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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.

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.

Day Two – 9 August 2015

Pustaka Bookaroo’s first workshop on Sunday promised mythical sounds, and it did not disappoint. The Beez Buskers, a group of 6 students and one teacher from Trust Schools SK Tabuan and SMK Seri Setia wrote and performed a story combining the well-known story about Santubong, the mountain just behind the Malay House and the traditions of Hari Raya.

Beez Buskers

Beez Buskers

Narration was in both Malay and English so that members of the audience both locals and tourists were able to understand, although the acting was so good that it was easy to follow the plot! Interspersed with traditional songs and dances accompanied by traditional instruments everyone was carried along in the boat with the princesses and at the end joined in the dancing. Special mention has to be made of the young boatman who kept rowing throughout the whole performance, only taking a break to join in the dances. A truly mythical delight.

Ceres Lau, designer and self-confessed paper addict was back for the next Pustaka Bookaroo workshop to weave her paper magic and create mask mania. After telling a short story about Iban warriors and their head-dresses Ceres showed some examples of masks and gave some ideas to the children who were then free to create their own Iban warrior mask.

The Finale

The Finale

Heads down, apart from the rustling of paper not a sound was to be heard as the snipping and gluing began. Eye-rings, eyelashes, noses and feathers galore began to take shape – one mum was to be seen quietly but very determinedly cutting about 20 feathers, not for her son, but for herself! Racing against time the finishing touches were added and suddenly the room was filled with Iban warriors uttering piercing war cries – loud enough to compete with the crashing thunder.

In the final Pustaka Bookaroo workshop Grace Jie Jie, a lecturer by profession, a storyteller by passion, told an ancient Chinese tale about the Emperor’s visit to the land of the Moon. Grace welcomed Amanda Wolkin and Rebecca Ierardo, our transplants from the USA, back to help create the rainbow skirts and feather coats which had been worn by the dancers on the Moon – from newspapers!

Feverish activity ensued as patterns were designed, papers folded pleated and cut, flowers, hearts, stripes drawn on the paper. Much tape was used to hold everything together as crowns, traditional Bidayuh hats, bangles, capes, belts, bangles, brooches, dresses and skirts were donned ready to follow Grace in flight swooping round the room to the Purple Cloud Melody.

By Jo Williams



Day One – 8 August 2015

Pustaka Bookaroo in the City was honoured to have sape maestro Matthew Ngau (two days ago, it was announced that Mathew has been proclaimed a national heritage by the Malaysian Tourism and Culture Ministry. Also known as “Sape Master”, he is among five living legends who received similar recognition) to open its workshops in the Malay House at The Rainforest World Music Festival 2015, accompanied by his nephew Saloman Gau and narrator Connie Lim.

A mixed audience of over 40 listened as Connie explained the origins of the sape whilst Matthew and Saloman played a selection of traditional songs, ranging from the lilting wake-up tune played at around 4am in the longhouse to the lively dances held on the verandah. They certainly woke everyone up with the war cry at the end of one piece!

Day of the Sape

Of Rain Stick, Sape and Songs

Matthew explained that in the longhouse a sape player has to be ready to play any and every request, and if he cannot, no matter how famous he may be, his standing is lost – it has happened even to him! He ended with the story of how on a visit to America he was asked to play for rain in a drought stricken area, within a couple of hours the sape had woven its magic and rain began to fall. We could understand that as we had all fallen under the spell of the sape.

In Pustaka Bookaroo’s second workshop Ceres Lau, a designer and self-confessed paper addict showed children – and their parents! – how to make magical pop-ups with just a fold here and a cut there. The children quickly picked up the techniques so much so that they had to assist some of the grow-ups who were finding the reverse folds a little tricky.

After a little more cutting to make eyes there were some very s-c-a-r-y pop-up monsters, which strangely were mainly blue. Ceres then demonstrated how to change the pop-up radically simply by cutting in a semi-circle rather than a zig-zag. This proved a little more demanding for all but created some weird and wonderful creatures – one in particular came with its own unearthly sound as it popped up! We ran out of time at this juncture….

Pustaka Bookaroo’s final workshop of the day was led by Amanda Wolkin and Rebecca Ierardo, transplants from the USA, teachers, storytellers, and most importantly cheese lovers. Their mission was to make the Rainforest rumble and they did!

