Homegrown children’s book publisher Oyez!Books grabbed the publishing news recently when it rolled out 12 new and exciting titles. The books are set to thrill readers young and old.
The launch, which took place at Silverfish Books in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, saw six local authors and illustrators introducing their picture books, storybooks and colouring books.
The authors and illustrators present were Emila Yusof, Yusof Gajah, Susanna Goho-Quek, Lim Lay Koon, Mohd Khairul Azman Ismail and Heidi Shamsuddin. Chooi Ling Keiong was not present during the launch.
The themes in the books span time travelling tales and lost owls to legendary princesses and an elephant with a red pencil. Add a collection of haikus, for good measure.
Most importantly, the new titles are not whitewashed with Western ideals and popular fairytales. They are all essentially Malaysian.
And this excites Silverfish Books’ founder and owner Raman Krishnan.
“This is our culture and we have to promote it. There is a resurgence of interest in things Malaysian,” says Raman, referring to his the spending habits of his customers.
When asked why he believes this, Raman carefully speculates that parents are finding it harder to tell good Malaysian stories to their children.
“I think they find it alien and feel the emptiness. That they have lost out. They don’t want their children to lose out, too. I mean, how many times can you read Snow White!” he quips.
And this precisely what Oyez!Books champions. Since 2007, the Kuala Lumpur-based publisher has produced nearly 100 titles to date, with local heritage and values being the focus of its books.
While local children’s books have to heavily compete with their international counterparts, Peter Duke, Oyez!Books’ chairman, believes that the situation is getting better.
“The great thing about bookshops such as Silverfish is that it focuses on good Malaysian authors and artists.”
But the publishing of local books must be done right, admits Duke.
“One of the key things in publishing, as far as I’m concerned, is to make sure we make high-quality books. Then have them properly priced and control the cost. This means sometimes we have to preview the books and find out if there’s a demand,” explains Duke.
Emila Yusof, a well-known illustrator, produced two new booksat this recent Oyez!Books’ launch. Legendary Princesses Of Malaysia, already a storybook written by Raman and illustrated by Emila, now comes in the form of a colouring book.
Each drawing is accompanied by a page of history from each princess. There is even an empty page right at the end of the book which encourages children to draw their favourite princess.
It is Emila’s Fleeting Moments – Illustrated Haiku Poems, however, that catches the attention. It is her first book of poems.
“I like to draw when I travel. So these illustrations are all from my sketchbook and I have written haikus to go with the drawings,” says Emila.
Another interesting picture book is from Lim Lay Koon, also an illustrator.
Lim says Menagerie – Fun with Animal Groupsis not your typical picture book.
“It is not telling a story but it’s introducing children to new terms, new words and new ways to call groups of animals,” she says.
And the illustrations are cheeky and humorous.
“This will interest the children in learning new words and being more exposed to all the different terms in the English language,” adds Emila.
Think an army of frogs and the illustration showuing frogs dressed in army uniform, prepared for battle.
Susanna Goho-Quek, an artist turned illustrator came up with three colouring books based on her life experiences, her childhood memories and her fondness towards teddy bears.
The colouring books are called Teddy Bear Tales, Happy Days and Underwater World.
Chooi Ling Keiong’s Health, Wealth & Happiness tells you about Chinese auspicious symbols, the perfect guide forChinese New Year.
Yusof Gajah, a prolific artist and children’s book advocate, produced two new picture books in his elephant series, called My Haircut and My Red Pencil. His The Real Elephant, a Noma Concours (an international picture book award) award winner, will be re-launched in a brand new big picture book format.
“People ask me why I love to paint elephants. I think that’s the only skill that God has given me! I remember I was commissioned once to paint an underwater series. The clients refused to accept the painting because there is no elephant underwater!” recalls Yusof fondly.
Heidi Shamsuddin continues her The Door Under The Stairs series with the third installment called The Case of the Football Champion. As with her previous chapter books, the protagonists travel back in time through a magical door and assist historical figures to solve problems.
In this one, the three friends go back in time when renowned Malaysian footballer Mokhtar Dahari was still a schoolboy and is contemplating quitting playing football after being bullied. It’s up to the friends to convince him to continue to play.
Mohd Khairul Azman Ismail’s Where is Owly? serves as a social commentary on the recent rise of missing children. The story revolves around an owl that loses its younger sibling during its watch. The owl then goes on a search for its lost sibling, getting help from the community of birds and other animals. Finally, the owl manages to locate its sibling in an unlike place and circumstance.
His second book, My Owl Family Tree, teaches children about the importance of family trees and how one actually arrives at making one of their own.
Khairul is the second prize winner of YGL-Oyez Picture Book Award 2015.
Emila Yusof’s Fleeting Moments, Yusof Gajah’s The Real Elephant and Chooi Ling Keiong’s Health, Wealth & Happiness will hit the selected bookstores next week. Fleeting Moments and The Real Elephant are already available on Oez!Books’ online bookstore.
These books are available at Silverfish Books, Oyez! Art & Books at Bangsar Puteri and also www.oyezbookstore.com.
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/SilverfishBooks/, www.oyezbookskids.com or contact 03-2284 4837.