Author Dr Liza Mydin’s Boys have been a long time coming home. After having her children’s adventure story book, The Three Village Boys, published online and overseas in 2012, Liza has finally managed to get the book into Malaysian bookstores.
The first edition of the 26-page illustrated book was published in Singapore and sold in Britain, South-East Asia and the United States through the Barnes & Noble chain of bookstores, and also online at Amazon.com.
So why did it take so long for The Three Village Boys to come home, we ask at the launch of the book in Kuala Lumpur recently. It turns out that Liza, 36, was in the midst of pursuing her doctorate when she wrote the book in 2012.
“My PhD was very difficult and demanding, as I did it while working. I also found the e-book form to be a lot faster. And I couldn’t really focus on finding a local publisher, as I didn’t know who were the right people to talk to.”
And in 2014, Liza became pregnant with her first child (she now has three all together).
“Juggling all that with both my PhD and work, I just couldn’t manage it, I couldn’t put in the necessary time. When everything was done, my research finished, that’s when I thought, ‘OK, my book is the next item to do!’” she says.
“When you are dealing with so many deadlines and things to handle, you have to be able to prioritise and choose wisely which card to put forward next, which is how my mind has always worked.”
The book itself didn’t take long to write: just six months. “I started to form the ideas slowly, and crafted them bit by bit. Every day I would think about the characters, the journey they would embark on, and the things they would see,” she confides.
“Great ideas often came up, and I would record them with pen and paper. So, actually, the book is a result of over 20 scribbled loose papers! I’m relieved my book is now published in Malaysia!
The Three Village Boys is set against the desert sands of Arabia. Three nine-year-olds – Youssef, Zayyed and Omar – each visit a town that is different from theirs, travelling outside their small town of Al-Haidar for the first time. They are introduced to different elements in each town they visit, and in this way, the story exposes the boys – and the reader – to deep and mature themes.
Liza says her inspiration came from a realisation that learning good manners and ethical behaviour should start early in life.
“This book carries a strong message about ethics and social justice, which includes attributes of leadership and issues of income disparity, something that we face so glaringly nowadays. These aren’t issues we face just in Malaysia; they’re global.
“It is important to inspire our children and speak to their minds and hearts so they can change this world. I also wanted to encourage children to harness their minds and imagine a tale of discovery and adventure in a faraway land.”
Liza feels the idea of three boys and friendship is something anyone can identify with.
“A boy once told me the three boys reminded him of he and his friends,” she recounts. “Additionally, the characters Youssef and Omar are named after my grandfather, who was an avid adventurer himself. I wanted to remind children of the importance of discovery and adventure!”
Liza says her target audience is children aged seven to nine, as they are able to read on their own. “Also, in the world of electronics these days, I wanted to write a piece that would help keep kids engaged.”
Before venturing into children’s books, Liza wrote a number of scholarly books and articles about governance and ethical behaviour (they don’t sound that far removed from the subject matter of The Three Village Boys, actually…).
Liza holds a PhD from the International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance Malaysia, and previously worked at Pricewater-houseCoopers as part of the Global Islamic Finance advisory team. In 2010, she joined Al Rajhi Bank Malaysia as the vice president of compliance, a position in which she provided advice on and reviewed and implemented regulatory requirements.
In 2016, Liza undertook a visiting scholar position at the George Washington University in Washington DC, and was involved in conducting post-doctoral research for the Islamicity Index Project. She is currently the head of research and advisory at an Islamic bank in Malaysia.
While she probably will write more work-related titles, will Liza have time for more children’s books? A sequel to the adventures of Youssef, Zayyed and Omar, perhaps? It seems so: Liza says she has recently formed ideas, and hints at a possible release sometime next year.