Here's a gift guide of Malaysian children’s books perfect for this holiday season

A wishlist of Malaysian children's books, you ask? Here are few highlights to take home. Photo: Handout

Christmas is just around the corner. What’s a good choice of gift for the young ones this year? Why, how about some local children’s books?

Here are some whimsical, wonderful children’s books, all published this year, that would make awesome stocking stuffers this holiday season.

Dayak Lore: A Collection From The Indigenous People Of Sarawak (Borneo)

Author: The Tuyang Initiative

Illustrated by: Mathew Ngau Jau

Publisher: Tuyang and Heart Initiative

This book contains three folk stories from Sarawak. One is a Kayan tale about a greedy durian loving boy names Ditut, another is a Penan folk tale about Kangkaput, a beloved bird that decides to fly away, and an Iban story about Apai Saloi, a man whose life takes a twist one day. This material is an adaptation of Tuyang Initiative’s Tuesday Tales, a platform for folk-based stories from Sarawak’s indigenous communities.

This title is both a story book and a colouring book, with original illustrations (from sape master Mathew Ngau Jau) accompanying each tale. Proceeds from this book will go towards all cultural practitioners involved in this book’s creative development. And it really is a nice little book to read at bedtime.

Rahman’s Big Break

Author: David Chin

Illustrated by: Leong Wai Khong

Publisher: Kakiseni and MPH Publishing

Who doesn’t want to be a star? Rahman is a young boy who dreams of making it big in the world of Bangsawan theatre. Set in George Town, Penang, during the 1920s, the tale follows Rahman as he tries to achieve his dreams, through his parent’s Grand Opera Set.

On the way, he meets a cast of fascinating multi-ethnic characters. Will he manage to make it? This book is the final installment of the Hikayat series, a collaboration between Kakiseni and MPH to highlight traditional Malay performing arts. Rahman’s Big Break is a charming, relatable tale, that may kindle a spark for culture and the arts within the souls of its readers.

Tun Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali: The Accidental Doctor

Authors: Eva Wong Nava and June Ho

Illustrated by: Debasmita Dasgupta

Publisher: World Scientific

It may sound hard to believe now, but many years ago, it was rare for women to enter the medical line. Tun Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, however, defied the odds. Graduating from the Faculty of Medicine in the University of Malaya (then based in Singapore) in 1955, Siti Hasmah became a pioneer among Malay women doctors in this country.

Siti Hasmah grows up, witnesses WWII, and enters the public spotlight after marrying former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad.

This children’s picture book tells her inspiring story, framing it against the background of a developing Malaya. This book may be published in Singapore, but its about a Malaysian icon. It’s a great inspiration for children, girls and boys alike, to never give up on reaching your dreams.

Gaja Loves The Sea

Written and Illustrated by: Lim Lay Koon

Publisher: Oyez Books

The sea would be the last place you would expect to find an elephant. Or so you would think! Little Gaja is a huge fan of the waves and the tide. His Papa, however, is worried that Gaja is too young to play in the sea. To him, it’s a place full of darkness and monsters. But Gaja is nevertheless determined to swim.

He finds a way that will help him to play in the tides, and has a great time. Trouble however, happens after he grows tired. What will Gaja do now?

This charming 24-page picture book by Lim Lay Koon (who also illustrated Kayu Of Manis Valley and The Door Under the Stairs series) is a perfect read for adventurous and rambunctious kids out there.

Let The Maps Speak! (Biar Pete de Bersuara)

Author: Lai Bwe Yuoong

Illustrated by: Saluji Yeok So Alu

Publisher: The Bridge Communication

If maps could speak, what would they tell us? This book tells a story of the indigenous Semai people, and touches on issues revolving around development and customary land rights. People who have called the forest home for many generations find their way of life under threat, with few animals to hunt and little land left.

All the illustrations are based on actual places, with a bit of creative license taken by Saluji, an Orang Asli illustrator. The book is also presented in three languages: English, Chinese and Semai. Proceeds from the sale of this book go towards efforts to create awareness on Orang Asli rights, such as customary land rights, indigenous language and preservation of their cultural language. A good book for a good cause, which may bring out a love of nature in its readers.

Music And My Friends

Written and illustrated by: Awang Fadilah

Publisher: Oyez Books

They say music makes the world go around. But you don’t need to go all around the world to find beautiful music: you can find it in Sabah. This book by Sabah-based illustrator Awang Fadilah (who has written six books so far) is a great guide to Sabah’s diverse traditional music and instruments.

The book features a main cast of three characters, who hail from the Brunei, Murut and Kadazan ethnic groups. Instruments such as the sompoton (bamboo pipes), gambus and seruling (flute) are all highlighted. Music And My Friends is a good way to kill two birds with one stone when trying to spark a child’s interest, encouraging them to read or take up a traditional instrument.

The Malay Tale Of The Pig King

Written by: Usup Abdul Kadir, retold by Heidi Shamsuddin

Illustrated by: Evi Shelvia

Publisher: Matahari Books

Once there was a king that looked like a pig. At first glance, this seems like the plot of a wacky cartoon. Actually, it is the plot of an old folk tale, originally written by a merchant from Semarang (now Indonesia) in 1775. Titled Hikayat Raja Babi (The Epic Of The Pig King), the tale begins when a royal couple is cursed to have a child who resembles a pig.

The child may look like a pig, but he certainly does not act like one. He is cheeky but brave, kind and strong-hearted. He goes on a series of thrilling adventures to prove himself, as well as win the heart of his lady love.

The whimsical nature of this cultural folk tale will definitely entertain children, and is definitely not a boar... sorry, bore!

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