and illustrates for children. Her stories are inspired by natural and cultural gems curated from her travels and lovingly added to her Malaysian heritage. She is also a surgical doctor, swapping her writer’s hat and paintbrush for scrubs and scalpel when duty calls. You can find her at www.indabinda.com where she regularly blogs about the treasures of nature and her love of books.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Where The Stars Come To Play,’ by sisters Lim Lay Har and Lim Lay Koon is a sweet story of a boy who declines an invitation to watch a firework display with friends in order to help mend his father’s fishing net. He’s rewarded with a trip upriver with his father, where fireflies glow by the thousands among the mangroves. I’m reminded of my own childhood, skimming along the night river in a sampan, treated to an incredible light show. The Lim sisters have won several awards for their picture books.

 

www.thesisterslim.com

 

 

 

 

By The River Borneo’ by Gwen Hew and Evi Shelvia is a look at the traditional customs of the indigenous people of East Malaysia. There are many tribes, but the characters Toobi and Ehvan in the book belong to the Kadazan-Dusun people. They live in long houses and are accompanied by a sun bear, a proboscis monkey and an orangutan. I love seeing the Malay fauna come to life in these books. There is an emphasis on endangered animals as the gang come across a baby rhinoceros.

 

Evi Shelvia’s website – http://epit-at-home.blogspot.com

 

 

 

 

Another example of a book on endangered wildlife in the beautifully rendered narrative non-fiction, ‘Puteri Tioman – The Green Turtle.’ Written by Rossiti Aishah Rashidi, a conservationist and founder of Green Hopes Eco Warriors, and illustrated by Farah Ashiela Samsuri, an artist and architect, it tells the story of a turtle’s life, drawing attention to the many dangers they face, from seagulls to light pollution, plastic waste and oil slicks, and being caught in net. We ooh-ed and aah-ed over the magnificent illustrations.

 

 

It was lovely being able to share a small part of my culture through one of my favourite mediums – picture books! I really hope that books from other cultures, both neighbouring and far-flung, can bring about a greater, and more pleasurable, understanding of how beautifully diverse our world is.

 

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