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I was quite nervous as I waited in the lobby of the hotel from where I was to pick up Evi Shelvia, whose beautifully illustrated books I had heard so much about. She turned out to be a very pleasant and friendly person.

On our way to the first school, she showed me her books and what inspired me the most was how she started in this field in the beginning. She even gave me tips on how to make my 7 year old pursue her interest in books – my daughter is really a big fan of writing and illustrating her own picture storybooks since attending Bookaroo events for 2 years in a row.

Evi is here for Bookaroo Kuching thanks to Oyez Books. We arrived at the first school, SK Siol Kanan, earlier than scheduled. The children were curious about the new visitor as we made our way to the admin room. We could hear laughter from one of the classes where, probably, a teacher was telling a joke.

The Guru Besar (principal) greeted us with tea as we waited. It was Evi’s first visit to Kuching, and she was already getting a feel of Kuching’s warm hospitality.  Evi’s session was ‘Monster Mine” based on her book “The Rabbi(t)lution”.  She showed them a book of animals and revolution. The children were then asked to close their eyes and imagine their own monsters, whether it was square eyed, scary or cute!

While they imagined their monsters, some could be seen smiling and others looking terrified. Evi then asked them to draw what they had imagined. It was amazing to see the children’s imagination on paper. The whole point was for children to make their own stories from picture books and, at the same time, use their imagination. That is the one thing that many children don’t get the chance to express, for various reasons. Today, that was something that the children and  I learnt.

By Mas Marzuki

Can you touch and smell a painting? Siddhant Shah, who is a speaker in Bookaroo and hails from Mumbai in India, explained how visually impaired people actually look at everyday things.

As soon as we arrived at SK Pendidikan Khas, a special needs school, Siddhant took out a couple of stamps/chop which were made by himself. These stamps were gifts for the teachers so that they could reward the students (such as to give them a chop if they have done well in some certain task).

Siddhant had brought a book as well. Titled “Touch & Feel Indian Art”, it was a Tactile Braille Book made by speaker for all the students, who were extremely happy to get the book and a chance to use the special stamps.

The 11 children who were present were very curious as they began checking out the art that Siddhant had brought with him. Each was made from different objects such as flowers, feathers, special materials from speaker’s country and a whole lot more. Even the teachers joined in enthusiastically.

Some of the art teachers and the visually impaired teachers got a lot of inspiration from the session and, after interacting (e.g. touch and smell) with the art, said that they would actually consider using a similar concept to teach their students in the future.

Siddhant patiently guided the audience (he had learnt some Bahasa words for this session) through every step. At the end of the session, he was taken on a tour of the school. We ended the visit in a musical way. Siddhant, who visit has been supported by Sarmaya Trust and Access for All, was coerced to sing a song from a well-known Indian movie. They loved it.

By Hui Shan Ang

St Faith KG

When the story is about a lion and a feast, you can be sure that the children will lap it up. And when it is a story about calling a lion for a feast, it becomes lip-smackingly delicious. The 80 children in St Faith Kindergarten had a roaring time with author-illustrator Chetan Sharma. As Chetan began his story, his magic pen came to life too.

There was much excitement as drew a lion briskly. The applause was something. It didn’t end there. Chetan also taught the children to draw simple expressions. That the children were keen learners could be seen from what they came up with. Chetan’s visit was made possible with the support of Karadi Tales.

 

Superchamp KG – 120 children

We then moved to another part of the school where there was a twist in the tale. A karadi (in Tamil) means bear. In India, pointed out Chetan, a bear is a great storyteller. One hundred and twenty children looked on in wonder as Chetan opened up a picture book and played bear. The story was again the Lion’s Feast but what caught the attention of the children here was a little tiny mouse in the book. Each of the children enjoyed the tale.

Before the end of the session, Chetan was keen that the children put their stories on paper by drawing. He demonstrated it by simple methods – a circle for a face, for instance. Chetan’s view was that children should be left to their own devices if they were to learn drawing. It’s okay for the paper to get dirty when you are practicing. Drawing is as simple as making a line and a circle.

Chetan encouraged the children to Keep drawing and telling stories. At the end, there were many children who wanted to become illustrators when they grew up. Both Chetan and I got a bear hug from the children and left the school in a happy frame of mind.

By Grace Rongrong

There is one thing about Champa. The children experience an instant connect whatever be the age. At SK Salak about 120 children between the ages of 5 and 10 listened in rapt attention as Champa rattled off the story of the fishermen.

There was excitement and, at the same time, they did not want to miss any part of the story because of exuberant behaviour. It was mesmerising. Not one of them looked bored for even a second.

