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Nature is abundance in Sarawak with its vast rainforest, big and long rivers, and mighty mountains. City kids seldom notice this as they are more exposed to gadgets and other modern toys. The storytelling and bookmark making session at The Spring Baruk with Nia Latif gave some perspective to an old tradition relating to nature.


When Nia Latif shared a story about bunga terung or eggplant flower, a traditional tattoo design motive for Dayak community, being used as a mark for a boy’s passage into manhood the children were amazed. After the storytelling session they continued with bookmark making workshop using bunga terung design. The children aged 4 to 12 years really enjoyed making their personal bookmark to take back home. They learned about Dayak culture and the significance of Gawai Dayak or harvest festival which will be celebrated on 1 June.


At SJK Chung Hua No 1 Tom McLaughlin was greeted by approximately 50 children. He started the session by asking the children to use their imagination and draw a purple man with one horn and one eye who could fly. He encouraged them to make a 3 page comic book on the character.


Colourful comics

At the end of the session, Tom gave his comic ‘The Borneo Boy’ to all students.

The principal and children of Little Learner Kindergarten gave a warm welcome to Grace Jie Jie (Grace Wong) and Lulu Jie Jie(Mah Xiang Ru). Lulu Jie Jie is a PhD in molecular biology but is passionate about paper craft and storytelling. Grace Jie Jie is an early childhood lecturer who loves books and storytelling.

Lulu Jie Jie started the session with some music and taught the children some movements to warm them up. After this Grace Jie Jie narrated a story about gorilla that was looking for friends.


Stand up and dance

Lulu Jie Jie told a story about a child who wanted to eliminate his enemy. His father told him about a magic pie that would make his enemy disappear. All he needed was to play with his enemy one full day without fighting. Lulu Jie Jie ended the session with some more music and dance.

Grace Rong Rong captivated both children and their parents at China House, The Old Court House. She told them two stories, both about fishes.

The first story was about a fish motif that goes missing from a boy’s shirt. The fishes flew away and the little boy tries to bring them back on his shirt through various ways. He succeeds after he writes a letter to all the five fishes.


The second story was about a small fish that stole a hat from a bigger fish and how the hat was recovered from the small fish.

Grace also had a craft session and showed the children how to make a beautiful fish sun catcher. The children proudly showed off their craft at the end of the session.

Alan Tan is a man of many talents. He is not only a primary school teacher, but also a radio announcer. And he loves to tell stories.

A bunch of 70 enthusiastic kids greeted Alan at SJK St. Paul. After the initial introduction Alan started the session with some songs and games.

The story he shared with the children was about a lion that had 1000 teeth. But he lost all of them as a boy fed him lots of candy.


Dancing with Alan

Alan also narrated another story about a Monster which was actually a dog. The dog-turned-monster had the ability of eating all the abusive words its master said at home while quarreling and scolding. The more he ate the bigger he became. In the end, the family members learned how to talk nicely and softly at home.

Alan made his session interesting with songs and acts and the children enjoyed the session a lot.

A group of 17 children and 10 adults assembled on the steps of the Old Court House in Kuching on Saturday morning  ready to travel back in time to unearth the hidden tales of Old Chinatown in Kuching guided by Joshua Chan Chin Hua.

Along the way everyone learnt a little about the White Rajah, the five foot way in front of shops and why there is a stone lion in front of the temples. The children were particularly fascinated watching the tinsmith at work.

DSC_0451 edited

Joshua not only shared old stories with the children and their parents but he had also prepared a short activity for them. He asked the children to write a thank you letter to their parents. Almost all the children had never sent a real letter before, so when Joshua handed them the envelopes and stamps, they did not know where to write the address or put the stamp. This new experience was made even more special as they each posted their letters at the General Post Office, one of the beautiful old building from the days of the Rajah.

The walk ended at the theatre on the water front, where the children drew a picture of what had impressed them the most – almost all the pictures were of the tinsmith!

Now all the children and parents are eagerly looking forward to Pustaka Bookaroo in April next year.

Jantan Umbat reached Salvation Army 45 minutes before his scheduled time. That showed how excited he was to share his stories with the children of Salvation Army who were in the age group of 10-12. The children too were eager to listen to him. After the initial introduction, Jantan shared one of his stories on why cocks crow with the help of hand drawn visual aids. The children participated actively in the interactive session. At the end of the session, Jantan presented a set of his books to Salvation Army. The children were listening intently and had a good time in the 45 minutes session.