Matthew Ngau

Matthew Ngau

Ceres Lau shows off her creation. The children followed suit

Ceres Lau shows off her creation. The children followed suit

They started with a lively dramatic reading about the first rain-stick after which they helped the children to create their own rain-sticks. Each had its own unique design – tribal motifs, flowers, animals, even a rainbow complete with raindrops and lightning.

Once filled, The Malay House echoed with the sound of falling rain as Melinda Siew read a Malay poem about rain. At the end of the workshop there was just time for everyone to rush to open the Drum Circle with the Rain-Stick Rainforest Rumble. (We may have been too successful as on Sunday down came the rain!!Oops!)

By Jo Williams

It was a great feeling to be welcomed by a group of 40 students at the SMK Semerah Padi Petra Jaya. We were glad to have the founder of Heart Treasures, Kiew Boon Siew, as a speaker for Pustaka Bookaroo in the City in Kuching.

A happy gathering

A happy gathering

It was not just me – all the 13-year-olds attending the session were inspired by the creativity of Heart Treasures in transforming junk into aesthetically usable items. We had so much fun in making craft by using old magazines and it turned out to be nice puzzle boxes.

Umi from SMK Semerah Padi said Bookaroo has setup a good start to bring children and books together. The members of the school are looking forward to be in part of Bookaroo event in future.

“Bookaroo is planting seeds of reading to the community. Don’t abandon the resources of knowledge that we have around us,” said Kiew.

By Grace Rong Rong

On Monday afternoon, Golda Mowe and I were welcomed by about 100 enthusiastic 13-14-year-old students of SMK Batu Lintang.

What's your favourite book?

What’s your favourite book?

Golda certainly lived up to the title of her talk – ‘Book Traveller’s Guide to Stories’. It was a hot, steamy afternoon in the school’s auditorium but Golda took their young minds away from the heat and challenged them all to think about the books they’ve read and loved and to share their favourite titles with one another.

We were reminded of wonderful classics like ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, ‘Peter Pan’ and ‘The Jungle Book’ and what they made us think of. We discovered that some of these students enjoyed reading fantasy and science fiction and many enjoyed contemporary books like the ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ and of course, the Harry Potter books.

Golda reminded the students that books help us to learn about people and their culture and history and she recommended several distinctly Sarawakian books. Audience participation was invited and students came to the microphone to nominate their favourite books. I am glad to say that I now have a new list of exciting books I will be buying as gifts for my young nephews and nieces.

By Rosemary Giles

It was the first day of Pustaka Bookaroo in the City in Kuching. Around 50 students of primary 6 attended Junk for Joy, the craft sessions on recycling. The session – conducted by Kiew Boon Siew and Kelly Bong – began with a short story from a picture storybook that was about a granny who doesn’t want to waste any single thing on Earth.

Recycling is fun - and we are doing ourselves a favour too

Recycling is fun – and we are doing ourselves a favour too

This was followed by activities using recycled material to create variety of beautiful craft. When Kiew showed them the craft Heart Treasures had made in the past, the students could only keep saying, “Wow, that’s beautiful!”

Ms Bong then took over the session to instruct students on how to make a recycled paper bag from old magazine paper. It was a hit as the children kept asking her if they could take the bags home.

After the session, the children circled Kelly and Kiew to ask questions and take a closer look at their handiwork. One student confessed that he had never imagined that rubbish could turn into something so beautiful.

By Ping

It turned out to be quite a meaningful and informative session with the author Golda Mowe at Pustaka Bookaroo in the City Kuching.

The bigger picture

The bigger picture

It was when Golda started sharing her traveller’s guides to stories with the pupils that we discovered how reading can be so much fun even though there were many unfamiliar words in the stories.

Golda stressed that contextual reading could help readers understand the story better. Pupils were asked to draw a picture of “packlebom” (a meaningless word). Frowning with concentration, everyone used their imagination to draw their own ‘packlebom’ according to their interpretation from reading the whole sentences.

Some drew aliens, others drew a house. Two of the pupils were called up to the stage for not drawing anything on their papers. It transpired that they couldn’t think of any objects depicting that word. This kind of activity helps children to think deeply deeper and form a bigger picture in their minds while reading.

By Venus Lim

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