“We loved the session so much, Aunty Champa,” they screamed in delight when Champa asked them how they felt. Champa, in turn, felt that the children were cute and that it was a fun session. The teachers said they were honoured to have an international speaker in their midst.

 

By Edison Rickett

Superhero! Who does not want to be one? And who, in his right mind, would not want to hear stories about superheroes.

Thus, the stage was set for Champa Saha as 50 children in the 10-12 age band geared themselves up for an exciting story about superheroes. Champa  did not disappoint them. There was nervousness, excitement and broad smiles – all at the same time – as the story progressed.

Superheroes need not be characters from story books. Real people too can be superheroes when they are brave and stand up for what they believe in, pointed out Champa. The children listened to how that could be possible.

It was a highly entertaining and interactive session. The teachers’ reactions summed it up: “To inspire others to give back to their communities is amazing,” they said. Champa felt that the session enabled the children to understand the world and themselves, to develop appreciation and interests, and to find solutions to their personal and group problems.

By Edison Rickett

The next stop for Emila and I was at SK Empila, a school that had more than 55 students. Most of the students who participated in this session are those aged 10 years and above.

Emila, the master craftsperson, whose visit has been made possible by Oyez Books, laid down the theme first. And what could be better in Kuching than cats.

The children made some lovely cat crafts from papers. They had lots of fun. It was an experience in cooperation and hands-on learning as the children – with some help from Emila – came up with simple yet stunning designs.

At the end, the smiles said it all.

By George Abraham

It was a reasonably long journey that Emila Yusof and I took to meet the students of SK Tanjung Tuang. The school is located in Kota Samarahan, about 40 km from Kuching.

The distance did not matter as it was worth going to SK Tanjung Tuang. More than 100 students were waiting for Emila to arrive. Emila, whose visit is supported by Oyez Books, got into the act rightaway with a 3D paper cutting session. The children had a great time with the entire activity. The main objective of the session was to develop the fine motor skills that young children need in order to hold pencils.

Before the activity began, Emila gave them a talk and laid out guidelines. With a little help from the teachers, not only did the children execute their plans well, they also enjoyed themselves immensely.

By George Abraham

The journey from The Waterfront Hotel to Lodge International School became that much more exciting when a thunderstorm began, almost bringing traffic to a total halt.

Multi-award winning writer and illustrator, Vasanti Unka arrived at the school, quietly tucked away in the middle of a huddle of houses in Tabuan Desa. With her husband Raj helping hers, they quickly got to preparing for her session with some forty Year 4-6 students, to share Vasanti’s newest book, Stripes! No, Spots!

The session started off on an enchanting note as Vasanti, who is here thanks to the support of Creative New Zealand, launched into a Maori song that went like this: “Mahunga, Pakihiwi, Puku, Hope, Wae Wae…Taringa, Whatu, Ihu, Waha”, and an introduction of New Zealand before diving into her storybook. True to the story, the children took sides to pick stripes or spots, and before long, the hall resounded with roars similar to that of those heard only in the jungle.

As Vasanti finished her reading, the students quickly understood that the main value shared in the story is that everyone is different, yet beautiful in his or her own way, and that there is no need to fight over that. The children were thrilled to end the session by making their own tiger and leopard masks, and decorating them with more than just stripes and spots.

As they said their farewells, Vasanti told them how much she loved their responsiveness throughout the session, and that she hoped to come back for another adventure soon!

By Cheryl Melia

Spices is a topic that children usually do not get to see or discuss.

However, well into Namita Moolani Mehra’s session, it was apparent that it was an eye opening subject for the children of Lumba Kuda. Spices can be used in so many ways to whip up so many delicious dishes.

Spices are inherently lazy, said Namita. They have to be pounded to wake them up in order to enhance the flavour of food. Can you imagine this? Chilli powder can be added to chocolate mousse, a dessert to make it taste even more exotic. Going by the response of the children, Namita’s session has in all probability kindled an interest in cooking for many of the students gathered there today. All of them had that look about going home and thinking of something to cook up.

By Melinda Siew

There is a little apprehension when one visits a school that teaches in a language that one is not familiar with. SKJ Chung Hua is a Chinese school and Ummi Sham is Malay but she managed it beautifully.

Fifty students sat and patiently listened to the story of Jack and his journeys. They breathlessly followed Jack as he travelled across rivers, up and down hills, through forests in search of wealth and happiness. Who will he meet? What will he find? These were the unasked questions that were on the minds of the children as the story raced on.

While narrating the story, Ummi asked the children to try and imitate the sounds that different animals make. It made the session that much more interesting.

By Yitping Tay