Jantan Umbat at Salvation Army

Jantan Umbat at Salvation Army

The children were hoping the session could be longer but all good things come to an end eventually. And Jantan promised to return with even more delightful stories.


Jacqueline Yu, aka DaYu Mama from IKA Picture Story House, started the session by teaching the children a song with actions. In no time at all the children had picked up both the movement and the song so that the room was filled with waggling fingers and happy voices.

DaYu Mama's day out

DaYu Mama’s day out

After this lively opening the children settled down to listen as DaYu Mama recounted an amusing tale about a very angry dinosaur who caused havoc by breathing fire from his mouth and nose. The children were in fits of laughter during the story but realised that being angry can hurt people.

Yitping Tay took up the baton at this point with a funny story about a rabbit befriending a leopard, much giggling from the audience as they listened to the colourful antics of these two animals.

The principal was particularly delighted to see how the children were not only totally absorbed during the storytelling but also very keen to answer questions at the end.  She is now waiting eagerly for more such sessions and, of course, Pustaka Bookaroo in April 2016.

 By Jo Williams and Yitping Tay

On her flying visit to Kuching supported by Oyez Books, Malaysian born author, Cecilia Leong delighted a mixed audience of 25 children and mothers at IKA Picture Story House with excerpts from her book Rainforest Hike.

Rainforest Hike with Cecilia Leong

Raiknforest Hike

Each chapter covers a different aspect of everyday life in Malaysia. Cecilia brought the stories more vividly to life with accompanying craft activities. The room was filled with colourful origami angel fish and pipe cleaner rabbits of all hues.

Children were then given the opportunity to try the traditional bedak sejuk (cool powder) made from rice. A rare treat!  The children left happily clutching signed copies of Cecilia’s book.

By Richard Lee

Instead of using AirAsia to travel from Singapore, Cecilia Leong swam with the guppies with the indigo tail and then hopped on the speedy rabbit all the way to SK Tabuan and then to SK Empila in Kuching, Sarawak.

She brought her animal bag of stories and crafts to captivate over 100 students in Years 2 and 3 about her latest book the Rainforest Hike with Nazri and Xiao Rae. Thank goodness she didn’t bring any live animals or pets as it was standing room only at both schools.  She started each session with what pets they had at home.

At the SK Empila: engrossed

At the SK Empila: engrossed

It started with the usual cats, dogs, hamsters and then went on to other exotic animals like penguins, lions, and tigers! Cecilia seemed both perplexed and excited. It seemed that the students of Kuching had a zoo in the backyards!

Even though SK Tabuan was a city school, the students there seemed to share love of pets and animals with students of the village school at SK Empila. Almost certainly the animals were travelling back and forth on the mighty Sarawak river.

In between stories of guppies and rabbits, Cecilia had an important message of respecting and protecting all animals especially from Borneo. She shared a Malay proverb about animals and the unexpected good fortune they can bring.

To make sure that the students would never forget the stories, Cecilia used origami paper and pipe cleaner to make a fish and rabbit. Will let you figure out what was used to make what!  Needless to say a pipe cleaner and origami paper will never look the same to the students.

The SK Tabuan: equally excited

The SK Tabuan: equally excited

By the end of the session, the room was overflowing with graceful angelfish of all sizes, shapes, and colours along with jumping rabbits perched on the end of a pencil!  Not only were the students captivated by the stories of Nazri and Xiao Rae, the teachers were listening with their rabbit ears and keeping their fingers and hands busy in making animals come alive.

The teachers were impressed with the simplicity and beauty of a story brought alive with some origami paper and pipe cleaners. In between listening to stories, the children with so engrossed that they lost track of time and before they knew it, it was time to end but not without one final picture of over 100 angelfish and rabbits swimming and hopping around the schools of SK Tabuan and SK Empila.

Smiles from one ear to the other were evident along with frenetic motion of angelfish and rabbits in the hands of the students. Next time you are in Kuching, look for the angelfish swimming in the Sarawak river and the rabbits hopping along the Kota Samarahan highway.

By Richard Lee

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