Norico Chua features a werewolf in her new children's book.
THE werewolf is a scary monster, says children’s author Norico Chua. Indeed. But she chose to feature it in her book, The Werewolf And His Moon, anyway because she has a message about facing our fears to get across.
“If we keep harping on a particular issue and run away in fear, we’ll never be able to change our mindset. We must not possess a static mind, instead be more open minded,” advises Chua at an interview during the book’s launch last month.
Following the success of Chua’s first book, A Cake Reaching To The Sky (2013), Magicbird Publishing was proud to launch The Werewolf And His Moon. The vividly coloured book tells the story of Tristan, a lonely boy who has a secret he’s afraid to share with his newly found friend, Muffin. The two embark on a journey of friendship that has a drastic impact on both their lives.
While A Cake Reaching To The Sky focused on a boy’s relationship with his grandmother, Werewolf emphasises the importance of good friends: “Family is of utmost importance, but friends, close ones, can help you too. It’s a fact that we can never live alone. That is why friendship is important,” says Chua, who is Japanese (she studied in Malaysia and is married to a Malaysian).
Werewolf’s cover is inspired by the beauty of the full moon and the night sky – the moon is particularly significant in the story, as it plays a pivotal role in the characterisation of Tristan and Muffin.
The touching tale about the scary werewolf transforming into a sad, lonely and lovable friend is accompanied by Chua’s signature watercolour-like illustrations. “I did them by myself! It’s easier than hand-drawing. But it feels like cheating because I believe that hand-drawing is still the best,” says Chua with a laugh, referring to her technique of working with computer graphics, as she did for Cake.
Chua solicited opinions from her husband regarding colour and composition, “However, I have a mind of my own and I allowed imagination to take over”, she says.
Flip through the hardcover book’s 32 pages and one cannot help but notice the passion put into the art. The expressive images will surely help children to understand and feel the emotions portrayed by the characters – “If we consider how someone else is feeling, the world would be a better place,” asserts Chua.
The writer enjoys reading Japanese fairytales and tales of magic: “I love anything with mystery and witchcraft. Witches are characters I revere,” she says.
While her reading obviously influences her own whimsical and magical tales, it was spending time with her son (who was a year old in April last year) that prompted her to attempt her first book.
“I consider myself to be very lucky because my ex-lecturer visited me in Japan and was impressed with my work. He then took it back to Malaysia to help me get them published,” says Chua, who graduated from the One Academy here in Malaysia in 2007.
Werewolf proved more challenging than her first book, says Chua, explaining that Cake had fewer words.
“As this book contains more text, the editor wanted to shorten it. So it was difficult for me, I didn’t want the storyline to be marred.”
While Cake came with a Japanese translation on the outer band on the book and was aimed at children aged three and above, Chua wrote Werewolf in English without a translation and says it is aimed at primary school children.
Plans for a third book have been submitted to the publisher: “The first two had watercolour paintings (made using Chua’s computer graphic technique), but the third will be in a collage style, something I look forward to,” she says.
As with previous Magicbird Publishing books by other authors, Werewolf subscribes to the notion of reading and creating a dialogue via lateral thinking with questions added to the end of the book, says publisher Quek Sue Yian.
“The five questions on the last page help children to think and respond in their own way. We come up with the questions and it is a good tool for book clubs.”
And like all Magicbird books, The Werewolf And His Moon is a part of the company’s One For One initiative: for each book purchased, Magicbird gives another to a underserved child or community. Currently, The Werewolf And His Moon is available exclusively online at oneforonebooks.org for RM35.