Last June (yeah… this is a post that has been long in coming), something that I have waited 5 years for finally happened. My children’s book entitled Rainforest Hike finally saw the light of the day! It finally got published!
There were 2 launches. One in KL and followed by one is Singapore. The KL launch was not without some “excitement”. 1 hour before my launch my publisher calls up and tells me that the new Silverfish book shop was not ready to open! Can you imagine how stressful it was?!!! I have already told friends and family the timing and location. In the end, we had it 2 hours later at my publisher’s own book shop. I was so touched by the support of my family and friends that I teared when I gave the intro to my book. It truly meant a lot and even friends who were not there placed orders for the book, so yes, I was very very touched.
When I wrote the book in the wee hours of the morning, B was barely 2 years old. It was in a way, my gift to her. All the stories are based on actual outings and experiences I have shared with her. I have always enjoyed writing and writing the stories with her in my mind as the main character made it alot easier, although I took creative liberty to make her slightly older! In the first draft, I named the character after B, but my editor said… errr “This name is rather western sounding.” and I was “Really?” I tried my best to persuade her but in the end we compromised with her Chinese name “Rae” – which I thought maybe it works out after all because her “Rae” means wisdom … so Little Wisdom – like the wisdom of childhood pleasures and experiences.
The strangest thing was that, even though I had never shown the illustrator her photo, the illustrations came back looking alot like her! Isn’t that amazing (in a slightly unbelievable way) but perhaps in my illustrator’s mind, most children have a bob/coconut hair style!
I loved how the drawings were done is such detail and the use of watercolour seem to convey the innocence of childhood . She has a constant best friend, Nazri, who is modeled after a very nice Nazri I know. We did our Masters in Communications together, forged our friendship over many a fishball noodles and mutual editing services (he edited my Malay papers while I edited his English papers). I don’t think I could have finished my Masters in a year without Nazri’s help considering I hadn’t used any Bahasa since I left for NUS. So I crafted the friendship in story in a way to celebrate the diversity of cultures that is founded in a mutually respectful friendship.
I also introduced Peranakan culture into the story, taking creative liberty to make Grandma into a Peranakan lady, complete with her kebaya and sarong. We Penangites have so much Peranakan culture imbued in our memories that sometimes I don’t even realise that foods like acar, tumeric vinegar fish, puloh ikan are very typically peranakan dishes because these were dishes I ate regularly from the tingkat lunches I use to have. I remember my own grandmother wearing her kebaya’s on special occasions – now that I think of it, it was not cheong sams that she had but lovely lacy translucent kebayas that accentuate the female form so elegantly. Perhaps a kebaya top with the flexible use of kerongsongs (these are free standing brooch buttons) is more forgiving on those spare tyres! My cheongsams are begging me to loose a few kilos!
A kindly looking lady is also Nazri’s grandma. She shows them how to make bedak sejuk (a rice based traditional powder).
And of course, food features in quite a few of the chapters. Making salted lime, acar and a visit to the pasar malam (night market) is told from a child’s perspective. As children, we use to make all sorts of shapes for the tang yuen balls with my mother. We would have squares, triangles, turtles, rabbits floating in our tang yuen dessert during the winter soltice festival and this is of course featured in one chapter!
If you are interested in getting a copy, you can do so here:
It’s S$12 a copy and free shipping for all Singapore addresses.