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